Every portrait begins with a period of intense observation in which the artist’s job is to find the particular characteristics that make the subject unique.
Each step in the process must serve to capture those aspects and frame them for the viewer, communicating the experience of looking in a commanding way. Right mark, right color, right place.
CASE STUDY: LORELEI
STEP ONE: VALUE AND FRAMING
The first day is typically spent looking carefully at the pattern of dark and light and recording that relationship in a black-and-white drawing. Once that’s established and the figure is situated in space, the dimension and size of the ultimate painting can be determined.
STEP TWO: BLOCK-IN
The next step is to transfer the value study to a large-scale support, either stretched canvas or board and to begin adding color. During this phase, details of the original drawing must be continually revised. Acch. Lost her hands!
STEP THREE: ENRICHMENT
Each day as more information is added the objective is to describe the figure in space, showing the differences between what’s in the foreground and what’s further back. Every session is an opportunity to pull the figure closer to the viewer.
STEP FOUR: FINISH
With the broad image accurately described, it’s time to decide which details -- the texture of the hair, perhaps, or the light bouncing off the nose -- to bring into focus. And which -- tatoos, maybe -- to imply rather than state explicitly. As these choices are made, the painting becomes a true reflection of what the artist has seen.