31 May 2012

Portrait of Nick and Praise for iPads

I'm back today with an oil portrait of Nick, husband of my friend, Kelly.  (I spent Christmas 2010 in Greece with Nick and Kelly and his wonderful family.  Trip of a lifetime.)  This portrait is more refined than my previous vignettes, though I tried to stay loose around the edges to focus on the face. It took about 24 hours to paint from a photo. Also, I used a new tool for this painting...an Apple iPad.

Portrait of Nick, 20 x 16", oil on linen

iPads are becoming a standard tool for the visual arts.  With the improved iPad3 display, screen images are sharper and more colorful than print versions.  It's a great reader for online magazines like Artists-on-Art and American Art Collector, and for art e-books, where visual content is key.  Nice for viewing art collections remotely (eg. Google Art Project, Metropolitan Museum of Art), and for transporting and showing an artist's portfolio. Not to mention all the apps for creating and modifying art.  I just use WiFi, no 4G connection.

For painting, I attach it to my easel to display reference photos during painting sessions.  Much better than the photos I used to print out.  And there is no shift in brightness with viewing angle, a major fault with laptops.  The reference can be re-sized by touch, to zoom in on details.  Yes, I like it, and recommend it.  Here is a picture of my easel set-up.

Back to today's painting...

Before starting this painting, I did a charcoal sketch on newsprint to study the value and edge relationships.  After doing this drawing, the painting lay-in went quickly since it was my second time around the image.

Click on the image to enlarge

A few notes on the painting process...I started with a burnt umber underpainting (panel 1 above).  Burnt umber is a nice neutral which dries quickly.  After establishing the lightest light and darkest dark, I laid in the big color tiles on the light and shadow sides, following the values of my underpainting (panels 2 and 3).  The subject was illuminated by indirect daylight, so I pushed the warmth in the shadows and the cool flesh tones in the light. 

Click on the image to enlarge.

 After refining the features and planes of the face (panel 1 above), I worked up the hair and clothing (panel 2).  I moved around the subject so that I was always painting wet-into-wet.  My personal focus in classes at Watts this term, is edge work, so I was giving that lots of attention here.  Trying to direct the viewer and create depth with my edge treatments.  That requires invention when working from a photo.  Can't copy what you see.

Towards the end of the painting I realized the face was too narrow. Darn. Between panels 2 and 3 above, I widened the face and moved the ear over on the shadow side.  Because I used clove oil, it was easy to remove the paint with a Q-tip and make the adjustments. I also laid in the highlights at this point.

Total time to completion was around 24 hours.  I plan to modify the background after the painting sits for a while.  I think I will skip the underpainting next time...start with a small color comp (as shown previously) and proceed with a linear lay-in.  I'm more confident in my drawing skills than in my color sense, so the color comp is probably a better way for me to start.

Portrait of Nick, 20 x 16", oil on linen
 Portrait of Nick (detail)


  1. Beautiful work, Candace. I love how you handled the planes on the shadow side of the face.

    1. Thanks, Bryan. There's a lot of light bouncing around in those shadows. It's hard not to get carried away with that reflected light.

  2. terrific portrait and thanks for showing your process.

    I use my phone in a similar way.. do you use photoshop?.. applying a median filter to your image can also be really useful in blurring unneccasary detail and keeping strong edges and large forms!!

    1. Steve, Great idea on the phone. I do use Photoshop, I'll check out that filter. Thanks for all the good info. Best, Candace.

  3. Beautiful! and I am happy to learn that the ipad is so useful. I may get one--it seems like a very valuable tool! I especially like how you were able to notice the need for a wider face and make the correction. The results are very impressive.

  4. Great idea with the iPad and an excellent painting :-)
    I love that half the face is in shadow and all those darks to push the light forward.
    You captured a great expression too, very enigmatic.

    I will tackling brushes in one of my posts ... we can send men into space but I can't seem to find a brush that will keep it's initial point after one painting ;-)