Posts filed under ‘Portraits in progress’

“Molly, painting”

Molly, painting...24 w x 18 h...oil on canvas/hardboard panel

Molly, painting...24 w x 18 h...oil on canvas/hardboard panel

The word “painting” is, in this instance, both a noun and a verb.  Here is my painting of Molly engaged in the act of creating a painting.  

Several years ago when Molly was Evan’s girlfriend and not yet his wife I showed her how to create a trompe l’oeil mural for her windowless college apartment bedroom.  We had a lot of fun over the two days it took to complete this project.  Molly’s a wonderful artist and the mural turned out even better than I imagined it would when we were planning it.  During the project I took several photographs and one of them I used as a reference for this painting.  Unfortunately I shot the photo with what I considered my “eBay camera”, meaning I used it for taking pictures of things I would eventually sell on eBay.  It was an early digital camera and I had set the resolution at the very lowest setting, so the photo was very small, very poor quality. 

In reality Molly was sitting at the kitchen table and there were cabinets behind her and balled up paper towels beside her on the table and junk all around.  But she is so naturally graceful and her pose (which was unposed) so elegant that her portrait needed a much more beautiful background, so I painted in this leafy glen.   I think she looks like a woodsprite artist.  I didn’t have to enhance her at all…she’s naturally beautiful.  I did bump up the bling factor of her necklace and gave her some painted diamond stud earrings.

Below is a photo of just part of the mural she painted that day.  Somewhere I have a photo of the full mural…I just can’t locate it right now.  The painted scene, on an eight foot high canvas panel, is a peaceful meadow at dawn under a sky with white clouds and a crescent moon, as seen from an open set of French doors with a fan window above.  The realistically painted door and window frame and this butterfly (painted on, not real!) are what trick the viewer into thinking the mural is actually a window.  That’s what trompe l’oeil means: to fool the eye.

Detail of Molly's trompe l'oeil mural

Detail of mural


October 3, 2008 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

Heather portrait…finally finished!

Heather...oil on canvas/hardboard panel

Heather...oil on canvas/hardboard panel

Ta-da!  Here it is…finally!  I’m happy with it now. 

I painted over that helicoptor-sized pink bow I had put atop her head in an attempt to balance the big pink shoes (scroll down a few posts if you missed that monstrosity of a hair ornament) .  I solved the exposed legs problem by painting the dress longer.  Cropping solved the shoe problem.

I’ve been asked who gets this portrait when it is dry.  In the short-term I need to keep it for a project I’m working on.  (Some of you know what I’m talking about, but I hesitate to announce it to the world at large, lest I jinx it. )  Eventually I’ll give the portrait to Heather’s parents, I suppose, if they like it…I haven’t heard one way or another. 

I may also put it on ImageKind — that’s a terrific service that makes gicleé prints of original art on demand.  That way if, say, Heather’s grandparents wanted a copy of the painting they could order an archival fine art quality print.  In the next day or two I’ll put a link to my ImageKind gallery there on the right side of this page.

As always, I welcome — and long for! — some feedback.  Is there anyone out there?!?

September 30, 2008 at 7:04 pm 1 comment

Heather portrait…almost finished!

Heather...18 h x 24 w...oil on canvas/hardboard panel

Heather...18 h x 24 w...oil on canvas/hardboard panel

You may remember that my last post of the Heather portrait-in-progress revealed my frustrations with several aspects of the painting. (If you don’t remember, scroll down this blog page.)  

I solicited advice from Heather’s fan club and from two other artist/painters.  Almost everyone agreed that the background colors of the other version were too bright.  Howard B. pointed out that I had made her body too big for her head.  John W. of Wales suggested I reduce the size of the deck.  Several people said the shoes were “hideous”. 

I agreed with all those suggestions, so I struggled with those “hideous” shoes, and the background colors and I kept painting the deck smaller and smaller.

But it was while I was painting Heather’s beautiful eyes that it struck me — why show the deck or her shoes at all???  The improtant part of this painting is not her dress or shoes or even her legs…it is her lovely doll-like face.  Duh!

So, I cut off all the extraneous stuff and painted her dress down over her knees.

So what’s with that hair bow, you ask?  Well, that is a remnant of all my machinations with those !#$%* hot pink shoes.  I felt I needed an element in the composition to balance the big pink clod-hoppers, so I added the bow.  Now it sticks out like a beacon.  I’m going to paint a white rose over it.

PLEASE, kind readers, tell me what you think.  Use the comment form or send me an email —  jandi(at)jandismall(dot)com

September 27, 2008 at 9:24 pm Leave a comment

Heather portrait, part 2

This is the rough second stage of the portrait of Heather.  I don’t know what other painters call it but I refer to this stage as the “color block” step.  That is, the colors are blocked in in approximately their final locations, but there are no details and there is lots of spill-over from one shape to the adjacent one.  With these big flat blocks of color in place I can see where the problems are.  And there are a bunch of problems.

