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In December of 2012, the National Portrait Gallery
unveiled this monumental image of general Colin Powell, former Secretary of State.
The artist, Ronald Sherr, was also responsible for one of the National Portrait Gallery's images of President George H.W Bush.
Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with Ronald Sherr.
We're using the term "monumental" just because it's a large work.
- It is. - Are we okay with that? are you happy with that?
-Yeah, sure. I think of him as a man who is bigger than life and as I was saying earlier,
that really did have an effect on me when I came in and I saw that painting
of LL Cool J by Kehinde Wiley. A very dramatic picture
I was very impressed by it but the overall scale of it
is what made me think you know truthfully that someone coming to the gallery
for the first time could look at that and just assume,
if he knew nothing about American history that he had to have been
the most important person that had ever lived so right then and there, I decided
a head and shoulders? no way you know a three-quarter? no way
and very kindly, the National Portrait Gallery gave me a
license to do what I felt was best
so I discussed that with General Powell early on and he was okay,
the only thing he insisted upon is that it looked like him, he wanted it to look like him
and then he did express some interest in how I was gonna deal with the fact
that he had aged since the time he was in the military chairman of the Joint Chiefs
and you know because he said that his hair was nearly whitish now
in fact, he made a a comment that was very funny that it is much straighter than it used to be
and he picked up a lock of it and it is much straighter than it used to be
but he asked how I was going to do it and I said, I don't know, I'll have to find a middle ground
but you know I didn't know that until I was into the painting
I didn't want to paint him you know as he was back then
I knew that I could do certain things to, for instance, make up for things like whiter hair .
For instance, if I take someone with very light gray hair
and I pose them against a dark background, they're going to look like they have really white hair.
If I pose them against a much lighter background, it brings out the darkness
so you know, the amount of shadow on that side of his head
is an important factor in maybe
giving that slightly younger look to him because it darkens the hair.
- From start to finish, how much time did the whole process take?
- I was talking earlier about the changes that I made to the picture but with those changes,
nearly, I remember talking to Brandon that I was at my limit for the 18-month contract
literally the whole time and it was because of those endless changes to the picture.
-Are you happy with it?
-The portrait? - Yes Sir.
- I am because as I was saying earlier, the the whole thing for me is
when I do a portrait, I really try to create
a feel of the person and although I try that
on all of them, it doesn't always
go my way and I really feel like he's there in the portrait, you know.
I feel like that's the way he stands, I feel like that's the way he kind of looks at you
and hopefully other people will feel that. I think that's what he sensed and his family sensed
I got some of the nicest comments from his family, I mean they're wonderful people
but they were just beside themselves
and what more could I ask?
Like I say, if I feel it in the painting,
other people often feel that as well but I'm not the judge
you know I mean everyone else from now on, it's up to them.
-Thanks a lot.
You're welcome, my pleasure thank you.
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Artist Ronald Sherr on his portrait of Colin Powell

183 Folder Collection
田宇紳 published on July 14, 2016
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