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Spirit level

Movement, soul, self

The Amazing Face, lesson 13

Today we will LOOK at the portraits of Jessica Mauboy by David Rosetzky and David McAllister by Peter Brew-Bevan; THINK about movement, soul and self in portraiture; WATCH video interviews with Jessica Mauboy and David Rosetzky, and with David McAllister; DO a couple of activities and finish with a quiz.

Our mannerisms and the way we move and express ourselves are unique to each of us. Portrait artists look for small details of behaviour, depicting nuance and complexity, and investing portraits with the spirit of the sitter. David Rosetzky used ‘double exposure’ to create a portrait of singer Jessica Mauboy (Kuku Yalanji) that evokes different aspects of her personality.

Jessica Mauboy
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Movement was part of Peter Brew-Bevan’s initial concept for his portrait of dancer and artistic director David McAllister; however, in observing McAllister he also noticed the dancer’s more introspective side and worked that into the portrait, adding another layer to a public portrait of a private individual. Today we explore movement in portraits, both expressive and subtle, in relation to spirit and self.

The Dance - David McAllister
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In preparation for making the photographic portrait, David Rosetzky and Jessica Mauboy talked about how the intangible can be represented in a portrait. He says, ‘I really wanted to present this multifaceted perspective of Jessica. We talked about this idea of chaos and stillness and how she manages to stay quite, sort of, centred within herself despite the sort of crazy lifestyle.’

Jessica Mauboy
Video: 6 minutes 36 seconds

Talking about the movement in his portrait by Peter Brew-Bevan, David McAllister shared that ‘I was involved a little bit in helping them make the shapes; I mean we did lots and lots and lots of moving photographs to make the piece around me. And so I was sort of involved in that 'cos I couldn't help myself’.

David McAllister
Video: 4 minutes 45 seconds

Solo Activity

As we have observed in the portraits of Jessica Mauboy and David McAllister, a camera and the printing process can be manipulated to create an illusion of movement within a still image. Now you can have some fun as you attempt it with a pencil and paper!

You will need: a pencil and paper and a stopwatch. (Optional: black pen, colour pencils, crayons or paints.)

  1. Follow this link to the video portrait of Layne Beachley by Petrina Hicks.
  2. Notice that the camera is stationary while Beachley moves around in a circle.
  3. Position yourself with your paper and pencil and stopwatch/timer set for 40 seconds. 
  4. Begin with a continuous line drawing (a drawing without taking your pencil off the page) of only what you see in front of you. With Beachley moving, you will have to work quickly to capture what you see. Hint: work ‘large’, using your whole page, as the space will make this exercise easier.
  5. Continue this for the 40 seconds, then stop!
  6. Wait until you see a new angle of her face, reset the timer, keep your pencil on the spot you finished, and repeat the process. Work over the top of your first drawing. Do this at least two more times. You should start to see multiple eyes, ears etc. Behold: you are turning into Picasso!
  7. When you have finished, sit back and look at it. It will probably look like one crazy (but expressive) semi-abstract portrait. If you wish, colour the image. Colour both the positive space and the negative space; then, using a black pen, go over the lines.
  8. (Note: positive space is essentially the subject or area of interest in a work of art, while the negative space is the remainder or background.)

Connected activity

All this thinking about movement has surely got you itching to get physical.

  1. Connect with the outside world by participating in a live online dance, yoga, or cooking class from the comfort of your own home. 
  2. Alternatively, create your own group session with a group of friends. Simply organise a video call and all participate in the same activity. Whether it is a workout or a dance party, organising exercise and reconnecting with friends will surely get your endorphins pumping and lift your spirits! 


Jessica Mauboy starred in which Australian film?

David McAllister is the Artistic Director of:

What are the similar themes represented in both the portraits of Mauboy and McAllister?

Next lesson

14. You-who: Self-portraiture

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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