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.   


  1. amazing work, really loooooove it!!!

  2. Candace, clearly you have a firm grasp on what it takes to put out a very decent portrait in little time, you will continue to soar from here out, I have enjoyed following your progress, now I will simply, enjoy.

  3. Hi Candace,
    Another wonderful tutorial, or should I say an entire portrait painting class rolled into six photos. Amazing work.
    I really love the explosive background and the way it brings such energy and movement. Your skin tones, drawing and value control are equally skilled and perhaps most important--I'd really like to meet your model because of this beautiful painting.
    Thanks again for sharing your experiences with us.

  4. lovely, and I can perceive your personal connection to the model from how it is painted.

  5. the man is just alive, i like his expression!!

  6. Wonderful. You handle the edges masterfully and have maintained a fresh, not overworked, portrait.

  7. a great post. i enjoy watching the process of other artists and always learn something from them. thank you:)

  8. A wonderful result Candace, and a valuable insight into your process. All the best.

  9. Great composition and feel, beautifully done with expression.

  10. Really, really nice work!

  11. Lovely portrait, Candace! And enjoyed the step by step development :)

  12. Thanks to each of you for posting your reactions to Van's portrait. Very helpful and appreciated. As I said in the post, he brings the best out in the artist, and I think you are all picking up on that, too. Wish there were more like him.

    Forgive my brief collective reply, I am out of here for a week in Seattle. That eats into studio time somewhat painfully, but you gotta have a life, too. Best to all of you. Candace.

  13. I love the idea of a time capsule or deadline or whatever you may call it. I think your blog is wonderful. Love the portraits.