January 5, 2013 § 8 Comments
Jake the dog will love this painting no matter how I work it. The thing about portraits – or any figurative artwork you intend to be representational as opposed to abstract – we humans know when something’s not quite right, even if we don’t know how to correct it.
This post is for Amy – who asked what I see and how I do this – and I thank you! it’s pretty great to be able to view photos of a piece in progress. Proportions that are off are so obvious to me here. I look for them first. The blue outline I painted a few sessions ago is my guide, like the lines in a coloring book. I don’t like to get too far into painted details before I am pretty sure the proportions are on.
I see now how the right eye is too low, but I didn’t notice it at the time till an hour later – actually my painting pal, Lynnette, pointed it out when I’d finally stepped back to look…you’ll see what I mean.
What I did notice as I blocked in light skin surfaces, was the left ear – too much of it showing – so I colored it with a deep red shadow and some additional ochre/yellow background to place it back against the side of the head more (see 2 photos down). Actually, if I were doing this over I would block in the hair and much darker shadow colors on the face to start.
I like to keep the oil colors I mix specified for certain brushes so I’m not muddying up the works as I go, using my fingers as a handy brush holder. I’m usually holding a paper towel too, for wiping a brush of too much color or one that I’ve dipped in the Turpenoid to clear its bristles.
If you take a good look at your eyes in the mirror you’ll notice they are not symmetrically placed nor shaped. First I block in the bone of the skull – the eye socket – then work my way over the planes of the eye – the many surfaces that catch light and shadow, like the brow, the eyelids…it can be overwhelming, but if you take them one surface at a time, analyzing their value (lightness or darkness on a gray scale from white to black), you can trick your critic into seeing color and value and not “this is an eye! this is an eye! that’s not right!…”
As the face begins to have form it’s easier for me to see the shape of the head and placement of the ears and facial features in relation to the photo reference. Every so often it’s a good idea to step back about ten feet from the painting to really see things that are askew. The list in my mind ran with several things here, but I chose to raise that right eye, then reassess. One correction can automatically correct – or change – others. I’ll use a clean brush dipped in Turpenoid for this, or a paper towel.
At some point I need an eye looking at me. This is just personal. It feels as if the subject guides me after that. I save eyes for last because they take the longest and are the most important, the connection for the whole painting.
Thought you’d like to see what the palette looked like at this point…
For years I tried to teach myself ‘how to do that’ – how to see, how to draw and paint and render, mix color and on and on. Like learning the written alphabet, once you’ve got the basics of the Alphabet of Art firmly in mind and muscle memory, you’ve got all these tools to play with and it’s incredibly exciting. A whole new world. Art Center College of Design took me there and beyond.