The 5th installment in a 10-piece series. Today's subject is my young niece, Julianna. I wanted to try a child's portrait this time. I've heard they are more challenging than adults. Facial planes are less visible in a child, and their coloring is so delicate. This was painted, from a photo, on a gessoed panel in 7 hours.
|Miss Julianna, 14x11", Oil on panel|
Here's the painting progression...
Hour 1: I prepared the gessoed board several weeks before painting, to ensure it was dry. I did my usual linear block-in with thinned transparent maroon. I try to pull plenty of straight lines to give the lay-in good solid structure. If I need to erase, I use a Q-tip soaked in gamsol.
Hour 2: As usual, I pass through the ugly stage. (This painting is crap...it isn't going anywhere...try again tomorrow.) Push through the doubt...the clouds part...the sun comes out.
Color temperature was important here. I exaggerated the coolness on the light side and the warmth in the shadows, compared to the colors in my reference photo.
Hour 3: After a first pass on the fleshtones, Julianna's face began to emerge. At this point, I realized I made a serious mistake by not laying down the darkest dark at the start, to judge other values. As I laid in the dark hair value, I could see the shadows on the face were too light. Frustration. I had to make a second pass to darken everything. Won't make this mistake again.
Hour 4: Time to bring up the facial features. At this point, I worked up the mouth, nose, and the facial shape. Refined the halftones of the face to improve the likeness.
Hour 5: The refinement stage. I finalized the eyes and the neck, and added more halftones to get the face to feel more dimensional. Added highlights on the nose and around the dominant eye.
Hour 6-7: The finishing stage. My second major error was leaving the background until last. Next time...bring the background and subject up together. I added a warm green background to balance the cool blue-green in Julianna's clothes.
Finished the hair by modeling the light and dark sides, and adding a few brushstrokes of red, violet, and yellow. I also added that critical shadow, cast by the hair onto the right side of Julianna's head, from headband to chin. The object on her head is a ribbon pom-pom. I want it to add interest, without drawing too much attention.
I prefer a painterly look. I avoid blending to preserve brushstrokes as much as possible. The brushstrokes on the face are only visible at close range, unlike the sketchy background. I like that contrast, it makes the face appear even smoother in the finished piece.