Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Portrait Process

I've been meaning to write for a while about painting portraits (my first painting love), but I've been so busy with... well.. life, that I haven't gotten around to it. Until now. I LOVE painting portraits; they are challenging and aggravating and pressure-filled to capture a person's likeness, but it's also amazing and thrilling to be called to do something that reflects not just how a person looks, but who they are.

I was honored to have the opportunity to paint Mrs. Dorothy George. She is a former educator in Patrick County, active in her church and her community and is still going strong at 92 years old. She is an inspiration to so many. I was excited to tackle this project.

Before I paint anyone's portrait, I pray for them. If I have painted a portrait of your child, parent, or spouse, you will know that I have prayed for them. I think about the person I am painting, pray for them, and I always pray for God to give me the ability to paint them. I know this doesn't come from me, but through me. Once I start praying, I start drawing and painting! (now onto the technical stuff....)

I always begin with several sketches (didn't include those here; pencil is a little hard to see). It helps me work the kinks out so to speak and break any bad habits I might be tempted to try for the actual portrait. I usually set up a color palette too (mixing flesh tones in watercolors can be very challenging).

Now, I'm ready to sketch on my watercolor block.

(sorry for the quality; it's hard to capture pencil drawings on camera)

Now, I begin to paint; light washes of a mixture of skin tones, blue background, etc. It always takes me awhile to decide on my background; I knew this time that I had to have some shades of blue in the background to help bring out Mrs. George's beautiful blue eyes.

The bright white reflections you are seeing is masking fluid. Watercolors are transparent, which means I have to work from light to dark in order for all my colors to show through and not become muddy. So, the masking fluid protects areas that I want to keep light or completely white (using the paper as my white instead of painting it white). I also mix all my own shades of black; I think it gives a truer color.

I am focusing more on skin tones now; I use at least 5 different colors in my palette to make the various shades and contours of the skin (burnt sienna being one of them)

Watercolor is all about layering color, and having LOTS of patience. Somedays I do better with that than others ... :)

Here's the view of the final product

I've added color to certain areas of the hair to give it shape and contour. I've layer on more paint for the skin, taken off all the masking fluid and worked more on her mouth, teeth, and sharpened all my colors.

I softened a few edges, added more layers where needed, and signed it. This was a challenging and wonderful portrait to paint.

I appreciate any and all feedback, so when you get a chance, let me know what you think.



Stone Mar Studio

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Inspiration Strikes Again....

The decision to draw and paint a subject isn't something that can normally be put into a tangible list. Inspiration strikes at any time, with a fierceness that can always surprise. We all have moments of inspiration in our daily lives: the new idea at work, the change to a recipe we're cooking, etc. I see inspiration as one of the many gifts from God that we can choose whether or not we act on.

Sometimes I instantly see a subject in nature and know that I want to paint it. I'm always ready with a camera to take pictures, especially during the "golden hours" around sunrise or sunset when the light is just perfect. There are a lot of times that I return later to photos I have taken and then the inspiration strikes. I'm sure it depends on my mood, the season and what is occuring in my life that makes me gravitate towards certain subjects at certain times.

I was outside my house at sunset a couple of months ago and took a picture of one of my yellow daylilies. It was still shrouded in some shade, but it's tips were catching the sunlight and it was just gorgeous. I knew then that it would be my next painting subjects (even though I had a few projects that I had already promised that were unfinished :)

So, I began working on the yellow daylily painting:
With watercolors, color choices and timing are very important. Watercolors are transparent, so laying down a dark color and putting a lighter color on top may not work out as well as it would with acrylics and oils. It's easier to save (not paint) the white areas of the watercolor paper than it is to go back and add in highlights later.

I drew not the flower, but what makes up the flower and light as it comes through it. Drawing takes almost as much time as painting. I started laying in the yellows and a green and blue background in this photo.

Next, I began defining the daylily with color. It isn't simply a yellow daylily, but various shades and colors within it. I used cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow medium and yellow ochre to define different areas of the daylily. More shading and definition will come later, but I have to build my color. More layers of Ultramarine Blue and Russian Green are used for the background to help bring this daylily forward in the painting.
Here's the painting with all the petals filled in with the various shades of yellows, a few oranges and a little burnt sienna for the parts of the flower where the sun was warming up its' color.

More layers of Ultramarine, Russian Blue, Russian Green and Violet go into the background. Since the photo was taken at sunset, this daylily was in quite a bit of shade on the underside of the petals. Even though this is a yellow daylily, the shadows in the fading sunlight appeared blue on the daylily and really showed its' wonderful textures, folds, and curves. In the picture below you can see where I began adding in the shadows.

Finally, it was time to add the drama and details. The last layers of blues, greens and purples were applied. I also added more burnt umber and cad orange to some of the petals, the throat of the daylily and defined the inside of the daylily. More ultramarine was added to clearly define the shadows. I was careful to leave my paper white or very light for the highlights, but I also used a scrubber brush to make smaller highlighted areas by removing a few layers of paint. It also gives the daylily a little of the silky look that the petals have. All that was left was a to sign it. This one took awhile! I was ready to complete it!

Up next, is a portrait that I'm working on. Once it's finished, I'll explain the back story for it and the process in painting it.

My goal is to blog a little more often, so hopefully you will see an update again from me soon!


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Images of Spring

Spring has sprung!

After this long, harsh winter, the first signs of spring have been very welcome. It's finally time to shed the heaviest layers of clothes and seek out the sunshine. I always enjoy springtime's grand arrival, but I am also one of those people who genuinely enjoy all the seasons. I think in order to appreciate the beauty of spring, we have to have seen and felt the signs of winter. I don't think I could ever live in a location that didn't have all 4 seasons.

In another artist's blog that I am reading, she follows the suggestion that artists need to have "artist dates" where they take photographs, make sketches, or paint something around them. So, I thought the changing of the seasons would be the perfect time to follow her advice. So, here you will find a few photos from our yard and a couple of my latest paintings.

I invite you to sit outside in your favorite spot, listen to the songs of the birds, and take in the beauty of the blooming trees and plants around you. (Hopefully the pollen that comes with spring won't bother your allergies while you're enjoying the scenery!)

Happy Spring!