23 September 2017

Fresh Paint - Portrait of a Little Boy

It's been a while since my last post.  I'm still out here, working hard, but most of my recent effort has been on learning, not finished pieces.  I've been studying landscapes the last 18 months, but I can see that most of what I learned with landscapes applies to figurative work, too. 

Portrait of Ian, 16x20", oil on linen

Today's painting is a commissioned portrait.  The big challenge with a child is avoiding sentimentality, it's so easy to overdo the sweetness.  I tried hard to express Ian as a little person. To get the shot, I was kneeling down in front of him with my camera.  For about a minute he was studying me, trying to figure out what I was doing, then he lost interest and was off in a blur.  Those first few photos were the 'money shots'.

Here are the steps in the process I used to create the piece.  Lots of planning, but for me it helps avoid disappointment in the later stages. 
  • The photo shoot and preliminary design ideas
  • Composition planning, including notans and 4-value studies.
  • Planning the important details including things like edge quality, colors/temperatures, contrast placements and all that good stuff.
  • Charcoal study to become familiar with opportunities/interesting areas in the image, for value and shape refinement and to create a working image for transfer to the canvas.
  • Final value map: I plan all the relative values using a 10-step value finder.  Value control was especially important in Ian's face.  It had to be subtle, not too extreme between the light and shadows.  I use this value map as a guide during the entire painting phase.
  • Color study to plan the color harmonies and for client approval.  The client can request changes at this point.

Color study for Portrait of Ian, 8x10", oil on linen

  • Underpainting:  I did this in burnt umber to match another portrait I did for this client.
  • Pre-mixing paint piles.  I premixed 3 flesh piles (light/halftones/shadow) and the shirt/sock colors. I knew those shirt colors had to be carefully controlled.  I wanted some temperature vibrations between warm and cool blues there.  
  • Painting the portrait.

Here is a progression of the piece:

Progression for Portrait of Ian

And finally, the framed image.