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