The Reference Photos

I work from photos taken myself. In this case I`ve made one enlargement of the subject`s head, and a second overexposed image to better see her hair and the folds in her dark clothing. I already see a distortion problem with her left eye and (hopefully) will be able to correct it in my under drawing. The shadow cast by her nose also bothers me--it`s too triangular. Time to break out the art books for inspiration. SB/5-Nov-05

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The Panel

For this portrait I am using a "Mus" panel purchased from Peter van Ginkel in The Netherlands. I also use Max Howard "Real Gesso" panels from Athens, Georgia. What I use depends on how rough the surface is and how loose I want the brush work to look. In this case I wanted a rougher surface to drag the brush on. The ground color is Pozzuoli Earth from Williamsburg Paints mixed with a little OH Titanium white. I will make good use of this ground color as the portrait progresses. SB/6-Nov-05

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Under Drawing

I create my drawing using Old Holland Warm Sepia Extra. It allows me to get my half tones and shadows dark enough to support the paint that will go over it. I`m constantly looking in the mirror to check my drawing. If I can only get that eye in the right place! SB/7-Nov-05

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Under Drawing

Having created a strong under drawing, I`m ready for the most time intensive phase of this portrait--"highing up" the under drawing in white paint. The purpose of an under painting is to provide a solid structure, addressing tonal values without letting color get in the way. I`ve begun on the shadow side of her face because I wanted to deal with the distorted eye issue early on. I`m painting with a mixture of Titanium and Zinc white. More Zinc is added as I cover the darkest shadows. SB/8-Nov-05

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Under Painting

Highing up the face gives me the opportunity to plan where I wish to direct the viewer`s attention. I`ll leave a hard edge above her right eye where her hair line meets the forehead. That part of the forehead will be built up thickly with visible brush work. Iíll also widen her right eye a bit in contrast to the photo where her left eye is wider. Iíve changed the shape of the shadow cast by her nose and will play with that area further. It`s interesting to show lit form submerging into the shadow area. Iím using three whites at this stage: an opaque white (Titanium), a 50-50 mix (Zinc & Titanium) and a transparent white (Zinc). SB/11-Nov-05

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Under Painting

I`m continuing to build up the face to acquire a strong plasticity. I`ve also added color to the her eyes and touches of red in the cheeks and the lips. I`m toying with the idea of having her glance just past the viewer like Titian often did with his subjects. SB/14-Nov-05

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Under Painting

Today I blocked in the background. It is necessary to do this early on since the flesh tone will be influenced by what is next to it. I`ve attempted to leave the reddish-colored ground visible in places (see detail1-A). Tonally speaking the background will darken moving from left to right, in contrast to the head going from light to shadow. This may be something of an artistic cliche but it is also an effective way to bring about form and space to the picture. The face has been further developed with attention to edges and paint thickness (detail1-C). The contour of her face along the shadow side was softened to help her face turn the corner (detail1-D). The nose shadow was re-shaped to run more parallel to the bridge of her nose as opposed to the more photographic-looking triangular shape found in the photo. The shadow fades as it reaches the tip of her nose (see detail1-B). Her hair has been highed-up in a semi-transparent white. When I paint her hair, I want a little substance underneath to support the blackish paint especially in the lighter areas as indicated by the over-exposed reference photo above. SB/16-Nov-05

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Under Painting

Before I add color to her face, I try as a rule to get as much done with the head as possible. A first layer of warmish-black paint was applied over the under painting which did itís job well; I was able to remove with a dry brush black paint in certain places creating believable highlights. When dry Iíll apply a few more layers to develop the color and modeling a little more. The red hair band was also painted in using brush and the edge of a palette knife. The trim of her dark sweater was blocked in quickly. It will eventually have a purplish-black appearance in contrast to the charcoal black color of her sweater. SB/18-Nov-05

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Under Painting

At this point Iím focusing on the large masses. With regard to her sweater, an under painting was first created. Iím now applying transparent black (warmed with rose madder) trying to capture the form and structure of the material. Her hair was further modeled the same way. Once these large masses have been competed, Iíll begin adding color to her face. SB/23-Nov-05

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Glazing

Instead of the black sweater she wore, I opted for a more purplish color which hopefully will compliment the flesh tone. I also brought the value of the background down a notch to emphasize the light on her face. Thus the colors/values around her face have been more-or-less established and I can begin to think about adding color to her face. Layers of transparent color consisting of burnt sienna, ultramarine blue and permanent rose are applied to the under painting and while wet, I worked back into it reestablishing the lightest values with white paint. At this stage sheís still a little pale but I will wait until the paint has dried before continuing. SB/25-Nov-05

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Finishing Up

As this portrait was developing I realized the importance light played in creating a certain attractive plasticity. To accentuate this I added a shadow to her left. Also critical to the illusion of form were the shadows along her nose, her cheek, around the front of her neck and on her blouse cast by the tooth-like fringe of the sweater. I began the blouse by outlining the fringe with the transparent white or zinc white. Iíll build up the lighter areas with titanium white and perhaps a touch of yellow ochre to warm it up. (The blouse offset by her sweater will be the highest value in the painting; Iíll spend some time playing with its shape.) Her belt below will probably be a reddish earth tone color. Iím still slowly adding color to her face without medium resulting in a stronger paint layer--and less nausea for the artist. SB/26-Nov-05

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Near Completion

On a sudden impulse I created a design of sorts along the blouseís length which happily enhanced the exotic nature of this portrait. I recently mentioned to a friend that I saw these near-completed portraits as musical instruments needing tuning. Thatís what Iíll be doing these next few days, tuning. The finished portrait will eventually be in the Portraits I section of this site. Thank you for following this demonstration. SB/29-Nov-05

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