Friday, August 12, 2011
How I Painted "Zofia" Portrait Step by Step
After sketching on the arches 150 pound cold press paper with a hb pencil carefully, I lifted some of the graphite with a huge wad of kneaded eraser. Went to the bathtub and soaked the paper for about 15 minutes. Stretched it on my board and used hardware staples that were too long. Yes, I should have used office staples or bothered to go out and buy the right staples. They made a huge mess later. But, back to the painting...
First, I mixed a huge pool of ultramarine blue wash and used a synthetic round number 12 brush to work it in all the way around the head. Varied some of the application of the wash, and blended the paint right into the hair but not into the clothing. Softened the edges with a clean, damp brush.
After applying water, graphite is much, much harder to lift. Tried lifting more anyway. It's okay, it will get covered with glazes. Mixed a large pool of weak cadmium yellow light and opera rose and applied it with a round synthetic number 6 brush to both face and the neck area at once, leaving the eyes untouched. Mixed another pool of the same color and then applied it to the arms next. While still wet, floated in a wash of light cerulean blue in areas of light shadow - neck, chin, eyes and cheeks. Used cobalt blue and payne's gray alone and mixed together, to shape the folds of the shirt while leaving large areas of white.
For the first layer of hair, a weak wash of new gamboge and opera rose was applied with the same round number 6 brush leaving the highlights. Then I deepened that mixture and went over a few strands on the right side of the painting.
Started building up the creases of the face, by mixing a medium value of the same new gamboge and opera rose and applying it to the eye lids, nose folds, and the area under the chin. For the lips, to the gamboge/opera mixture I added a little magenta.
First layer of the eyes. A dark, juicy mixture of mostly cobalt and a little payne's gray was used to paint in the circumference of the iris. Painting wetly at the edge of the iris and scumbling inward to mimic the natural fissures found in eye tissue. I painted the pupil next, a very dark value of alizarin crimson, cobalt blue and sap green using a round number 2 brush. Oh no! Trying to get too much done, I made the pupils two different sizes. I wish I had photos of this. What to do, what to do? Taking a clean damp brush, I lifted both pupils off the paper over and over until gone, careful to rub the lifted pigment off on a clean paper towel. Then mixing a very dry dark batch of the homemade black (aliz. crimson + cobalt + sap green), I reapplied pupils evenly. Letting this dry, I applied a light wash of cobalt in the corners of the cornea to recess the whites of the eyes. Going over the face with another light wash of gamboge and opera, and adding dimples with a deeper mixture of the same.
The right eye shows developing creases with a strong mixture of gamboge + opera. Also, since I previously botched the first application of pupils I couldn't save the white of the paper for catchlights. To add them back in to give life to the eyes, I used thick blobs of chinese white watercolor.
Here I added eyebrows with two paint mixtures. A light mixture of gamboge + opera mixed to an apricot color was applied from the pupil to the edge of the hairline. A light mixture of umber and cobalt to a light warm gray color applied to the hairs growing from the brow bone area. At this point she didn't have any hairs above the corner of the eye, it is only suggested. Dark creases were added at the side of her face with an alizarin crimson + cobalt mixture (red purple) and to the side of her neck to recess those areas. A lighter purple wash was applied to the underside of her neck. A very light wash of cadmium red was applied to her cheeks, dimples and her collar bones. I then mixed a medium dark value burnt umber, opera, and cad. yellow light and went over some of the tendrils on the right side of the painting. Shocking, isn't it?
The second layer of eyes. Remixing the cobalt + gray to a darker blue wash, and applying it to the outer edge of the iris - careful to drag it inward and retain those fissures. Applying a light cobalt wash in between the outer edge and the pupil. Used the same light cobalt to paint around the cornea leaving white only around the iris, modeling a rounded form. Added eyelashes by mixing burnt umber + aliz. crimson + a little cobalt. The bottom lashes were a lighter version. Added depth to the lips, by deepening the lip crease with gamboge + opera. Added all over light lip wash of cad. red.
Continued with alternating glazes of gamboge + opera for the face and arms, layers of plain cad. red, and layers of burnt umber + gamboge + opera in the recesses. Paying attention to modeling the sides and underside of the nose, the dimples and the hollows of the eyes. Even children have folds under their eyes. Infrequent layers of cerulean and aliz + cobalt mix (blue purple) in the neck, keeping in mind color banding.
I don't have a photo for one stage of the hair where I added red purple darks all over (aliz. crimson + cobalt) - leaving the mid tones and highlights. Then, I kept layering strong washes of gamboge + opera + burnt umber starting in the darkest part of the hair and scumbling into the highlight to get the hair texture. I did this entirely with a round number 6 brush.
At this point, I went in for the finishing touches. I deepened and added to the eyebrows with the gamboge + opera mixture. I deepened part of the background with cobalt to add interest. I added freckles with a gamboge + opera + umber mixture, careful not to make them too dark or too regular. Then I signed the painting, extending my signature a bit into the background so it wouldn't look like a tattoo on her arm!
Since the staples were too long in the first place some of them didn't seat flush with the board and as a result the paper buckled. Grr. Removing the heavy duty staples was a double nightmare. Luckily the mat I cut smoothed everything away. Lessons learned!