21 October 2015

Fresh Paint: Portrait of an Infant

Back to painting faces this week.  This painting is based on a drawing I posted recently of little Valor, my one-year-old neighbor.  I promised his parents a portrait about 9 months ago, but I couldn't do it until the moment was right.  That's how I work.  Sometimes I mull over an idea for several years.  I need a spark to light the flame that will carry me through the work.  No spark, no work.  I'm not sitting on my hands, though.  Plenty of other art things going on in the meantime.

Portrait of Valor Michael Hsiao, 11x14", oil on linen

Below is the progression.  I'm showing this so you can see the ugly phase, which all my paintings go through.  Perhaps as I develop artistically, my early phases won't be so hard to look at.  The important thing is to work through this phase.  I know I can't give up.  Persistence is rewarded with new knowledge, and maybe even a decent painting at the end.

I started with a loose raw umber lay-in on a Gessobord panel.  I refined the underpainting (middle) then added the first layer of color (right).  I keep my paintings in a freezer between sessions so I can work wet-into-wet.

More color and big shape refinement (left).  I continued to work from large to small, adding more details and refining the smaller forms (middle).  On the final pass, I added dark accents, highlights, details (necklace, reflected light on right cheek, clothing details) and the background.  The finished painting took 12 hours, split over 4 sessions.

Framed and ready to go out into the world...


  1. Hi Candace,
    Great post and a wonderful painting. Learned we have something in common with "no spark, no work". Can there be anything worse than allowing your passion to become drudgery? Every day, I count my blessings that I don't have to draw caricatures on a sidewalk in Waikiki in order to eat, or buy paints, canvas or brushes.
    You have taken a challenging subject and turned out a beautiful portrait of a bright-eyed child. No easy task to accomplish and I'm happy the "spark" happened for you.

    1. Thanks for your nice comment, Gary. Agreed, it is hard to imagine no feeling of excitement about the work. Lucky is the artist who doesn't think first about sales price. Hacking to the market has got to be a tough way to make ends meet.

      Re the portrait, the parents were happy and the piece went to a good home. That's what matters to me in the end. Best, Candace.

  2. Lovely painting, I like the way you have kept some areas loose - wish I could do that! Your painting reminds me that I still have a painting of my great niece to do - I think you have provided the inspiration, now I need to find the time to get round to it.

    1. Hi, Jeremy. Please post that portrait when you do it. I'd love to see it. And, yes, I also find it tough to keep parts of the image loose. So easy to overdo it. Once that opaque paint is laid down it's pretty hard to go back. I love looking at paintings that successfully combine painterly and rendered passages. Love that contrast! Thanks for stopping by. Candace.