Updated: Jul 13
If you first want to read part 1 about the oil sketch I made prior to this larger version, go here.
MEDIUM INK oil on paper board SIZE 40 x 40 cm
While painting her portrait, I wrote in my diary:
Friday, first of July.
The whole day searching for truth, her truth. Maybe I know her too well. It has become a longer journey than expected. Why is it going slowly?
I am searching. Searching for what I think is a good representation of her, that does justice to her beauty, the tenderness with which she looks into the world. To touch it in a contemporary and innovative way, in my typical style. It seems, feels difficult. It takes patience, looking deeper and deeper. Finding the smallest secrets that really matter, sharpening the skill of mixing the colour that does it. And to hit the plasticity of her nose, beautiful mouth, soft eye. Controlling proportions.
Sometimes I loose it completely, I lose sight of the resemblance. Then I don't like the colours. Her face then becomes one red meat factory, colours of raw cut meat, colours of poo.
It seems easier to paint in a very rough way, with heavy statements. Eliminating visual narratives that do not matter is much more difficult, but it brings me closer to purity, her truth.
I am fortunate to have the confidence to be able to recognise what I am seeking in what I create. That feeling in my stomach when it is right!
Yet grateful for what is there, I continue to search among the dissonances for the potential successes, brushstrokes that hit the mark.
I am patient.
Leonie, what I would like to let shine from you...
Peace and tranquillity you like to be in
Stability that you strive for
Power in your creativity
Fresh and contemporary
Being sensitive, observant
Loving towards me
Love of life
Wisdom in your search
Wanting to be gentle with yourself
Not just any words. They come from me, her partner, life companion, lover. They describe the visual poetry I was looking for when I started this portrait of her.
This blog is an attempt to succinctly convey the process, without being too technical and fluffy in artistic language. I let that go just enough in the intro : ).
Let me take you on a short journey through the landscape of a face, from sketch to final result. You will learn how I have sought to find the light, reveal her uniqueness, characteristic features and try to guide the eye with detail.
An effective start
To "get away" effectively, I like to use a very simple method. A grid. I place the grid both on the canvas and on the reference photo. In this way, I can set up a basic drawing relatively quickly and check 'along the way' that the features of the face (the nostrils, eyes, mouth, etc.) remain approximately in the right place.
AFTER BLOCKING IN THE SHADOWS, SEPARATING LIGHT FROM DARK
Separating light from shadow
I outline the shadows with a darker shade. That gives a hold to the zone where the light side separates from the shadow side. It is this zone that receives a lot of attention during the process of painting. If I manage to apply consistency in terms of colour sequence, it is a powerful means of evoking a feeling of volume or plasticity.
FIRST PASS OF COLOURING
At first, this zone is set off quite strongly. Later, nuances are added so that the gradient from light to dark is more subtle.
Subdued light effects, developing the mid-tones
I really love the effect of light. Especially if it is not overdone and shadows almost imperceptibly do their thing and subconsciously fascinate the viewer. Sort of like letting a gun go off without you hearing it, but then with the effect of light.
It is precisely this balance that I wanted to capture in order to touch on some of the characterisations given above:
Calm, soft, attractive, fresh: Subtle transitions, balanced, realistic and clear use of colour.
"Sort of like letting a gun go off without you hearing it, but then with the effect of light."
You may already have noticed: By now, I have passed the first 'standard' phase of sketching, getting the proportions right, making a first attempt at applying shadow zones, to the next phase in which the game starts of drawing out 'the narrative' that I want to convey.
CLOSE UP ON THE CHIN, WORKING ON THE TRANSITIONS FROM LIGHT TO SHADOW SIDE
Focus on her gaze
I wanted to capture her wisdom and vigour through her gaze. I therefore tried to make the front eye the end point of the journey that your eye makes, after it has glided across the canvas past other parts and details that are less prominent in the hierarchy.
AFTER THE THIRD PASS, EXPLORING COLOR VALUES
The eye is the only place in the whole piece where there is a very vivid orange-red in the eyelid that catches the light from below. It is deliberately made lighter than the original in the photograph, to draw attention to it.
CLOSE UP OF THE EYE ONCE THE PAINTING WAS ALMOST DONE
Details in and around the eyes
It is also the only place in the painting where such a colour, closely accompanied by a firm dark line on the eyelid, comes from her mascara.
And one of the strongest light reflections falls on her upper and lower eyelids.
Not to mention, there is a dark pupil and a bold shine on the wet eye.
Finally, shadows have been added to the left and right of the eye, not too loudly, but in such a way that they create a framework for balance and catch the eye for a moment.
"The eye is the only place in the whole piece where there is a very vivid orange-red in the eyelid that catches the light from below."
Overall structure, to make it stand out from a distance
The stability is created by the larger diagonals found in the work. From bottom right to top left, the background subtly darkens and propels her gaze. The shadow under her chin, on her neck, also runs from bottom right to top left. Her dark tail acts as a silhouette, in strong contrast to the light background, and introduces the shadowed side of her face in the same diagonal. The hair around her ear also joins in. They all point more or less in the same direction, 'looking along'.
It is the hair lock across the right side of her face that finally catches your eye and stops it, along with the light spot on her eyebrow.
Routing your eye
In the end, I wanted to create an attractive circle for your curious eye. From the side of the shadow, the tail, via the points of light on her jewellery, the earring and the bow, along the necklace with its controlled shine, ending with the bright light on her right cheek, via the lock and the eyebrow, to her left eye.
The hairs around her left ear, lead you to another round after a while!
ME, BARE FOOT IN MY COMFORT ZONE!
No, this is not a perfect portrait. No, it is certainly not the perfection that I aspire to. The process of finding this portrait is what matters to me. The imperfections keep it alive and reveal my quest.
And this all seems very rational. But nothing could be further from the truth. I think half of the time, it happens automatically without thinking and that surprises me again and again. The brush goes its way, inspired by magic, it seems. Intuition.
I can't wait to start the next one.
PHOTO CREDIT my youngest daughter
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+31 (0) 6 21 85 91 32.
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