Mother and Child -- 2006:
this was a commission piece, painted from a client supplied
photograph. It was a combination that I normally turn down, but
as always, there are the exceptions to every rule. It can be
because the request comes from a friend or special student, because it
has a compelling story, or simply because your curiosity, vanity, or
wallet has become intrigued. This painting was to be a birthday
gift to the subjects' mother and grandmother, who was turning 92 years
The process is not my current process, but rather a throwback to an
earlier time. It was needed in two weeks (across a time period
already filled with obligations), so I reverted to a safer procedure,
mainly because there was little time for observation and reflection --
no time to face it to the wall before looking at it again.
I drew a charcoal drawing by imposing a grid on a photocopy
(of the source) and then making a similar, although larger, grid on
the canvas. This method makes it fairly easy to create a
I start to fill in the shapes with flat, mid-range (medium toned)
colors. I have decided to use a limited palette, that will help
unify the painting -- part of this decision was due to the limited
time that I could devote to the work.
At this point, I am using: Yellow ochre, cadmium red light,
cerulean blue, and Titanium white. If you are new to painting or if
you are feeling a little lost in your current process, then I suggest
that you sit down and play with this combination. It gives you
wonderful flesh tones, lush natural greens, soft cool blues, rich
grays, and so many other colors. Don't forget to mix some
compliments in to soften colors. Later for some of the
more brilliant yellows, I will use cadmium yellow. for
some of the richer, darker colors, I will add Thalo Blue and Burnt
Throughout this painting I am using turpentine as
the thinning agent and relying on the oil in the tube colors to
be the basic medium. This is a technique more often
used in plein aire painting to help speed the drying time, but
used here because of the short notice.
Still continuing the block-in with flat colors. the main goal
is to fill the canvas, so that I can see the colors against each
other, rather than the exaggerated contrast that happens between the
white of the canvas and the colors.
It's completely blocked-in! Notice how light the skin tones look
when compared to the starting photo. As the darker background
surrounds the lighter skin shapes, the contrast becomes apparent. The
garments are the only areas where the light/shadow pattern has been
developed. I didn't want to loose this pattern.
here, I started adding darker areas. Mainly delineating the edges
where darks are going to meet other values. I have added thalo
blue and Burnt sienna to my palette.
The most obvious change is the color of the flowers in the
background. The fencing in the background has started to reveal
texture and backlighting. I've started to model the flesh-tones,
working with the lighted areas.
Casting more light on the flesh-tones.
Working with the shadows.
More modeling, using rim light to help create an illusion of depth
with the foreground and the background.
I've opened up the eyes and in the process, changed much of the
face. The coloring of the skin has been softened.