Portraits are a treasure hunt… searching… searching…

I am always amazed at when I look back at the developmental photos of a portrait that I can see so many changes. Not only in the painting itself but also in my apparent mental state at different stages. Sometimes I refine slowly. Creeping along. Sometimes I dash in marks and colors. So I thought it would be fun to take one of the kids from the current commission and go through the developmental shots. My portraits go through a lot of stages. They have growing pains, become wonky at times and then hopefully get resolved. I have to giggle to myself when I have students in my classes that complain about how long a portrait takes or how many hours they have to put in. I laugh to myself and think…

you have no idea…

So this is the youngest child from the commission. She is just over a year old and is just beginning to toddle around. The goal with her was to keep her fresh and very young and feel that slightly off-balance newness to her walking.

After the beginning drawing I start to block things out. What is lit and what is not? Here I run some yellow underneath the coming layers to “set” the light. I deliberately make the heads a bit too big so I can cut into them with the background. I dash in a few local colors to start to register them.

Features are just marked in with dashes. No details needed. Painting eyelashes now would be silly. I still have so much to figure out.

I add more dark marks… Hopefully to find her… I feel like I ask myself constantly, “Where are you?”

Once the structure is more solid, I start to refine. Soften… still no eyelashes…

You can see more of the textures in this shot below… the surface as I mentioned before is UArt, so it will take a beating and as many layers and as much abuse as I can heap on it. Thanks UArt!

And remember, even though the painting is 42″ tall, the figures still worked out to be rather small. (oh, what did I do to myself…) And if you know me and my work you know that I like to work at nearly life-size. So this was the ultimate challenge for me. This is the size of her head compared to my hand… yeah… pretty small. From early on I started to have to use my mahl stick so I could place my marks very carefully and deliberately. Tough on the shoulders for hours at a time…

And the main thing for me to keep in mind is that the painting will be hung high above a fireplace. So the bottom of the frame of the painting starts at above 5 feet. This means that the heads have to look correct from far away. No one will be able to put their nose up against the painting since it will be hanging too far away. So it has to look good from 10 feet way while sitting across from a dining room table. It is a different way to paint. The impression of her is more important than the details of her.

This means that I backed up and walked away a lot from the easel. Always a good idea.

And yes, if you were wondering, I painted the entire thing almost completely while standing.

So many tiny marks and textures… so many hours. This is very painterly for me and very fun. I can see how my painting in oils for the past nine months has adjusted my pastel handling. Each day for three weeks I spent around 9 hours painting. So my eyes got a bit tired by the end of the day.

And then the final search and hunt… peck and dab. Redo the tiny nose ten times more, Swear, throw a stick and redo again… until you call it done.

More on the entire family next week.

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