24 October 2011

Portrait Vignette #3: Amanda in Red and Green

Third in the series...a portrait of my sweet daughter, Amanda.   You've met her before (here, here and here).  Because it's a simple profile, this portrait was easy to paint.  One eye, half a mouth, no major perspective issues.  It was painted from a photo in about 4.5 hours.

Amanda in Red and Green 14 x 11", oil on linen

If you're interested, here is an hourly progression...

Hour 1:   I pre-toned the canvas with a mixture of viridian and transparent oxide red, using a big brush for variety.  After drying overnight, I blocked in the head with thinned transparent maroon, adding value indications for the shadows.

Hour 2: I painted the big shapes on the face, using averaged values/hues. Also added some transparent maroon background.  This will give me something to work into when painting the hair.  The likeness isn't quite there, so I will adjust the shapes and positions of the features as I go.

Hour 3: In my opinion, this stage is most challenging.  It's always where, just for a brief moment, I wonder if this painting will be a scraper.  Must press on, through this moment of doubt.  It's about adjusting shapes and modelling the small forms, then doing it all over again ad nauseum.

Hour 4: Finally...on to the fun part of fine-tuning the features and shapes.  The likeness emerges at this point.  I adjust the shapes of the hairline, forehead, eyebrow, mouth and chin.  Added lights to the hair, and adjusted the strap to indicate shoulder anatomy better.  I've heard an accurate hairline is essential to a good likeness...I think that's true.

Hour 5: At this point I refined halftones to convey subtle forms...for example the slight bulge below her mouth and the under-plane of her nose are essential for likeness.  I painted some flesh tone into the hair surrounding the profile, to add halation, giving the flesh a slight glow.  Also added the highlights and a few dark accents.  Realized about half way through hour 5 that I was starting to ruin the painting.  Put down the brush...step away from the easel...painting done...artist happy. 

06 October 2011

Portrait Vignette #2: King of the Road

This is the 2nd in a series of portrait vignettes I'm painting to improve my studio technique.  I'm painting under time constraints, giving myself less time than I think I need to complete each piece. It creates some urgency, and keeps the brushwork loose, which I like.  Plus, I'm a slow painter, and need to accelerate anyway.

Today's model is Van, a favorite at the Watts Atelier.  Like all good models, he brings the best out in the artist.  You've seen him here and here.  He hasn't been around for a while...but I hope he'll show up this winter.  He's a bit of a transient, so I call this portrait "King of the Road". It took 5 hours to complete (vs. 6 hrs for the first piece in the series). 

King of the Road, 14 x 12", Oil on linen board

Here is the hourly progression...

HOUR 1:  I blocked in the drawing with gamsol-diluted transparent maroon (W&N) on an un-toned linen board.  I went into some detail on the drawing because I wanted to study the values a bit.  In order to leave some air on the lower third of the canvas, I was careful not to define the drawing too much below the chin.

HOUR 2: Every painting has an ugly phase, I've learned that from portraiture.  When it's ugly, you just have to push through.  Don't give up.  At this stage, I laid down the large shapes I saw while squinting, using averaged values as described in an earlier post.

HOUR 3:  I worked up the eyes and smaller shapes on the light side. I found it challenging to get accurate values on white canvas, so will probably go back to a toned ground for now.  It can be slow going during this phase.  Be patient and carefully model the smaller forms.

HOUR 4: This is the fun part.  I'm still refining the light shapes and adding details to the dark side of the head and neck.  Next, I go to work on the hair and hat, which add most of the interest to this portrait. They are the cool shapes that balance the warmth of the background and fleshtones, and they add interesting textures.

HOUR 5: Finally, I darkened the background to add variety and allow for some lost edges around the hair and hat. I'm also refining all my other edges at this point.  Once the background is in, I can finish the hair.  I also finish modelling the crown and edges of the hat, then add reflected light under the brim to make it pop.  I add reflected light under the chin, paint in a suggestion of a collar, then put down the brush.  It is done.