I sketched carefully, trying to get the 'landmarks' in the right places. This is such a critical step in a portrait. I try not to rush it, but I am an impatient painter and it's always a struggle to resist plunging into the 'good stuff' too soon. As I write this, I realize that I didn't do much measuring during the early sketch, and, predictably, this lead to some problems later. Portrait painting is a process with definite steps. The earliest sketch is a critical early step. Rush it and you'll struggle to find a likeness for the rest of the painting. I did.
|Developing forms and establishing darks|
Now I begin to add color, starting with the darkest darks. Since these are primarily in the hair, I mix a burnt sienna, cad orange and add ultramarine for the darkest areas. Although I shouldn't have, I couldn't resist adding some lights in the hair to begin to give it body. The darks in the face should have been added next - the left side of the face, under the nose and lower lip - but with the shading from the sketch defining these areas and giving them shape, I ship right to some of the lightest lights. Once again, in hindsight, this is 'out-of-order' in the process. The correct approach would have been to paint the darks in the face, follow with the mid-tones and finally add the lights, but being a bit out of shape painting portraits, I wander haphazardly. I know better, but sometimes it's easy to deviate from what we know and instead, do what we want.
At this point I am conscious that the shape of the face in not correct and that the head seems slightly wider than the model's. It's inevitable that this will happen when the sketch phase isn't done with patience and accuracy. I decide that I can correct that by moving the ear in from the right and by continuing to work on the shape of the forehead, cheek and jaw by negative painting with the dark passages of the hair in shadow. At several points in this painting, I wipe out whole sections with a paper towel dipped in OMS. The smooth canvas makes this much easier, thankfully.
Finally, I add a simple background after adding in the midtones and lights in the face. I really don't like the blue after I put it in. I think the warmer background was better, but I'm committed at this point, and since it's just a study, I'll probably leave it as is.....
|"Mairen" Oil on Canvas 20" x 16"|