Art theory Landscape Oil Painting Painting People Photos Places

Hannah’s Reflection

Hannah's Reflection, Oil on Gessobord, 16x12
Hannah's Reflection, Oil on Gessobord, 16x12

My friend Gina emailed me a photo with a note saying, “I like the light in this photo– for some reason I always think of you when I look at it.” Although I rarely paint from photos, especially those taken by other people, I just had to paint this one. My computer monitor is set up so that I can paint directly from the image on the screen which is a lot better than working from the limited colors in a printed image.

I’m not sure if I’m done yet, but I couldn’t see what else was needed so I stopped. If you have any suggestions for improving the picture, I’d love to hear.

Below are some stages of the painting.  I used a bit of artistic license: I gave Hannah a bit of a haircut and deleted Gina’s wonderful dog Bella because:

  1. The dog was competing with Hannah as the focal point and was about the same size.
  2. I couldn’t get Bella to “read” as a dog; no matter how hard I tried to draw her correctly, she just kept turning into a jackrabbit.

Top row: 1) the finished painting; 2) my painting start; and 3) a black and white version of the start to see if my values were on track.

Middle row: 1) & 2) the next two steps in the painting. 3) a view of a “color spot” layer that I made in Photoshop. I created a new layer, and used Photoshop’s Paintbrush tool to select (Alt-click) and paint spots of those colors because it can be easier to see the colors when they’re isolated. Even more helpful than the color spots is a color-mixing tip I learned from Dianne Mize on Empty Easel: you apply the color to the edge of  a small card and compare it to the subject until you get it right.

Bottom row: three views of the original photo. 1)  “Posterized” in Photoshop down to two values; 3) posterized with three values; 3) Gina’s original photo.

P.S. This park, which Hannah affectionately calls the “swamp adventure,”  is part of the East Bay Regional Parks. It is a river front park next to McAvoy harbor in Bay Point. It’s a little delta oasis in the sprawl of East Contra Costa County.

4 replies on “Hannah’s Reflection”

Hey Jana,

I feel so honored to find a photo that captured your interest! You have caught such an amazing impression of Princess Hannah!

Bella definitely competed for the focal point. She is perhaps a separate subject. A very silly one too. In the next photo in this sequence, you see Hannah getting up from the puddle and laughing hysterically because Bella ran past her, splashing her and surprising her so that she fell down. At that point the dress was no longer pink!

Your painting brings water lillies to my mind– perhaps princess hannah is a water lilly fairy in disguise. I will have to ask her.

I wonder about the foam… I think in the photo it adds a dynamic quality to the mood. I am deeply interested in your process musings and love to look at the various incarnations of your image.

Thanks for being there!



Thank you for sharing this, Jana. I am facinated by the steps of your process. You show such freedom with your strokes. I’m still too tense and stingy in my application. The color spots are also a great idea.
I’m a novice compared to you and feel fortunate to learn so much from your posts. Blessings, Sandra


I like your painting even better than the photo–it DOES emphasize Hannah better. But I agree with Gina about the dynamic quality of the foam spots. Even before I saw the original photograph, my mind wanted to go in and put small white flowers in the grass. I don’t know what “vision” you have for this painting, and I have never painted in oils OR acrylic, but if you want to add to the painting (which it sounds like you do?) my suggestion would be small details. Although I DO “get” that you seem to be doing an impressionistic type painting. (Wrong words, maybe.) Marmalade.


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