Toby Reflects Upon Making Soul Portraits

I recently received an email from a couple for whom I had just completed a soul portrait. My answer to them offers quite a full explanation of the process that I go through in order to create a soul portrait, and so I thought that it would be worthwhile posting it on the soul portrait blog so that others can gain some insight into the method that I have developed.

Here is the soul portrait:

Here is the question:

“Toby, Thanks for your kind words and the soul portrait which we think is great. The accompanying words make all the difference. We are really interested to know more about how you come up with the picture. Is it by feel, concentration, knowing us or something else. Can you explain? We will put it up and expect a few comments on it and feel we do not understand a soul portrait well enough to tell people about it….”

Here is my answer:

“With regard to the process of how I come up with a portrait, it might go something like this: imagine that everyone on an ‘essence’ or ‘soul’ level has a feeling tone or unique vibration which embodies the core of their being. It is very simple and beautiful but, despite its simplicity, it is unique. There is not another soul-vibration or feeling tone that is quite like it in the rest of the world.

So, when I sit down and start to focus on creating a soul portrait for someone or for a couple, the first things that I try and tune into is that essential feeling tone as a starting point for the picture. Once I feel I have absorbed the feeling tone, then I will represent that as a basic colour or shape in the central part of the composition. So, in the case of yourself and Melanie, there is, in the upper middle of the picture, a series of interlocking blues and greens. The blues are more Melanie’s core soul vibration / feeling tone, and the green is more yours.

So, if you can then imagine that from a person’s core soul vibration/feeling tone a more complex and interlacing set of tones and vibrations start to develop and emerge, then this would be analogous to the way in which each individual’s soul starts to express itself in terms of thought, feeling and physicality: in other words, the way in which the soul expresses itself as a more complex personality on a mental, emotional and physical level. This would be similar to the way in which a song writer might start with a single note, tone or word, and upon this base start to weave a complex pattern of sounds, notes and words that eventually becomes a completed song.

Bringing this back to the process that I engage in to do a soul portrait, once I have tuned into the core soul vibration of the person or couple that I am portraying, I then see what lines and colours seem to want to develop from the simple ‘core’ colours and lines that I have placed on the paper. I try simply to allow the soul vibration of the subject to guide my hand as I work and, quite naturally, a composition will emerge.

During the final part of the composition, it is often the case that rather than just abstract lines and patterns, tangible objects will emerge that may have some symbolic meaning or significance for the person whose soul I am portraying. So, for example in your case there are a pair of flowers, and a pair of hazelnuts, a star and a heart form, all of which have some part to play in describing the themes that are emerging in the ‘artwork’ of your relationship.

In conclusion for me as the artist, creating a soul portrait usually has three stages: firstly, tuning into the core soul vibration or feeling tone; secondly, allowing lines and colours to emerge or radiate from these core tones creating an image of the soul as it expresses itself as a personality; thirdly and finally, there may emerge one or more tangible ‘objects’ in the composition that symbolize or embody something about the soul(s) in question.”

This is a simple, basic explanation of the process that I go through in order to come up with a final soul portrait image. If I know the people involved personally, then sometimes I think that may contribute to the way in which I compose the image. However, sometimes I am equally surprised at how different the soul portrait of a person that I know is from that which I might have imagined!

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