Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Commissioned painting #4

Commissioned painting
14 x 18
John Singer Sargent said that "A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the mouth" and this commission proved him right.  (He was probably always right about painting matters).

The reference photos for this were inspiring because they had such gorgeous, warm light.  I particularly loved the orange reflected light under the boy's jaw.  This painting is an amalgamation of 3 references: one for the face, one for the lunging torso area and one for the arm position.  The arm position was correct in a photo that had his hand clutching a rock.  It's not a problem to lose the rock, but the figure was backlit instead of front lit: the shadow and light were reversed, making his face dark and surrounding him with rim light. I liked the action of that pose, however, so I used the face from a more static image of the boy standing in the water.  Together, they made an image that caught my imagination.

Once the references had been sorted out in my mind, I kept all 3 of them up on my monitor and zoomed in on whichever one I needed at that moment.  There are many people who can use Photoshop to put a new head on a body (my 14 year old included), but I'm not one of them so I used this rather complex method instead.

The painting came together quickly, but got stuck in the approval process due to problems with the mouth. That seems to be the area in which a likeness resides or, in this case, didn't reside.  It took 4 repaintings of that tiny section to capture a likeness.  A full repaint consisted of about 5 very small, carefully-positioned marks.  The angle of the teeth, the amount of gum, the tilt at the corner; all needed tweaking.  But it all worked out because the beauty of oils is that they are workable for so long.

The final painting of the set is underway.  It's an action shot with - thankfully - no mouth visible!

Happy painting!

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