Oil Portrait of Baby Toa; Painting with Joy and Freedom

Portrait of Baby Toa, oil on linen panel, 10x8 inches

Portrait of Baby Toa, oil on linen panel, 10×8 inches

I really enjoyed making this painting of my friend’s grandson Toa. The biggest challenge was working from a cellphone photo taken in a carseat in the dark where his skin looked dark and bright orange. Fortunately I was able to see some other snapshots with better skin color.

I’ve been taking a new approach to painting; focusing on the joy of creating and letting go of the internal “committee” that demands perfection. I have accepted that my work will never be perfect and that perfect art bores me anyway. A bit of wonkiness, even in a portrait, is ok with me, if I feel I have captured the spark of the subject. I’m painting for myself; if it pleases someone else too that’s a bonus, but not at all a requirement. Giving myself this freedom has completely changed my life.

Below are my initial sketches, a picture of the setup with the photo, and an early stage in the painting.

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More Sketchy Sktchy Portraits

Nyla Rose, Watercolor

Nyla Rose, Watercolor

Sketching from Sktchy App photos (I explained it here) is a great warmup exercise and opportunity to practice drawing a wide variety of faces and expressions. Each week they offer a Weekend Art Exploration (#WAX) challenge and 3 of the drawings marked in the collage below were for WAX. All are in a 12×9″ sketchbook.

PicMonkey_Collage_20160312

Collage of sketches and inspiration photos from Sktchy. (Click on image two times to enlarge.)

The challenge marked in the top row was to draw on text; mine is on a page of “Secrets of the Flesh: The Life of Collette.” The challenge in row two was to show your tools used to create the art so I put my colored pencils in front of “Crazy Eyes,” as she titled her photo. The bottom row challenge was to use the magic of art to transform a photo into something else (I combined Tweety Bird with the girl making a bird face). The last sketch above is from a photo I uploaded for others to draw. I did a better job on Millie than me.

Below are larger versions of a few from this batch (click to see larger):

This weekend the challenge is to draw from the same photo twice, once with each hand. Wish me luck! I don’t think my left hand knows how to do anything except type.

Life Drawing Studio and Portrait Sketches

Sketching people drawing the model during a "boring" pose

Sketching people drawing the model during a “boring” pose

I love my Friday figure drawing studio and our wonderful models. In the morning I draw the figure during the shorter poses and then switch to a portrait for the final hour-long pose after lunch. In the sketch above I decided to draw the crowded room and other artists instead of the model since I had an obstructed view of what struck me as a boring pose.

Fallon, charcoal on toned paper, life-size.

Fallon, charcoal on toned paper, life-size.

Fallon is one of my favorite models. She is so beautiful and strong, with unique features and she always brings interesting costumes and music to play for us.

Brian, charcoal on toned paper, life size

Brian, charcoal on toned paper, life size

Brian is very unusual looking, tall, muscular and lean, with prominent facial bone structure and a small, pouty (not potty!) mouth. I think I went too far with the dark charcoal as there’s too much contrast with the lighter areas but I think I did get a likeness, despite the clumsy shading and unfinished hair.

20160226_Life_007

Brigitte, charcoal and conté on tan paper, life-size.

I thought the drawing above was going great until I saw it on my camera’s screen as a mirror image and it looked all wrong. I tried to fix it, but couldn’t figure out what the problem was. She looks so sour and grumpy and really was just a little sleepy from the long pose.

Portrait Process: Start to Fail and Start Again

Forest Girl #2-C, Oil Painting on Mylar, 12x8"

Forest Girl #2-C, Oil Painting on Mylar, 12×8″

My first attempt at painting Sylvia, a lovely young Bulgarian architecture student, ended in an abandoned failure, displayed at the bottom of this post in 6 steps. I altered my course for the second attempt (above), starting with a better drawing, and was able to complete the study more successfully. I tried to practice for alla prima painting, not going for a “finished” portrait, even though I painted from her reference photo on Julia Kay’s Portrait Party, instead of from life.

What made the difference between failure and success was that I took the time to make a more accurate drawing first (above). I drew on one side of a sheet of Dura-Lar Matte Film (after first reversing the reference photo in Photoshop) and painted on the other side. Then I turned the sheet over, toned it with a transparent umber stain, and reversed the photo back to normal. That way I had the lines of the drawing to refer to, along with the photo without obliterating the drawing. It’s still visible on the back of the painting and could be traced over onto another sheet of Dura-Lar if I wanted to paint her again from the same drawing.

Below is the failed first attempt, where impatience and hubris led to a quick, sloppy drawing (with the evil thought, “I can always correct the drawing when I paint,” which I need to ignore in the future!). The captions describe what went wrong at each step:

Julia Kay’s Portrait Party: Portrait in Gouache

Portrait of Jan Jaap for Julia Kaye's Portrait Party, gouache in XL WC Moleskine, 9x6.5"

Portrait for Julia Kaye’s Portrait Party, gouache in XL WC Moleskine, 9×6.5″

When I learned that Julia Kay’s Portrait Party (Facebook) (Flickr) was coming to SF in March for a weekend of live portrait party events I signed up. My goal for 2015 is to develop my portrait drawing and painting skills and this seemed a perfect way to get started, along with the excellent 4-hour figure/portrait drawing/painting class I’m taking at my local community college.

Since I’ve been experimenting and teaching myself to paint with  gouache (more about that soon, with reviews of paint and brushes for gouache). I thought it would be a perfect medium for my first Portrait Party attempt. One thing that I know about gouache but am not yet accustomed to, is that it dries significantly darker than it looks on the palette (unlike watercolor which dries lighter). That explains the very vibrant tones in the portrait above compared to the original photo (which I don’t have permission to post here)! Below is the original sketch that I painted over in my X-large Watercolor Moleskine.

Sketch of Jan Jaap for Julia Kaye's Portrait Party, graphite, 9x6.5"

Sketch of Jan Jaap for Julia Kaye’s Portrait Party, graphite, 9×6.5″

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