Ella is the second in four sisters I’m painting.  I met them all to photograph them for these and I’m loving how sweet they all look.  I took quite a few progress photos to show you the gradual build up of the skintones while I’m editing the video based on the first sister.  Hope you enjoy seeing her progression as well as some snaps from the very Southern tip of Spain in Tarifa.

The finished painting 12″x10″ soft pastel

As always my first step is to get my line drawing transfered onto the velour.  You can see my reference photo here.

The first real tonal work begins with a dark fleshy tone.  I used this pastel on it’s side to mark in some of the darkest areas.  This layer will be just about blocking in the dark and light without thinking about blending too much.  So it looks a bit colourful and patchwork like at first.

This is the first layer just starting to pick out some of her features.

Starting to find the edges of her face and also add some vibrant pinks which will be used in the shirt later.  You need to think about the colours reflected on the skin’s surface when painting a portrait.  A vibrant warm top can add a real glow to the skin.

We arrive in Tarifa at the very bottom of Spain where you can see Morroco just across the water a mere 20 miles away.  The dirt track into what had been recommended as a great wild camping spot was a crazy potholed muddy mess.  But we struggled in knowing we were there for quite a few days.  If it rained we would wait it out.  Sure enough it did rain, but after a couple of rocky days in the van working we had sunshine.  This is Freda posing with her new friend Elsa.  Even motorhomes make friends.

So you can see now that I’ve got some of the dark vibrant areas blocked in and also outlined her face a little so I have a good idea of her overall shape.   Having the darkest area in early in a painting really helps to judge all your dark tones against that.

Now on the shadow side of her face I am using some light lilac to highlight.  I’ve used grey27 my favourite yellowy white by Unison for the highlights on the sunlit side of her face.

After that I can see I need to strengthen the dark areas and add more reflective colour in there.

I often use pastel pencil to outline the eyes first.  I use a range of brown, black, sepia reds and some light tones for the outer edges of the skin around the eyes.

Here I’m using a Faber Castel Pitt pencil which I find blends the softer paster well onto the velour.  When I build up skintones I use very thin layers which then blend together.  If you want some type of realism try not to create skintone in one or two thick layers as it will look 2D.

Doing more highlighting and softening those new layers into the layers below.

The place we stayed in Tarifa really was beautiful. The landscape, the array of unusual vans around us, the eclectic mix of people and of course the cow bells.

A young posey of cows hanging by the pirates.  Not every day you see that.

I really loved this American style school bus conversion.  And of course the sweet cows.

Using the pastel pencil a little to get the darkest line on her lip.  I try to keep hard lines to a minimum on children’s portraits.  Their faces are so soft, so I try to have a very soft blended look quite different from my technique in painting fur.

Starting to add some of her hair in and again working dark to light.

Bringing in some of the sunlit side tones and this already starts to look right.  Some pastel pencil provides that last fine hairs blowing free.

One of the evenings we had a campfire on the beach just round the bay from where we were parked.  We’re here with a couple of friends we’ve met on the road and it’s so nice to spend these evenings in their company hearing of their adventures.

With the fire roaring the sunset makes the perfect backdrop.

Seeing out the last evening light on the beach.  Couldn’t ask for a better evening.

The next day I know I’ll see her finished even though I have a lot still to do.  I start to block in the pink shirt which makes those reflections on her face make a bit more sense.

I start to add in the font which I think suits her puurfectly!  I use the Grey 27 on the sunlit side and then a light blue or lilac on the shadow side.

Hope you’ve enjoyed my progress on this one and the photos from Tarifa.  Check back soon for the third sister.