23 September 2017

Fresh Paint - Portrait of a Little Boy

It's been a while since my last post.  I'm still out here, working hard, but most of my recent effort has been on learning, not finished pieces.  I've been studying landscapes the last 18 months, but I can see that most of what I learned with landscapes applies to figurative work, too. 

Portrait of Ian, 16x20", oil on linen

Today's painting is a commissioned portrait.  The big challenge with a child is avoiding sentimentality, it's so easy to overdo the sweetness.  I tried hard to express Ian as a little person. To get the shot, I was kneeling down in front of him with my camera.  For about a minute he was studying me, trying to figure out what I was doing, then he lost interest and was off in a blur.  Those first few photos were the 'money shots'.

Here are the steps in the process I used to create the piece.  Lots of planning, but for me it helps avoid disappointment in the later stages. 
  • The photo shoot and preliminary design ideas
  • Composition planning, including notans and 4-value studies.
  • Planning the important details including things like edge quality, colors/temperatures, contrast placements and all that good stuff.
  • Charcoal study to become familiar with opportunities/interesting areas in the image, for value and shape refinement and to create a working image for transfer to the canvas.
  • Final value map: I plan all the relative values using a 10-step value finder.  Value control was especially important in Ian's face.  It had to be subtle, not too extreme between the light and shadows.  I use this value map as a guide during the entire painting phase.
  • Color study to plan the color harmonies and for client approval.  The client can request changes at this point.

Color study for Portrait of Ian, 8x10", oil on linen

  • Underpainting:  I did this in burnt umber to match another portrait I did for this client.
  • Pre-mixing paint piles.  I premixed 3 flesh piles (light/halftones/shadow) and the shirt/sock colors. I knew those shirt colors had to be carefully controlled.  I wanted some temperature vibrations between warm and cool blues there.  
  • Painting the portrait.


Here is a progression of the piece:

Progression for Portrait of Ian


And finally, the framed image.


22 May 2017

My Landscape Painting Process Revisited

I've been offline for a few months.  In March, I took another course with Deborah Paris, Practical Color Mixing II.  It was a good one, I learned a lot.  This painting was a result of that course.  In it, I have applied lessons learned about the importance of color temperatures and how to apply temperature contrast to convey form, perspective, and interest. 

Back Country, 8x10", oil on linen


Today's post also shows how I developed the painting.  I got a lot of interest on the previous post showing my landscape painting process, so I decided to put one more out.  I used that same process here, so please see that post for more details.

Here is the original graphite thumbnail. It's an invented scene, based on my memories of the local back country. I was trying to convey a sunny, mid-day scene.  This was the first time I created a painting without a reference to work from.  Very liberating, and a big a-ha moment.

Original graphite thumbnail, 2x2.3"

Here are the notan and 4-value studies (discussed in the earlier post).

The 4-value and notan sketches

Before I started in on the painting phase, I made most of my color decisions...where to add contrasting color temperatures and gradations, where to put the highest chroma, etc.  More planning means fewer bad surprises.

Below is the progression of the actual painting, from monochrome underpainting, through the first pass of color, to the more-refined finished piece.

Here's the underpainting.
The first pass of color
The final painting

To check for value drift, I converted the final painting to grayscale and compared it to the original thumb (below).  Not too bad.  In my work, value control comes first, color comes second, so I'm always checking things with my little value finder.

Grayscale of the final painting

Original thumbnail

And finally, here is the framed painting.