I started a portrait from a B&W photograph Wednesday, April 22 in Cheryl Long’s class. Here are the stages it’s been through on the way to being, for now, finished.[footnote]I have some ideas for a background, but don’t know which one I will be using yet.[/footnote]
Here is stage one: aded a wash for skin color, and got the mouth and most of the hair done. Took about an hour and a half. The hair was a risk; I knew that I wanted to use different colors (for shadows, highlights, and mid-tones), and scraping[footnote]I used my thumb nail[/footnote] to show texture. I sort of figured I’d fill in broadly with color, but as things turned out, I got into a groove and laid down a lot of detail.
I went back into the painting the next day, planning to get the hair completed, and add more details to the face. And then the weird stuff started to happen. I knew I wanted to add shadow to the cheek and neck, but I didn’t know exactly how I should do it. I’ve been experimenting with using darker tones, rather than complementary colors (e.g., Cerulean blue) for shadows. (I did use Cerulean blue, with a bit of Burnt Sienna, for the shadows in the dress.) I painted, and then scrubbed out, and then repainted, and scrubbed again, and painted one last time (see below). I almost had some amazing looks in that process, but I just couldn’t bring it home. I kept ruining the look. The shadow in the image below looks more like fur than shadow. But other things worked out OK, so I put the painting aside for a few days.
On Sunday, I got out my scrubbing brush (fairly stiff bristles, and round) and cleaned up. I carefully wet the areas I wanted to scrub, and then lifted the color with a paper towel. I did this multiple times. Wet-and-lift only took me so far; I really did need to scrub to get rid of all that color. I also enlisted a very small (#4) filbert for scrubbing small areas. I got it all cleaned out, and painted in a much more subdued (and more accurate, catching light and making shadows on the planes of the face).
I also did some small scrubs–I changed the mouth a bit to make it the proper shape (it was somewhat unnatural, with the light and shape off from the actual curve of the face). I also touched up a few other shadows, including the eye socket and some portions of the forehead. Details! Oh, this was done on cold press paper (Arches 300 lb.; thank goodness I chose such a heavy paper, as I could never have done that much scrubbing on lighter paper!). So I had a number of fine boundaries (e.g., lower lip) that were too rough, and needed some attention with a 10/0 ultra-fine hairline brush. That also changed the expression from somewhat dour to more of a quizzical look.
After all that, I was pretty happy with the result.
I think it will benefit from a background; I did some quick studies by loading the image into Photoshop and trying out some generic images of windows using Google. I don’t know that I will something like either of these, but I have some ideas now, and will eventually come back to this painting and put in a background. Here are the two best ideas I came up with so far.