Friday, March 9, 2012

Vasanti, 12x16"

Hi Friends,
Several people have asked if I could show my painting process when painting from a model. This morning, I painted Vasanti at Mainstreet in a span of about 2 hours, and for once, I remembered to snap a few photos as I went along. I hope that you enjoy seeing how a portrait evolves!
Starting with a greenish-gray tone on my canvas, I use charcoal to make a horizontal mark for the top of the head and the bottom of the chin. I use the width of my hand to determine the size of the head on my canvas. I decided to make this one slightly smaller than life-sized, so the span of my hand will account for the entire head. Life-size would be just the chin to the hairline.
Using a measuring stick, I compare my model's head length to her width. In this case, her width is about 3/4 of her length. I drew vertical lines with my charcoal to show this relationship.
Next, I found the horizontal halfway mark on my box and drew a line through it. I found the halfway mark on my model and realized that the halfway mark went through the space between her eyebrows.
Using the halfway mark as my guide, I sketched in the major shadow shapes on her face.

Switching from charcoal to paint, I started to mass in my darkest values.

Once my darks have been established, I switch to my lighter skin tones.
Using the dark shadow areas as my guide, I can "see" where the dark irises belong.
I add detail to the features,
And swipe the color of her scarf across the canvas using a palette knife. I'm happy with the likeness of the portrait, and I like the bold color of the scarf. I hope that you enjoyed the journey with me!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Alex, 12x16"

Hello Friends: I had about 2 hours with Alex to paint his portrait the other day. Since I know that I'll only have a short time, I know that I won't have a complete, detailed portrait at the end, but I do like to have a few things achieved:

1. Do I have a decent likeness? The only way to get a painting to look like the sitter is to spend a lot of time in the beginning with the underlying drawing. I try to never rush the drawing. Careful, slow observation and measuring are so important. I'd rather have a well-drawn portrait with no color than a badly drawn portrait in beautiful hues.

2. Do I have a good sense of light and shadow? The excitement in a portrait often comes from the lighting on the subject. With Alex, I pushed the lit side of his face to contrast with the shadows under his cap. I also tried to remember that the black of his cap in the light will not be black so the light will show on it.

3. Do I like the painterly quality? At the end of my time with the model, I'll stand back to see if I can lose some edges or add some thick opaque paint to give the painting more interest. I went back into the lit side of his face to lay thick new color on top of what I had already established. I scumbled the paint a bit on his shoulders and added highlights on his nose and cap.

I love painting from the model because it forces me to be decisive and quick. This method of painting is a lot like perfecting a golf swing or playing the piano-- the more you do it, the more automatic it becomes. And the happier you'll feel!