I was asked to paint four sisters and this is sister number four.  It’s been a few weeks of intense concentration to make sure I get each sister just right.  Although the paintings were all individual 10″x12″ pieces, I wanted them to work nicely as a set too so that they could be hung together or apart.

Hope you enjoy the progress of the eldest pretty sister, Ellie.

The finished portrait 10″x12″ soft pastel

I start as always by transferring my line sketch onto the velour and beginning to block in the background.  For all of these I’ve used a soft gradient of colour in quite neutral tones.  I like using this lilac grey blended softly into the shadow side.

I begin to build up her skin tones.  I’ve had the same palette in front of me for all four portraits which is handy.  Because I photographed them all in the same lighting, they had similar skintones to work with.

Slowly finding her form using the darks and lights to bring them out.  Adding some of that darkness in the hair helps me see where needs to be darker on her face.

This week we’ve been staying in a campsite or aire as the weather turned rainy for a few days and our solar panels stopped working.  So while Andrew worked on that I got plugged in and back to work on the portrait.  After a few days we were back to sunshine and our solar back to providing us with all our electricity.

We met a lovely couple who we’ve spent a couple of weeks with exploring this stretch of coastline and enjoying nice dinners and eachother’s company.  They are a creative crafty couple who have a stall selling all sorts of beautiful items they make from driftwood and mostly found objects.  This is a shot of their driftwood supply in their van.  I’m glad I’m not the only one with boxes of weird things in their van!

This is Steve and Nikki with their Merc.  Like our Freda their van has a name…this is Elsie!

We also made friends with an extremely friendly dog called Eddie at the campsite.

Back to work and starting to add some features.  This part is always a bit of a worry as the eyes give so much life to a portrait.  If you are just a millimetre out, it can throw the whole thing.

I’ve really been taking my time on these four portraits.  A lot of time is spent sitting looking at the image, then looking at my painting from a distance.  Sometimes I find the progress shots help.  As soon as I look at my progress picture on the screen of the laptop I see some places that need tweaked.

Still working on those skintones and tweaking the shape of the eyes.  It’s constant as every time I look at them I see one little area that needs darkened or the shape slightly altered.  As soon as you find that niggly area though, the portrait instantly looks more like the sitter.

Starting to block in the lips.

Using some pastel pencil to move the soft pastel around.  It takes me ages fiddling with the teeth to get them accurate.  Smiles can be difficult and the last thing you want is for them to look very outlined and harsh.  Remember that they’re always darker than you think, like the whites of eyes.  I tend to use light blue for eyeballs and brownish yellows or light blue for teeth.  When you add the highlights it works.

Using some pastel pencil to drag those tiny flyaway hairs out over the background.

We head on round the coast to Chipiona.  Yet another nice beach to explore.

Brocci does a bit of posing beside these beautiful flowers in the sand dunes.  I’m reliably informed these are called Sour Fig or Ice Plants.  Although someone said that around here they’re referred to as Uña de Gato (Cats’ Claws)

Starting work on that flannel check shirt.  It often looks worse than it is.  I try to block in what I can with a darked pastel to at least give me the shapes I’m working with.

Then it’s just about taking the squares and working each area.

I usually like the clothing to look more painterly than the skin so I don’t go into crazy detail on each area.  I just want that flannel effect which requires a lot of fine lines in a diagnol direction.  The odd curve in those lines indicates where the movement and creasing is in the shirt.

Hope you’ve enjoyed Ellie’s progress and a little of my time here in the South of Spain.  I’m back to my comfort zone of dogs next with a big cuddly face to work on.  It has been an enjoyable challenge though painting these four pretty sisters.  I hope that in years to come they will have them to look back on.

Here is a little close up of all four sister’s faces.  It shows you the lovely soft texture of the velour paper.

Also a picture of all four pieces together before I package them up for posting.  The backdrop is out our dining area window in the field we’re parked in.  Every morning the cows come to mow the grass.

Check back soon for more work in progress.  I’m also editing my tutorial video on skintones so keep an eye on my Youtube channel for that coming very soon. www.youtube.com/emmacolbertart