Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Portrait Step by Step

Here's a series of photos showing the development of one of the figures in the mural. I begin to establish the lightest skin tones with a creamy mixture of white touched with cadmium yellow and napthol red, glazing it across the entire face very quickly with a broad brush. Plenty of acrylic matte medium is mixed with the paint to keep it translucent, so I can still see the sketch beneath.  Click the images for close-up views.

Here I begin to establish basic shadows around the eyes, using napthol red, burnt umber and white. Generally I work the colors and values from light to dark, allowing the luminosity of the white ground to show through the paint layers.

I use a small flat to re-establish some of my sketch lines and lay in some of the darkest shadows. I always place some of the darkest values early on to help me key all the other values in the face as it develops. I've also used a #10 flat to broadly block in the planes of the face in simplest terms. It helps to squint while looking at the reference photo, to better see large shapes without being distracted by details.

With a mixture of ultramarine blue, magenta and white, I modify the right side of the face to suggest some cooler, reflected light. The cool tones keep the face from growing too "hot", making the skin colors more natural looking.

After the basic structure and broad forms have been established, I continue to refine the shapes and strengthen the darks, looking for more subtle details.

Using # 6 and #8 flats, I lay in the plaid shirt and suspenders. I try not to over-render this, since I'm more interested in retaining a painterly feel than in getting precise detail.

The step by step photos were taken at an angle, which distorted things somewhat. Here's a straighter view of the more or less completed figure.  There are a few drawing issues I can see need correction, so there's still a little work to do.  This spry fellow is Leo Plass, who graduated from EOU last year, at age 99!


Gary L. Everest said...

Hi Don,
Thanks for sharing the series images. I can't tell you how interesting it is to see how fellow painters work. I really enjoyed seeing Mr. Plass develop in front of my eyes.
Great job and many thanks for this "tutorial" of mural painting.

SamArtDog said...

Thanks for taking the time to do this. I love seeing portraits develop, not to mention a mural. Cool!

SamArtDog said...

129Thanks for taking the time to do this. I love seeing portraits develop, not to mention a mural. Cool!

SamArtDog said...

Sorry about that 129. That was me failing to prove I'm not a robot.

Don Gray said...

Hi Gary--thanks for checking in. I appreciate your comments.

Don Gray said...

Thanks...thanks...three times thanks, Sam!

chris said...

amazing :)) i like your pictures so much, long time blog following,
but where are the old postings gone?


Sarah Sedwick Studio said...

Hi, Don - So sorry to hear about your mother-in-law. Your mural is amazing, thank you for this interesting post about your portrait technique. I'm sure I missed it in a previous post, but what are you painting on here - wood? Canvas? All best, Sarah

Don Gray said...

Thanks, Chris. When you say "where are the old postings gone?" do you mean older posts are not showing up on your computer? If that's so I don't know what to tell you--they're still there on mine. If you mean why are there so few small paintings lately, you're looking at the reason--the mural has been taking up most of my time.

Don Gray said...

Hi Sarah, thanks for the condolences and kind words on the mural. They are wood panels that I built. Scroll down to the June 15 post to see how they were made.

chris said...

Thank you, don for your explaning.
you're right, the older posts
are invisible on my computer ~
so it seems to be a problem of inet or software ...

have a nice weekend