23 November 2011

Portrait Vignette #4: Morgan in Profile

Another in my short series of oil portrait vignettes.  I committed to ten of these quick portraits (<6 hours), as a training exercise to speed up my execution and keep my brushwork loose and painterly.  Today's portrait was painted from a photo in 5 hours.

Morgan in Profile, 12 x 12", Oil on hardboard

This is my first time using gessoed hardboard, I usually paint on linen.  I'm planning a large, low-key painting, and need a surface that will minimize glare.  I've heard hardboard does that.  I found it very different from linen.  I needed my sables earlier in the process.  But the paint went on more smoothly, like frosting on a cake, buttery.  And it affected my brushwork...more flowing.  I liked it.

Hardboard preparation:  Very easy.  I shellaced both sides of pre-cut 1/4" MDF hardboard, as a moisture/chemical barrier, then gessoed one side twice with Liquitex gesso, sanding after the second coat was dry.  I toned with a mixture of Gamblin Fastmatte ultramarine blue and transparent earth red.   That's it.

Here is the painting progression for "Morgan in Profile".

First 30 minutes: My usual linear block-in with diluted transparent maroon. I was attracted to this image by the long diagonal going from Morgan's forehead down her back.  I liked the dynamic feel of that line, especially when set in a square format...nice contrast.

Hour 2:  The difficult stage for me.  Laying in the big shapes with average hues and values.  Let's face it...it looks pretty bad.  (Here comes my moment of doubt...this painting is a scraper...hardboard isn't for me...darn, I bought a whole bunch of it, too.  Oh well.)  But I persist, the doubt passes.  The hair mass is roughed in with a warm mixture of ultramarine blue, transparent red oxide, and transparent maroon.

 Hour 3: I continue refining the planes of the face.  I do a first pass of the features after the big shapes are working.  Also, start working up the background, trying to find a pattern that complements the subject, and provides opportunities for interesting edges.

Hour 4: Time for the hair and body.  I went over the warm hair mass with cold, dark blue-black, allowing some warm to show through.  I created the highlights with mid-tone purple, and light cobalt blue tint.  I like the mix of warms and cools.  Also refined the upper torso anatomy, clarifying the clavicles and the near shoulder and upper arm.  Finally, I added more highlights to the face and some reflected light under the chin.

Hour 5:  I'm refining edges and adding dark accents and highlights.  Also adjusting values to create lost edges (for example, the caste shadow on the left shoulder and the back of the hair).  More background workup, including the addition of some blue-green to add interest.  Just going around the painting to find small improvements....Oh-oh, sounds like over-working.  Put brush down.  I know there are issues here, but I will resist the urge to continue.  This painting is done.