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Portrait of 3 Daughters

Early February, 2002, we discuss doing a portrait of three young women. The mother has provided me with resource photos. The primary photo, which I will use, is vertical, but we want the final portrait to be horizontal.

I scan the photo into my PC and proceed to manipulate the figures to make it horizontal. We have decided on a 24" by 36" canvas.

This will be the basic composition.


Here is the draughtsman table with the drawing in progress.

And a closer view of the drawing.


2/24/02 - I wasn't pleased with the placement, so I moved the daughters further apart and began redrawing the sketch. This is "double-work" but is good practice for "seeing" the forms.
3/3/02 -Having felt the basic flow and dimension of the piece by doing the drawing, I now lightly transfer the grid to the canvas, drawing the basic outlines with pencil and then paint as a wash.
3/3/02 - This re-drawing is done with a mix of burnt umber and ultramarine blue, in a monochrome wash (lots of turpentine, no medium.)
4/30/02 - Sidetracked by taxes and bills and am just now getting the next stage posted, although I've worked on it slowly. It's in a "cartoon" stage, the point when I wonder whether I really have the right to consider myself an artist.
5/19/02 - This is the next stage of the painting. Still in the "cartoon" stage. I am moving left to right across the painting, trying to keep the girls in about the same stage of development. I like the background in a darker shade (though perhaps less brown) because it sets off the bright skin tones.
5/27/02 - Today I worked mainly brightening the middle girl's face and changing the background.
6/2/02 - This weekend I worked mainly on the left and middle girls and on the background. Making the background dark lets the skin tones glow and become the focus of the painting. At this stage, painting goes slower and changes will not be as obvious. But the sisters begin to look less like a cartoon of themselves.
6/16/02 - I made a lot of headway, working glazes over the face of the right-hand face, working on the texture of the middle girl's dress (which will later be darkened again by glazing) and the bright white folds of the right-hand girl's blouse and the background -- which is developing layers and richness. . .
7/15/02 - The colors in this photo look warmer because the picture is taken inside. But I had warmed up the picture a bit, adding glazes to the background to dull down the purple.

7/28/02 - Now I'll be working slower on parts of the painting, primarily trying to get the features right.

8/4/02 - I softened this young woman's features, using a more casual stroke.


8/4/02 - Second, I worked on the girl on the left. (Since I am lefthanded, it is easier to work across the canvas from right to left. Otherwise, there is a tendency to smear paint on the area I've just painted.)

8/4/02 - I next adjusted the center girl's face. I don't feel that I have as good a likeness yet. Her face is actually thinner. And perhapsthe mouth is smaller. Interesting how the slightest change can remarkably change the portrait.

(This is the stage of the protrait when I go through agonies of self'doubt. How could I have ever thought I was an artist?) And yet, I tackle the next project with as much interest and ferocity.

10/25 - OK, so I was out of town and then buried in backlogs and this portrait got delayed. Here I have worked on the middle daughter's face. Her head in its entirety is actually slightly smaller than the two other sisters andthe features smaller than I had painted in the picture shown above. While the detail to the right is still loose, I have made the corrections that put it in the right perspective.
10/25 - This shows the relative development at this stage of the portrait
11/02/02 - Still struggling with the features on the middle girl's face. Her features are a bit more elfin than her sisters' and my tendency was to "normalize" them by making her head and features the same size as her sisters. The origianl photo shows the difference. This, by the way, is one of the reasons that undertaking a portrait with two or more people in it is more difficult than with a single person. Even Rembrandt had trouble with it. In the Night Watchmen, the story is, his sitters were not happy at all because all were not given equal billing.
12/22/02 - The final stage of the portrait is a process of slowly working towards a likeness. I have not included all lthe stages because the difference from stage to stage would be slight. As of this date, after some careful revisions, I consider the portrait near done. It might have been done on the weekend of 12/22, had the storm clouds not come up to obscure the clear winter light.
Path to gif animation (Caution, this is a large GIF file and will take a while to open with a 56K modem.)
1/13/03 - Here is the final portrait.

Last Updated: January 13, 2003