18 September 2012

Portrait of "Drew in Blue"...and Giovanni Moroni

Today's post is a portrait of Drew, an 8-year-old boy who lives nearby.   I'm building a portfolio and Drew serves as my "male child" type.  I experimented a lot on this portrait, which is why it required 50 hours to complete.  I made some key mistakes.  I summarize them briefly below for my benefit and for yours.

Drew in Blue 14x11", Oil on linen

I started with a preliminary oil sketch to plan colors, values and composition.  Very helpful.  I lived with it for a few days to be sure I would like the resulting portrait.

Oil study for "Drew in Blue", 8x6" on linen board

Below is a 6-step progression for the painting.  Click to enlarge.  I followed a procedure described previously here and here.  The basis of the fleshtones is transparent red oxide, which makes a nice warm pink when lightened with titanium white.

My first mistake...using 2 reference photos, one for the body and another for the head.  Not a good idea.  I had to invent the neck which required a lot of adjusting.  Always start with good reference photos.

Next, I let the values drift during painting.  I started by premixing pools of paint for the light side, the core shadow and halftone area of the right cheek.  That was good, saved some time.  However, as I proceeded the values shifted. After 30 hours, I had to go back in and re-paint everything but the light side.  Wasted time.  Keep a close watch for value shifts, especially towards the dark end of the scale. 

Finally, the body perspective was wrong.  I thought I was done, but then got a few viewer comments that the body looked "off".  I agreed, but I couldn't see the problem until I laid a tracing of the photo over the painting.  Overall Drew's body was the right width, but the perspective turned it too much towards the viewer.  Not enough foreshortening. I repainted the body, with more overlap between the arm/torso/arm, which made the body and head appear proportional. That was hard to see. 

Adjustment to the perspective of the body...before (left) and after (right)

So...here again is the final portrait, painted from 2 photos in 50 hours...

Drew in Blue 14x11", Oil on linen

Frame it and call it done...


Regarding artistic inspiration...

My inspiration while working on Drew was a painting I saw at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC a few months ago by the 16th century Italian portraitist, Giovanni Battista Moroni (Portrait of Bartolommeo Bonghi, below).  I was struck by how skillfully Moroni modeled form in this piece, and how fresh and familiar his style appeared to my 21st century eyes.  Incredible drawing skills.  Below are a few examples of his beautiful work.  Click for more images of his paintings.

Portrait of Bartolommeo Bonghi, painted around 1553

Portrait of Don Gabriel de la Cueva, 1560

The Tailor, 1570

Portrait of Prospero Alessandri, 1560

Thank you for reading this far...Best, Candace.