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Monday, 28 September 2015

Beginning a New Portrait

surface of canvas prepped with a tone
Having finished a commission recently, I will be beginning the painting of my daughter on canvas, 20"x30" in acrylic which I had put off when the commission came along. I do have another small watercolour to do, but can take some time with it.

It turned out to be a good thing that I got waylaid from beginning my portrait in the end. I decided to change surfaces from primed hardboard to canvas, and work larger, plus a different aspect ratio :-)

This original image was taken on my cell phone, not a great way of shooting a reference photo for a painting, but I just could not resist the shot. We were at a Mexican restaurant near my Dad's place in Toronto, and Shaun was sitting across from me and the light from the window I just loved on her. Her pose was just what she was doing and I asked her if she could just hold it, may I get a pic. My kids are used to that since they could walk so she agreed.

So, since the image is minus info I would have gotten with my Nikon, especially in the highlights, I will most likely need to keep this portrait more stylized, painterly, as opposed to highly detailed.

The thinking can often be that working from photos is somehow less than working from life, but that is a bit of a myth in many ways. I do have 30+ years of life drawing behind me which help plus I don't see well so reference images are better for me. Plus, no way can my daughter sit for this. In any event, to be quite honest, our drawings from life are still not a representation of real "seeing" because we artists tend to focus on each specific area of the figure/still life we draw, during the whole drawing time, therefore will draw everything in detail. If we were to draw exactly as the eye sees, then only one small area which our eyes are on should be in focus in our painting, and the rest just off that few inches where our eyes choose to specifically sit on the figure/object be a total blur. If I draw with no glasses, my whole image would just be abstract and blurred texture lol!

To work from a reference, one needs to be aware of the short fallings that the equipment may have caused. One, the lens will often create distortion beyond what the eye would create. One example is that a nose on a face in a pic can be too large as it being to close to the lens, or the particular lens and distance the figure was from the lens, will cause the nose to be larger in comparison to the face than it truly should appear to the naked eye. A forward arm can have the same issue.

In the case of my reference here, I had to reshoot her arm months later as it was not in a good position in my original photo. I mocked it up but when I have to draw and paint it, I'm going to need to pay close attention to melding the 2 references in the original drawing, plus make sure I don't make her arm and especially her hand too enlarged and focal. Right now, to keep the reference proper, I had to allow her hand too be too big in it and not foreshortened quite enough. Her face will be most focused, the rest will be less so, the background quite loose and blurred. It will all be played by ear as I paint lol! As well, the table wood will be the gnarled knotted wood of the original table, not the striped veneer of the 2nd ref image.

Most likely this portrait will take me 1 1/2 yrs to complete, on weekends, as I can only work during the day, before 2pm or so, because I work from natural light by my north facing sliding glass window.

I chose this portrait for her casual pose, the beautiful light and shadows on her face, as well as the warm spicy atmosphere and palette coupled with her porcelain skin tones.

reference specifically for

reference ready for me to begin
drawing onto prepped canvas

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