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Diary of a portrait in progress

February 2001, March 2001 and Feb 2002 to May 2002


This pose was chosen for the portrait although it is a very difficult photo to work from. We felt that it made an interesting composition and the person who commissioned the portrait is herself an artist and someone I've worked with before. She likes my style and I feel comfortable working with her. This will be a more "impressionist" portrait than the little girl I completed last.


To make sure we were thinking along the same lines, I did a very quick, rough oil sketch and took a picture of it with a video camera and emailed it to her. She liked it, liked the impressionist quality of it. So I proceeded to get a canvas, 22 by 28.


Here's the first very rough coat of paint on the canvas. This is just to get the canvas covered and a sense of the composition and placement. Notice that the boy's right arm is rather deformed and I later changed that.

I try to work first on relative lights and darks, to get a sense of the values. This is an interesting composition because the light is actually coming from behind, which makes it unusual.

Now I couldn't resist working on the faces a little to begin to get a little life in them. Notice that I have also corrected the placement of the right arm. It still isn't clear what's happening with the boy's legs. I think he is wearing shorts.

At this size, there's not that much apparent difference between this and the last shot. The changes are subtle: working on placement, color relationships, form.

You can see, in this one, that I was working on the "background" rather than the kids. Since we live in a "world", that world is nearly as important in the painting as the subject of the portrait -- not entirely, but the surrounding colors and forms should add to the portait.

I have darkened the dark areas (the back and left of the chair, the front arm of the chair, the right side of the boy's face, the mysterious area behind the cahir to the left (which actually contains a piano and family portraits, although they don't show up well in the photo. I made the small table at the right more substantial. I'm not quite sure what to do with it yet. It helps define the space, but it doesn't add a whole lot. On the other hand, I don't want a lot to distract from the center. 3/14/01

Here, I had worked for about an mour, primarily of thickening the paint layers outside the window, darkening and armchair so it would "sit back" in space. I worked a very little bit on the faces, softening them. The chair seems better.

You'll see in this shot that I started to move the features around on the little girl's face. It's in transition. From now on, it's likely that the changes that you'll see in this diary will be small, as I begin to work on the minute touches.

This sometimes happens to the artist working "freehand." I looked at the photo I was working from, and I wasn't satisfied with the faces. I didn't feel I'd duplicated them. So I "re-blocked" them. This may seem like a step backwards. It is! But better that than to proceed with something I'm uncomfortable with.

I am much happier with the new work and am now proceeding to finishing touches. The portrait will remain somewhat "impressionist", but it always seems to me that, with a protrait, the faces themselves should be a little smoother, particularly when they are children.

Feb, 2002: The children's mother was happy with the little girl but felt that the boy didn't look like him. (Recall that I was working from a photo with very little information.)

We scheduled a photo shoot so that I could capture the boy with more detail. I now have a digital camera which allowed us to take photos and then preview them on the computer. We chose this one. (Same basic lighting, but more detail in the boy's face.)

 

Here is the canvas on the easel with some work begun on the modifications. As with the painting of 3 daughters, I made a black and white "drawing" on the computer to assist me in placement of basic features.
3/30/02 - Current changes. I think this is final but will look at it for a week or two while I do my taxes.

5/19/02 - Here is the final portrait. I made one adjustment to the shadow on the left side of the boy's nose after looking at it for some time (while it didn't know I was looking.) This is a sort of "technique" of "sneaking up on the painting. Let it sit somewhere for awhile where you will frequently catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of your eye. (Note: the difference in tone and brightness between this and the prior picture is simply a function of the light which was available when I took the photo. This was taken on a sunny day, while the last was on a cloudy day. Both were taken by a digital camera and subsequently modified in Photoshop, using the Levels commend. (I know this is information you'll be VERY interested in!)

To see a larger version of the final portrait, click here.

 
  
Last updated: April 8, 2010
Copyright c. 2004 by Pam Coulter Blehert. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.