31 July 2012

Portrait of Kelly

Portrait of Kelly 2012, 16 x 12", Oil on linen

Today's post is a portrait of my friend, Kelly.  I posted a portrait of Kelly's husband, Nick (here) in a recent entry.  I started Nick's portrait with a charcoal study.  The problem with that approach...I'm better at drawing then at handling color, and had to re-paint some of the colors in his portrait.  Time-consuming.

For the present portrait, an initial small oil study allowed me to work through those color issues before starting the big piece.  I also refined the composition based on the study, zooming out a bit in the final portrait, to include more shoulders/chest.

Portrait of Kelly (color study) 8 x 6", oil on board

I'm probably breaking some rule with that red background.  The classic approach is to push the background back with muted, atmospheric colors.  The red in this background comes forward a bit, flattening the depth of field.  But I'm in a red phase right now, and I like how it looks.

Here is the progression for your information.  This image was painted from a photo in about 25 hours...

I draw in the subject with transparent maroon, then block in the big shapes in averaged hues.  I also get the darkest darks and lightest lights in early to key the rest of the values.  Once I have those big shapes, I do a first pass on the features, starting with the eyes.  I moved the mouth and nose around quite a bit here, but her likeness finally began to emerge. Very frustrating to get an awesome mouth, then realize it's too low. Fortunately, it's much easier to paint the second time.

At this point, I take inventory of the big stuff I still need to do, and decide how to approach it.  I'm painting wet-into-wet here, so I need to have a strategy.  With a decent first pass on the face, I go from hair to neck to chest/clothes to background and back to hair, working all the edges together as I go.  I prefer to be painterly, and leave as many brushstrokes showing as possible (see detail below), but things do tighten up visually when you step back.  This is an ongoing issue for me, however, I'm okay with the level of painterly realism I achieved here.

I think most paintings look better in a complimentary frame. The final touch here is a gold-leaf frame, which rounds out the yellow-blue-red color scheme. 

Portrait of Kelly, detail

12 July 2012

How to Crop or Re-Size a Finished Oil Painting

Have you ever wanted to crop a finished painting to adjust the composition?  Maybe move the focal point or decrease the negative space?  I do all the time, even after careful planning.  A post by Robert Genn inspired me to experiment with the portrait of Nick from my last post.  I thought there was too much negative space in the composition.  I'm happier with the cropped "after" version below.  Nicer shapes, I think.

Portrait of Nick (after cropping) 16x12", oil on linen board

Portrait of Nick (before cropping) 20x16", oil on linen

This resizing method works for paintings on stretched canvas, not canvas board.   Here's how I did it...
  1. This painting was on stretched linen which I wanted to crop from 20x16" down to 16x12".  The painting was dry to the touch.  I laid it face down on a piece of clean sketch pad newsprint.  (Don't use plastic or wax-coated papers. They may burnish the finish and create shiny spots on the painting.)  
  2. I cut the painting from the stretcher bars with a sharp knife, then laid it face up and moved a 16x12" frame above it until I got the composition I wanted.  
  3. I poked holes in each corner of the framed image with a tack, then connected the tack holes on the back of the painting with pencil marks to create placement guides.
  4. After researching adhesives, I chose gesso (PVC glue sounds too messy).  Gesso creates a secure bond, cleans up easy, it's readily available, and it's archival.  I used Liquitex liquid gesso.  Nothing fancy.  I did a test run with some old canvas.
  5. I coated the entire back of the cropped painting with a slather of gesso, then laid a 16x12" board on top.  I flipped the painting over (board-side down), and with a piece of newsprint for protection, gently rubbed the painting from the center out to the edges with a big wad of cloth to eliminate air pockets.  I put another board on top of the burnished painting, added a heavy weight and let it sit overnight.
  6. To finish I cut an extra 1" margin around the mounted canvas, then folded that over and glued it to the board back with more gesso.  Finally I covered the raw edges on the back with a nice piece of paper, just a bit smaller than the board.  It looks good.  For a simpler finish, cut the painting with a razor along the board edge. Skip the fold-over.  
Aside from re-sizing, I made other changes to the background and to the portrait itself.  The finishing touch is the gold-leafed frame, which adds the yellow to the basic red/blue/yellow color scheme.  It is done.