My Love Affair With Faces

Jed Smith, watercolor

The Blue Door – Private Collection

My favorite museum is the National Portrait Gallery in London. You see, for years I’ve had a love affair with faces. Take me to an exhibition full of portraits and you’ll have a hard time getting me to leave.

For me, the older the faces, the better. Smooth, youthful faces also have stories to tell, but my fascination and artistic focus remain with faces etched with lines that more readily communicate the subjects’ histories and personalities. And, on a personal note, I don’t want to march through my later years trying to ward off the evidence of the life I’ve lived.

I completed this watercolor in 1998, and I met its subject on the Island of Naxos in Greece. “She” reminds me to value the wisdom and journey of getting older. Here in Italy, I see a goldmine of fascinating, rich, older faces. I think I have enough material to last me multiple lifetimes of painting.

Maybe it’s a mistaken assumption, but in the Italian culture, the older generation seems to reside more closely alongside the younger generations – at least more than what I experienced in the U.S.  Older people are respected, and not hidden away, and finding four generations in one household isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Constantly I’m amazed at how many older people I see (well into their eighties and nineties) still out and about. It’s almost as though the daily stroll, and continuing to commune with friends, are non-negotiables.

When I paint faces, such as the one above, I feel as though I have a responsibility to capture and honor the essence of the individual. At times, it’s intimidating. I can only hope each person who sees my work also experiences some of what I have felt when I have met my subjects.

Ultimately, I believe my love affair with faces is a manifestation of my search for truth. Words can be so easily manipulated, but I believe faces never lie.

If you like this painting, be sure to check out my online gallery which features many other portraits.


By |2015-12-14T23:25:09+01:00December 15th, 2015|Paintings Posts|5 Comments

About the Author:

I’m an American expat living in Italy!


  1. Robin Fink December 16, 2015 at 2:06 am - Reply

    What a beautiful post, Jed. I highly value what we learn from those around us, especially ones with a bit more “experience” than we have. xoxo Robin

  2. Annie December 15, 2015 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    I am caputred by the aged faces and the complexity of features but you capture souls in the way you paint the eyes. As I age I hope to keep the joy of life showing through mine.

    • Jed December 15, 2015 at 5:04 pm - Reply

      The eyes tell everything, in my experience! May we all embrace how age and time will leave their marks on our outward appearance! Miss you. Have a safe and good journey back!

  3. Anita December 15, 2015 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    Ciao Jed! What a beautiful painting! You catch each line each wrinkle like “A tributary of lifes river”! Constant movement ever evolving Bravo! Grazie Anita

    • Jed December 15, 2015 at 5:06 pm - Reply

      Grazie Anita! I do think a river, along with its tributaries, is an apt metaphor for lines of age in one’s face. As always, thanks for your words of encouragement! Baci, Jed

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