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


  1. beautifully done, bravo!

    1. Thanks for the nice comment, Julie.

  2. A lovely portrait..It is interesting to see the progression of the painting...I only paint digitally so I envy your skills..how long did this take you?

    1. John, Thanks for your visit and comment. I am clueless on digital painting techniques. Curious...how long does a comparable digital portrait take? I checked out your blog...love you work. Best.

    2. Candace thanks for checking out my blog...my drawings aren't up to your standard but they usually take no more than 5 hours..usually a lot less.

  3. I love seeing how other artists work so thank you for taking the time to share :-)
    Lovely painting!!!!
    Sorry for the delay in replying to your post but I am just so disorganised at the moment (my dad is very ill) and I'm not even getting much painting done.
    I did know of the Velazquez medium but as I work in very thin, almost transparent, layers it may not work for me. At the moment I am really enjoying the Gamblin Neo Megilp which is a jelly but acts like a traditional stand oil/turps medium. Great for wet in wet and glazes :-)


  4. i think you painted the face beautifully. Great work candace!

  5. Candace, it is a little quiet out your way, I am hoping you are working on paintings! xo