Saturday, June 12, 2010

Detail Work

As promised, here are some close-ups of some of the detail work. I do like the portrait of my model. The ear is rendered nicely, and I like the shadow work. As I've noted before, she has a lovely and sensuous mouth, and I always work hard to get that right in her portraits. It's easier when the portrait is larger (for obvious reasons--you can get the details and the proportions proportionally more accurate). This is a fairy small painting, only about 8 by 10 in total, so the face is barely an inch across. It took a lot of fussing with the No. 2 rigger.



I do like the hands and the lap quite a lot too. It's fun to render sharp shadows.

Sunlight

This piece was a serious challenge, and I don't feel entirely happy with it. The challenge was in rendering a splash of bright sun across my model's lap while also not entirely obscuring her face and body in shadow.

This is an important piece for me. It's part of a book project I'm working on called A Life-Artist's Year. The themes of the book are ones surrounding fertility. My wife and I, after discovering and enduring the grief of our infertility, have adopted a little boy, and the book tells the story, in words and paintings, of my coming back to joy and a sense of my own fertility-amid-infertility. This picture, showing so beautiful a young woman with a burst of sunshine illuminating her womb, speaks volumes to me. I love the picture, and I am modestly OK with my rendering of it.

One of the effects in w/c I most value is the effect of bright sunlight, as I've noted in the past. I love a painting in which the bright areas (made bright simply through having been left as unpainted white paper) are almost too bright to look at. The technical story here is one of the use of cold colors and intense contrasts.

The biggest weakness here, probably, is too soft a contrast. I could darken the shadowed areas a bit, and that would make the brightness pop even more.

It's a pretty good portrait of my model. In another post, I'll show some details.

Friday, June 11, 2010

More Private Modeling: A Satisfying Portrait

When my private model came over (twice), I took a lot of photographs, and I guess what I am coming to see is that I have a lot of work to do to learn how to use the camera well and set up beautiful poses. I like this pose--a lot. I love the hands and the side-ways-turned eyes. It's a pretty good portrait--the best portrait I've painted of the model. This does look like her, even though I note now, as I'm looking at the painting here in my blog, that I do not have her eye color right. Well, her eyes in the original photograph are very dark. Actual she has hazel eyes, as I've noted before.

The pose is what makes this an evocative portrait, of course. In our work, I asked the model to sit or stand in ways that she herself found comfortable and characteristic of her, and I think even when I took this photo I had a winner. She is a thoughtful, introspective person, and for me this pose captures that element of her personality.

Private Modeling Cont'd: Hair Challenges

I'm still working on my series of portraits and figures of my private model, and this is one of my favorite pieces thus far: a meditative study of a classical profile. By "classical" I mean classical: I could imagine seeing this profile in the Elgin Marbles.

The hair was the biggest challenge in this piece. Hair is complicated in any case. A head of hair is made up of many thousands of separate shapes coming together to create one general shape. The result is a mercurial, shape-shifting shape. Then add in the light-scattering properties of hair. Individual hairs are translucent--they can almost glow--and so the way light strikes and moves with hair is very complicated and very beautiful.

Here I do not feel that my efforts are all that great. I masked out some highlights here, of course, and that was the right thing to do, but I am having a lot of trouble learning to use masking fluid well. The biggest problem is that it goes bad before I have a chance to use it, and then when I want to use it, it doesn't behave fluidly. By "bad," I mean that it coagulates and thickens. When it does so, it's impossible to get it on the page right, especially when you're trying to highlight out superfine strands of hair.

Then there is the issue of my model's hair color. It's not brown and not blond. It's sort of a burnished bronze, with goldish highlights and lots of dark streaks as well. I have struggled in each of these portraits to get the hair color right, and I haven't yet succeeded in capturing it. It's not too far off here. The color is a mix of raw ocher, burnt ocher, and Payne's grey.

Finally, there is the shape of the hair itself. My model's hair is wavy--more straight than curly. It's also relatively fine--good Scandinavian hair. Capturing the waviness is a challenge, and I find that I succeed best by simply using my finest brush and putting in lots and lots (and lots) of long strokes that follow the folds and contours of the waves. I think the shape of the model's head of hair here is one of the best features of the painting.

Hair is hard. I still very much like this painting. It has a soft and thoughtful quality that, together with my model's classical beauty, make for a rich and evocative image for me.