First, the background colors are overpowering.  I think I should be able to suggest tropical foliage without using such bright greens.  Second, the deck is too big and too light in color.  Third, where her dress meets the chair arm on the left side of the canvas is awkward.  I painted the dress longer than it was in real life and now I’m confused about what to do with it at that spot…so, I will probably shorten the dress.  Fourth, the shoes are too pink; I’ll tone those down.  I painted the shoes with smaller straps, but I think I’ll make them have a looped tie on the top of the strap for interest. 

Originally I wanted to make Heather’s dress white linen with an elaborate Victorian lace collar and cuffs on the short sleeves.  What was I thinking?!?  I can’t paint elaborate lace…and I don’t even want to try because it would detract from her beautiful little face.  I’ll put 90% of my time and effort into painting her face, arms and legs…and let the clothes, chair, deck and foliage be sketchy and painterly.

The next step is to fix those problems I mentioned, above.  If you, kind reader, see anything that you think should be changed or added, please use the comment form to tell me about it.  I welcome all feedback.  Really.

September 2, 2008 at 3:54 pm 1 comment

Sketch of Heather

a marker sketch of Heather

a marker sketch of Heather

I want to paint a portrait of beautiful little Heather…and here is a marker sketch I made to plan that portrait.  I like the composition, but I think it needs just a bit more “room” around the subject so she isn’t so crowded by the sides of the canvas.  The foliage in the background will be very muted and soft so it won’t detract from her delicate features.

I’ve shown the sketch to a few people and some have asked why I don’t show her smiling.  Smiles are great for photographs and snapshots, but a portrait is a much more serious and weighty thing.  It is a lasting representation of the subject’s character and personality, not just their happy face coaxed at one moment in time into giving a big smile for the camera.  There are about 100,000 photos of this lovely child smiling and laughing…and just seven of her with her face natural and in repose…I took those.  To me, this is the real Heather.  I want to capture the intelligence and thoughtfulness I see in her when she is quiet and not posing for the camera.

August 28, 2008 at 9:05 am Leave a comment

Evan Portrait…FINISHED!

Here were my choices: 1) post a portrait; or 2) change the name of this blog to Jandi Small…Daily Painting Addict.

My purpose when I first began this blog was to practice my portrait painting and post the stages here…so, to that end, here is the finished portrait of Evan, my son and favorite portrait subject for the last 26-1/2 years.  He’s a handsome lad (thank goodness, or it wouldn’t be much fun to paint him) and a gentleman and a scholar.  The barn owl in the background symbolizes knowledge and wisdom, both of which Evan has in great quantity.  The bamboo branch I painted in his left hand represents luck, protection and good wishes…and I wish for him great good luck and protection all his long life.

I’m going to try to add a detail from the painting: his left eye.  WordPress is somewhat tempermental when it comes to adding multiple images to one post.  I’ll see if it works.  If you see an eye below, it worked.  If not, it didn’t and I’ll make a separate post for it.

Eyes are the most fun to paint.  Windows of the soul, and all that.  My portrait style is tightly rendered eyes, less tightly rendered facial features…and loose everything else.  That keeps, I believe, the viewer’s focus on the face, where it should be.

Yes, Evan really does have one blue eye and one green eye.

August 13, 2008 at 2:56 pm Leave a comment

A people portrait in progress, part 2: Evan at Gopher Hill

Colors blocked in

Colors blocked in

This is the second stage in the portrait of Evan.  (See the previous post for the sketch.)  Using the sketch as a guide to the shapes, I blocked in the colors over the top.  By “blocked in” I mean that I roughly applied large flat areas of color.  Interestingly, this looks like Evan, even at this rough stage.  That’s because if one can get the eye-eye-nose-mouth placement accurate relative to one another “likeness” happens.  Usually. 

This stage of a painting is the most fun and the most satisfying because it is all about just mushing the brush around quickly.  Honestly, I could quit at this point…and I often have.

The next step is to look again — hard — at the reference photos and to make sure the colors are correct.  Then I’ll start refining the features of the face.  I like to leave the clothes and backgound very loose and sketchy.  Even graphite drawings I did 30 years ago are like this: “tight” face, especially eyes, and very loose clothing and hands and feet.  I’ll post some of those drawings to this blog soon.

I want to add an owl in the background, to represent knowledge and wisdom…both of which Evan has.  Old (16th, 17th, 18th century) portraits always had a lot of symbolism in them: skulls to remind the viewer of ever-present death, hourglasses to represent the immutability of time, coins to represent the wealth of the subject.  The inclusion of an owl is appropriate for Evan because he’s liked owls — especially barn owls — from the time he was a baby.

I just noticed I forgot to paint in the “sunnies” he was holding in his left hand in the original sketch. 

Stay tuned!

July 26, 2008 at 8:14 pm 1 comment

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