I was asked to produce a very special portrait marking a milestone birthday occasion. The painting was to be a surprise so I went to the party as a family friend / someone there to take some family photos on a special occasion. We chatted and she sat so naturally on the side of this chair while I photographed her. I think being a true busy woman she didn’t often waste time sitting in chairs. I know someone just like that so I can relate!
I liked the backdrop with a sense of distance and the lighting from the window seemed soft. If I were a proper photographer I would have lit her nicely from the other side too, but did not think to do that at the time nor do I own the equipment to bring along. However, I really like the shot I got of her and I hope she likes what I have done with it.
I hope you enjoy the progression of the painting along with some of my travels from where I was while I painted it. At that time it was the height of our summer in Germany and we were on an island on lake Konstanz called Reichenau.
My first stage as always is to sketch out the initial outline for the portrait. I then transfer this onto the velour so I have a clean line to start with faintly on the velour board. I always work from the background forward and there’s a lot of background in this.
Where we were in Germany is very beautiful. Lake Konstanz at the South West of Germany is where we reached after a summer in the Schwartzwald. We were on a small island you can drive onto called Reichenau. The island is populated with many small farms growing nothing but fruit and vegetables. If you are veggie like us, this must be some kind of paradise!
There are so many stages to creating a portrait of a person for me. My first task is to find where the strongest light is hitting and start to block in some areas. I use deep colours as I will add many thin layers on top of this getting lighter and lighter. Once enough layers are on the velour, it can be worked and moved very precisely if that’s what you need.
Although it’s quite a dark photo of this step you can see I’ve added a lot more light tones across the face. I’m trying to push the contrast down on the shadow side so that it can still appear light. Too much contrast is not great for a portrait.
Once we left the island of Reichenau we headed East on round the lake. Some of the beaches there around the lake were lovely with lots of Germans enjoying the good weather. Brocci enjoys a dip when it’s hot but this is the best way to cool off on the move!
I feel I have caught the sitter’s expression but will go back and tweak small things. It often helps to get the hairline in to frame the face. Again I’m trying to figure out the lights and darks.
After I leave the face I jump down to the hands while I still have all the flesh tones around me. Hands tell such a story. The way they’re held, the jewellery they bear, and the wisdom that comes from a long life. I completely forgot to take any progress photos while working on the hands…too concentrated!
Definitely on the home stretch now. I loved her cardigan and the patterned leaves. I have simplified the shapes quite a lot in the painting as I often do with fabrics, but hope it gives the idea. I’ve put down an underlayer showing the shadow and form and now I’m working the leaves on that windowlit side which appear more washed out.
This piece was definitely a challenge with so many different textures but I quite like painting fabric and interior scenes. I just hope I did justice to a very beautiful lady who is absolutely amazing for her age.
Thanks for visiting my blog, make sure to call back if you’d like to see more art and travels!