A Portrait Swap

ppw - final

I’ve had a good two months working on the MoM Amedeo Modigliani project over at WetCanvas!. The main painting will be completed later in the month as I’ve signed up for the 3rd Annual Portrait Swap Project.

The process – all participants were paired by the moderator on Nov 1st. We then exchanged a head and shoulder photo with our partners. Work began immediately. At the end of 3 weeks the finished Portraits will be swapped.

My partner is an experienced artist. You can see my portrait beautifully finished in the thread and I’m really looking forward to hanging it up on my wall. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to participate and learn.

As in the Project Modigliani post I’ll keep updating this post with the date and progress. I welcome your comments and suggestions.

Nov 6 : get familiar pen sketch. having spent the last couple of weeks doing digital art i felt that i needed to start something by hand.

Nov 7 : following a process shown in a demo by dsimons and followed by my partner for this project. initial drawing with burnt sienna and wiping out the highlights. the face has become larger than the rough composition sketch that I had made on a square piece of paper.

PPW - get familiar PPW - WIP1

Nov 8 : made several corrections. at the end the chin was on the bottom edge of the canvas and certainly not what I had planned on. I will be wiping it off and starting again.

Nov 9 : new start. still not as small as I would’ve liked. more work on it tomorrow

PPW - WIP2 PPW - Redo - WIP3

Nov 12 : defining the features. trying for a likeness. need to work more on making the portrait look less harsh. after a few more minor changes i plan to start adding color from tomorrow.

Nov 13 : got very good advice ( see comments ) from Bob Martin and have now reduced the difference in values between the two sides of the face. added some color. still need to work on the features and try for a likeness. will make some more adjustments before adding more color.


Nov 14 : added some color and continuing to make minor changes but i’m just not getting it so far. always the optimist, I’m hoping that tomorrow when i go back to look at it the errors will shout out to me. ๐Ÿ˜€

Nov 16 : made some changes. i’m thinking of another 2 sessions to finish. the effect is much smoother that i would like. it’s either painting with a big brush or getting some level of likeness with smaller ones and i’ve choosen the later. since taking the photo i’ve moved the right eyebrow down further.


Nov 20 : I’ve lost the expression in her eyes but moved a few steps closer in getting a likeness and increased the contrast between the two sides of the face. definitely more work required. comments and suggestions are very welcome. and i look forward to these especially when i’m stuck ๐Ÿ˜€

Nov 23 : Made changes to the eyes, chin and then tried to make the right side of the painting darker. It got a bit too dark. Wiping it off didnt help because of the canvas texture. The paint came off the dots and remained in the gaps in between.

ppw - wip 8 ppw

Nov 28 : Took a break for a few days. Yesterday I painted over the darker side to lighten it. Today after some more paint I signed my name on it and I’m calling it done. I still havent got the likeness or the shade that I was looking for for the shadows but I’m happy with where this portrait has taken me. I’ve asked for and got great advice and encouragement from Bob Martin, Sangeeta, Lynn and other fellow WetCanvasers and have learnt a lot. Halfway through I was kicking my self for signing up but now at the end I’m really glad I participated.

ppw - final

The painting has been set aside to dry and will be mailed to Lynn in a weeks time. Mine is already winging its way to me and I’m looking forward to hanging it up on the wall.


15 thoughts on “A Portrait Swap

  1. A way to reduce the harshness would be to soften/blur the shadow so that there is less of a value jump. You can recapture the drawing later by using warms and cool colors that are very close in value. Hard edges in the shadow makes that part of the painting move forward, distorting the part of the face that is in the light.

  2. Bob, this is what I’ve been looking for. I tried to capture the contrasts that are there in the original reference but whilst attempting that I’ve lost the softness that I see there. I’m having a problem with gauging values. I went back and looked at the ref in B&W and can see that I have chosen the wrong value for the entire shadow side of the face instead of a mid tone I’ve made it too dark. I shall go back and reduce this difference and the hard edges. I know I’m always looking for shortcuts but Is there another method to figure out the value of colors? Thank you very much for your help.

  3. You might try this to train your eye. Take Raw Umber as it comes of the tube and say that this is the darkest you want the shadow to be and Yellow Ochre as the lightest light in the shadow. So for starters you would want to mix your dark colors (any color you decide to use) to match the value of Raw Umber etc. For the edges, take a wide brush and blend the edges together so that there is a smooth transition from the light and dark in the shadow. Later you can go back and consider things like the cast shadows or reflected light. But remember that there are no big swings in value in the shadow. Two painters you might look at are Dan McCaw and Rembradt, different results but both do a lot of work in the shadows with color. Working from photos are difficult sometimes because the camera peaks into the shadow revealing more then you would see with naked eye.
    Hope this is helpful.

  4. Bob, you’re absolutely the best! this helps a lot. I’d normally have taken burnt umber and probably a darker shade (adding ultramarine) of that for the shadows and wondered why things were not working out ๐Ÿ˜› I shall head off to work on the painting.

    the process that i was trying to follow is the one that my painting partner followed and the initial demos have been put up on wetcanvas by dsimons. [ i’ve just realised that i completely missed out on the bit about adding ivory black!!]

    i’ve been feeling guilty about the last comment re values as i do sort of know what i have to do. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ i have this absolutely fabulous book by Charles Sovek called Oil Painting, Develop Your Natural Ability. There are 36 exercises and they are difficult and I know that they will help me a lot in becoming a better painter once i tackle them. I got stuck on one and have not been able to go on. I’ve pulled it out again and I will start on them again after this portrait project.

    I cant tell you how much I appreciate your help and thanks for putting up with me ๐Ÿ˜€

  5. Ujwala, I am pleased that I could tell you something useful. Also my attempt at trying to answer your question forced me to remember somethings that I totally forgot, so thank you.

  6. you’re being nice lin ๐Ÿ˜› btw your blog is not showing up. blogger is probably migrating it to the new version. i dont seem to be a part of that migration as yet as mine are still coming up.

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  8. I can’t even begin to thank you for posting your process, the references to the demo on Wet Canvas and the comments back and forth with Bob. I’ve just started working on a portrait–my first oil painting in 20 years–and if only I’d seen this before I started. But now I have and I’m just delighted. Your finished painting, even before whatever corrections you intend to make, looks really great to me. You’ve really captured a likeness and have interesting colors and good values (though after reading the issues you’ve had and the suggestions for fixing them can see how those changes could make it even better. I actually got the book you mentioned from the library yesterday (along with a bunch of others) so I’m going to read that one first. THANKS!

  9. You’re welcome ๐Ÿ˜€ I missed your post on the Portrait, Jana. And if you do decide to do the Sovek exercises please let me know.

  10. I am back with another suggestion. It is difficult to tell from the photos of your painting if the value is high enough on the light side of the face. One of the things that happens when working from a photo or a model is that our eyes begin to even out the light across the whole face, so that is why it is helpful to “squint down” or use a black mirror to view your painting. So when I look at photo 6 vs. 7 it seems that you have lost some of the “pop” or strong light that was in photo 6. If you have a sheet of prepared acetate you can lay it on top of the painting and repaint the light side of the faces (on the acetate) to see if the likeness starts to read better for you. If not, you will not have impacted your painting at all.

  11. You’re right Bob, both the sides seem to have almost the same value. I need to brighten the left side and darken the left. I too noticed the difference when the photos were side by side. It was a fleeting thought and I convinced myself that it was the difference in lighting when the two photos were taken ๐Ÿ˜› I’m going to work on just the lighter side and hope to get away with leaving the other side alone. Thank you for coming back and your suggestion.

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