Grisaille underpainting, oil on canvas, 9×12 (larger)
Francis is a little boy I photographed (with his mom’s permission) in the cafe at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco. Something about his red hair and sweet, wise nature made me want to paint him. This is a second attempt–the first got tossed. I’m trying a technique I recently saw demonstrated at the California Watercolor Association meeting. The goal is to end up with strong darks, high contrast and glowing skin. The artist who demonstrated the technique started her demo by showing slides of Caravaggio‘s paintings. He is known for strong contrast of glowing light in an otherwise dark scene, known as Chiaroscuro.
Once this layer dries I will be painting over the underpainting with a thin layer of color, trying to allow the darks and lights to remain and show through.
(above) First I started by toning the canvas with a thin wash of acrylic burnt umber paint. Burnt sienna would have been better though–this color is too dark and not warm enough. Then I used Saral transfer paper to trace the enlarged photo onto the canvas. Portraits are the one subject that I still do that kind of transfer instead of drawing freehand when I want to be sure to get a resemblance with all the features the right size in the right place.
(Above) Next I started blocking in the dark shapes and lines I saw using burnt sienna oil paint thinned with Gamsol Odorless Mineral Spirits.
(Above) Once I had the shapes blocked in I was ready to start adding the black paint, trying to keep it thin so some of the burnt sienna would show through.
(Above) Then I started adding white paint, trying to make smooth transitions between dark and light. And this brought me to the finished grisaille underpainting at the top. Now I just need to let it dry and then start adding the thin layer of color and see what happens.