I had the joy of meeting this family when Matthew and Fynn came to visit me with their mum and dad for a photo session.  I love being able to meet who I’m painting especially if it’s a people portrait.

I managed to get several good photos of both but was considering how I might make them look nice together in a composition as photographing young children isn’t always straight forward! I took their photos individually and pieced together this pose which I thought looked natural and reflects how good Fynn was with baby Matthew in person.

Unfortunately I took lots of progress photos of the portrait and then lost nearly all of them.  I managed to get these ones back but there are some of the first stages of Matthew’s face missing which is a shame as I took a photo after each layer of pastel went down.  This was to be my very well explained blog on skin tones…but oh well…next time!  Hope you enjoy the progress I’ve shown.

The finished portrait 12″x16″ pastel on velour


The reference photo for Matthew.  I worked from other
pictures of Matthew for the cardigan to make it look
a little less like he was being held up.


I found a budding musician in Fynn when he was
posing at my keyboard and this angle made the
perfect match for Matthew.  I tried to make sure the light
source was on the same side in both their photos
as it would look really odd in the painting if it wasn’t.


I’ve got my line sketch on the velour.  The sketch is where I’ve
figured out the important proportions but I will constantly
tweak distances and values as I go with a human face.
The background is very simple.  I’ve created a bit of a gradient
to give a sense of the directional light but the colours are
very neutral to allow the boys’ colour to stand out.


Now you may notice I’ve skipped some steps.
These were the photos I’ve lost.  What I did first was to
go over the face adding in the very darkest values
I could see. These are the plum purple, green and red
areas you can see.  These colours will shine through at
the end and I find myself being ever more bold with them
as you can always tone them down, but now is the time
to place them.  I’ve then used the lighter shades to begin
highlighting some of the brightest areas.  I find that these
sections begin to join and where I have applied pastel
I’m able to blend it smoothly together with neighbouring
areas of colour.  As soon as I start to add lighter layers
over this they blend evenly into the colours underneath.
You need multiple layers on velour to blend like this.


This is a paper stump tool which I use to blend and
pull colour along with more precision.  I find on velour
that if I rub or score with this tool from right to left
it makes the colour underneath darker.  It’s a really subtle
way to tweak at features without adding more pastel.
I tend to do a lot of shaping to the pigment while it’s
on the paper.  For the very small details around
eyes and nostrils, pastel pencils are handy.  I use some
Faber Castell Pitt pencils.


You can see from this I’ve blocked in the lips which
a few highlights will bring to life.  I’ve still a lot of
blending to do especially around the forehead.  You
can see my diagonal strokes on his head which will
disappear in the blend.
I’ve added the highlights to the lips and added more
light tones of mostly yellow to the skin to calm down
all the red.  My brightest highlights on the cheek and
nose are a really light yellow as I want to keep the image
nice and warm and white would really cool it.


All blending done, I’m onto the knitwear!


You can see from this that I’ve got a layer underneath
on the cardigan and the stitches go on top.  I pretty
much shaded the whole under layer with a deep reds
and black for darker areas in the folds.  When I add the
stitches on top I use several shades of creamy yellow
through to light blues and violets to create the effect
of the same colour stitching but on the different parts
of the cardigan.  So for example the stitches in the shadow
under the collar are blue, while the stitches next the zip
with light hitting them are light yellow.


Almost there!


This is that very first layer of pastel on the face I was talking about
I love using purples and greens on the shadow side and that very
vibrant red for the cheeks shines through lovely!


I use pastel pencil to get very precise lines, although
I use a light blue Unison pastel for the ‘whites’ of the eyes.
You can see in this shot what a difference those
highlights around Fynn’s right eye makes in comparison
to his left.  I used a yellow pastel pencil for this.  Although
it’s difficult to get pastel pencil to go on top of other
layers on velour I’ve found that if I want a light mark
I make it left to right on the paper.  This way for lights
and right to left for darks.  This is something that’s
very subtle but I use it a lot in the tiny details.


Lots more highlights added now and defining the
eyebrow area with a brown pastel pencil.


When I do an open mouth, I start from the inside
and work out just like working from the background
to the foreground.  Again pastel pencils are handy for
shaping the dark around the teeth.  Try not to use white
for teeth.  I used a sandy shade and a light blue as they
are inside the mouth, in shadow, and unless you’ve
got yourself a Hollywood smile, they’re not going
to be pure white. 🙂


For Fynn’s hair I’m working in the darkest areas first, using a
Faber Castell black stick to draw in the direction and flow
of the hair.  I’ll then use the softer Unison pastels to add some
of the lighter tones and highlights and come back with pastel
pencils to shape this and create the very fine hairs.


Second woolly cardigan and I’m on the home straight!


An extreme close up of Matthew’s cute face

Hope you enjoyed the progress.  If you’d like to have a portrait of your own painted please do get in touch or visit http://www.EmmaColbertArt.com for more information.