Except for plein air painting and sketching, it’s pretty rare that I create a painting by just diving in and slapping some paint on canvas. Yes, I know, movies and biopics of artists give that impression. But really, it’s hard work and, for me at least, requires a lot of preliminary work.
When I’m doing a portrait, which is to me the most difficult to achieve, I always begin with some preliminary sketches. Generally I begin with some charcoal sketches. Sometimes one is enough but more often it’s several.
After that, I may try some color sketches on canvas paper or panels.
In this case, I had recently been gifted with some art supplies by a friend who was moving so I proceeded to a conte crayon study on pastel paper.
The next step was to do a larger oil stick pastel, also on pastel paper.
The final painting was created on a large stretched linen canvas 28 x 34. I had already primed it some time ago with a dark neutral background and some splashes of color in the center.
I sketched in the main figure with charcoal. Then, sanded the primary area and gessoed it again. Then sketched over that again with charcoal. A little spray fixative set the charcoal so the painting process would not pick it up. I decided to leave the background unfinished with just the initial undercoats of paint.
The figure is painted in acrylic very loosely but with attention to detail in the face and hand. The primary difference with painting a human portrait as opposed to painting a building or landscape is that if you’re off a brick or leaf in the landscape, no one will know. But if you’re off a quarter of an inch on a nose, you have totally missed the mark in capturing a portrait. At least in my opinion.
What do you think?