“The Happy Couple” Portrait Commission – Work In Progress

My latest portrait commission is of this very happy and gorgeous couple.

It is moving along veeery slowly as I want to create a portrait that the couple and family will cherish. There are quite a few challenges here: a double portrait, heads at an angle, lots of teeth and hands everywhere. But of course I jump at an artistic challenge!

Anticipating these difficulties, I try to make things easier for myself by using the grid drawing method. I print out the photo, draw a grid over the print-out using 1 cm squares, then draw a grid with 3 cm squares on tracing paper. I then draw the image onto the tracing paper, using the grid as a guide. I rub pastel all over the back of the tracing paper, place the tracing paper on to my pastel paper and transfer the image by tracing over the image on the front of the tracing paper.

Hmmm… it sounds more complicated than it is.

So here you can see the sketch if you look very closely – it is quite faint – and I start to place the eyes and hair.

Sketch and placement of eyes

Sketch and placement of eyes

I try to keep it simple by initially choosing three tones in the same colour for the light, mid and dark tones. I start blocking in the tones.

Blocking in

Blocking in

Not very happy with the progress so far, I add a little bit of context.

Eyes too close together

Eyes too close together

Despite all my measuring and using the grid, I can’t help but feel that his eyes are too close together. Another artist reminds me that when we smile, our muscles stretch our nostrils so that they flare slightly – the “wings” of his nose in his picture are too narrow! So I widen them about 1.5mm on each side, and move each eye over about the same distance. I bet you can’t tell… but I feel more comfortable with the eyes now.

I am a little jealous of landscape painters – would anyone notice if one branch was 2mm too far to the left?? Or if a leaf was at the slightly wrong angle?

I start working on his teeth. Who invented teeth?? Still cross about the landscape thing, I start to wonder if teeth were created to torture portrait artists. At this stage, it looks as though he has a terrible gum disease. This is alarming, as he has a perfect enough smile for a dentist advert.

(I think it is best not to post a photo of the gum-disease stage lest I alarm anyone else.)

To digress from my grumpiness and alarm, here is a shot of my new set up with the iPad. I rarely work from the print out of the photo now – I use the iPad as my reference. The colours are crisper and I can zoom in and out. Initially I had the difficulty of finding somewhere to rest the iPad as I like my reference to be almost at eye level. I was contemplating buying an expensive tall iPad stand when I had this brilliant idea of using a music stand.

My set up with the iPad

My set up with the iPad

Happy that my man now has healthy teeth and gums and a winning smile, I start on the girl. I want to keep her skin lighter and softer than his. Wish me luck!

Starting on the girl

Starting on the girl

I start on her teeth and decide this is a good time to write my blog. It is the artistic equivalent of study procrastination.

Starting her teeth... time to procrastinate

Starting her teeth... time to procrastinate

So I am leaving you on a cliff hanger – will I be able to save my damsel during the week??

 

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  3. Child Portrait Painting: “Tea Party” or “The Bossy Artwork”
  4. Portrait Artists Know How to Party!
  5. Portrait Drawing My Way: Workshop 3 – Smudge It!

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