29 March 2011

Another Portrait of My Daughter

I finally finished a second studio portrait of my daughter, Amanda.  She is intensely independent, but not quite ready to leave the nest...this is the dichotomy I hoped to capture in the portrait.  Completion of this painting required a long and convoluted process, not unlike the process of parenting a child.

Fledgling  Oil on linen, 24 x 18"

The seed for this image came from a painting by Giovanni Boldini, entitled "Portrait of Joaquin Araujo y Ruano"...a striking piece from Boldini's private collection.  I chose a similar pose for Amanda.  In the final portrait, she sits on a chair which was used at our kitchen table when I was a child, a symbol of family, but also resembling a cage or restraint.  Behind her is a window overlooking bare branches and a broad sky...the wide-open world she will enter soon enough.

Portrait of Joaquin Araujo y Ruano by Giovanni Boldini, 1882

To create this work, I followed a procedure described in a previous post.  The whole process  took about 40 hours to complete

A few key lessons I learned during the process:
  • Don't force the model into a pose, it will look unnatural.  Show the model what you're aiming for, then let her do the rest.
  • My primary reference image was a composite of Amanda in a synthetic background created in Photoshop.  I learned how to create Photoshop composites from Digital Art Revolution by Scott Ligon.  Very clear descriptions with step-by-step tutorials.  Indispensable.
  • In my portraits, likeness emerges as the painting progresses.  I am constantly adjusting the face to improve likeness, right up to the finish.  I do whatever it takes to get the likeness, including moving features or scraping areas.  If I'm using a photo reference, I often paint with the canvas upside-down. 

This is probably my last painting of Amanda for a while.  She doesn't want to pose for me anymore.  I'm looking for a new muse...

07 March 2011

Portrait Painting Using Harold Speed's Value Strategy

Today's paintings incorporate a strategy for judging values that I described a few posts ago, from Harold Speed's book Oil Painting Techniques and Materials.  The main difference here is that I'm using color, instead of just monochrome.  Briefly, I lay in the big shapes of the lights, halftones, and shadows in a single average color, clean up the shapes and edges, then add the smaller forms and details.

It's a common strategy, just new for me. I get through the early stages of a painting faster using this strategy, which leaves more time for modeling, rendering details, and exploring color. If you are looking for a fresh approach to your alla prima work, this simple strategy might be worth a try.  See my earlier post for more details.

Briana (cool light) 12 x 9, oil on linen board

Mr. Lincoln (warm light) 12 x 9, oil on linen board

Tammy (rim light) 12 x 9, oil on linen board

Rob (side light) 12 x 9, oil on linen board

These paintings were completed from life in 3 hours in a class called "Portrait in Oil: Exploring Different Lighting", taught by Jeff Watts.  Credit must go to Jeff, who demo'es directly on student work in class.  His changes significantly improved each of these portrait.

I'm also posting the similarly-lit portraits from the first and second repetitions of the class together, to show what 9 months of progress looks like.  I didn't use the "Speed" strategy the first time around, back in July 2010.  I think that shows in the results.  I see other subtle improvements here.  My paint handling is better, I'm getting a bit faster and more confident with color, and I think the spirit of the model shows through more.  Progress is slow but steady.  I'll do another progress check 9 months from now.

Cool light portraits: left: Feb 2011, right July 2010

Warm light portraits: left: Feb 2011, right July 2010

Rim light portraits: left: Feb 2011, right July 2010

Side light portraits: left: Feb 2011, right July 2010

Added Note:
I attended the "Masters of the American West" exhibit at the Autry Museum in Los Angeles this past weekend.  If you have the opportunity, see this show, especially if you are a figurative or landscape oil painter.  Even if you don't care for the Western genre.  It's not often one sees so many examples of mastery in one exhibit, and so many different technical approaches and styles, too.  Inspiring.