25 April 2012

Little Pearl

 Today's post is a portrait of my young niece, all dressed up for a holiday celebration this last winter.  Unlike the loose vignettes I've posted recently (here, here, and here), this painting is tighter and more formal...reflecting the subject.  It was also more time consuming... painted from a photo in 20 hours. 

It's taken a while to post because I'm not happy with the quality of the photos of this painting.  I'm adding a few detail images here to let you "step up" to the canvas for a closer look.  I am still trying to figure out how to paint images that look good both near and far.

Little Pearl, 16 x 12", Oil on linen

The progression for "Little Pearl":

Hours 1 through 6:   I start with a simple linear lay-in using thinned transparent maroon and ultramarine blue.  The head is about 7" high.  Next comes the loose block-in of the big shapes in average colors and values, as described here.  Finally, I work up the features.  At this stage the portrait starts to look back.

I like painting wet-into-wet, so I added 2 drops of clove oil to each fresh paint snake.  No need to mix.  This extends drying time to about 2 weeks.

Hours 7 -20:  Finishing the features and a first pass on the hair required 3 more hours.  At hour 10 (after finishing the first panel), I drew up a plan for how I would get to the finish. I listed the major areas in sequence so I could work all the edges and shapes into each other.  (I think it went [hair---neck and pearls---dress---chair---background---hair].)  It helped me stay focused and simplified the process. If your a beginner, try it.  If you're experienced, this sort of planning is probably subconscious.

I finished the background by adding a cast shadow on the left and a floral design to keep the eye moving and echo the shapes in the chair and dress.  The last hour was spent on small refinements...trying to make each shape and edge interesting.


Before closing, I want to recommend a new online magazine "Artists on Art".  High density of information and images, and no ads.  The first issue includes 8 essays by featured artists, describing their ideas and processes.  Accompanying each article are abundant, large jpegs of the artists' works. Close-ups speak volumes.  A very high quality publication for cheap...$18 for online + pdf.