"God's art [Creation] speaks of Himself, reflecting who He is and what He is like."
Francis Chan

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tori at Twelve - Portrait Completed

  I have a new found respect for portrait artists.  Painting a portrait is really hard!  I had a lot of fun giving it a try these past few weeks.  And I learned a tremendous amount.  One thing I learned is that I need to find a portrait drawing class in my area to take!  I spoke with my father, who is an artist in Colorado, and told him what project I was in the middle of.  He bluntly told me that if I ever wanted to be decent at painting - I needed to draw, draw, draw.  Good advice.
   I also realized just how much we think we know what someone looks like, especially those closest to us, when really we haven't taken the time to know every detail that makes them, well - them. The slightest upturn of the nose, the curve of the eyelid, the roundness of the cheek: if any of these are just a hair off - the picture will no longer look like the subject.  I think I redid the lips on this portrait seven times and still feel like I didn't quite "get it".  It is all of those specific, unique details that scream out to us of the fact that we are "Fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139) by the hands of a brilliant Creator and not as a result of the mishaps of evolution.
  Then of course, just when you may really know what someone looks like they change in appearance, especially at this young adult stage that my subject happens to be in. She will never again be at that twelve year old "little girl on the verge of growing up" stage.  That look is fleeting.  I wanted to try and capture it while it was still there.  It seems like everyday she is changing and leaning more towards the grown up look instead of the little girl look I was so used to.  Which may be why, unfortunately, I think my painting ended up looking a little too old.  Try as I did, I think she is looking more like sixteen then twelve (and I'm certaintly not ready for that!) 
For ten years she was the baby in our family until Sophia was born two years ago.  Then all of sudden she started growing up.  Isn't it funny how that happens?  And it's not just the looks that change but, the personality too.  She is beginning to find her own likes and dislikes.  Her full name is Victoria Grace and she was named that because it is a testament, after a difficult time right before her birth, of God's victorious grace on our lives.  About a year ago she decided that she didn't like that name and wanted to be called Tori.  It about broke my heart!  I didn't say anything when her friends began calling her that or when she began signing her name that way, but I refused to call her that.  Recently I have realized that she is her own person and it really might be a case of needing to choose my battles.  So I signed all of her Christmas presents  "To: Tori".  I know it might not seem like a big deal - but it was huge for me!  It was a small way of acknowledgeing the fact that she is growing up.  Although I am sure during the times in the future when she is acting like a child and gets herself into trouble, she will be hearing the full fledged "Victoria Grace!"  when I call her!
One thing that seems to never change in her is that sweet smile and big bright eyes.  I am pleased that I was able to capture in the painting somewhat of that sweet essence that she has. 
This painting was so fun to do (and I have so much more to learn!) that I have a whirlwind of ideas for other portraits running through my mind.  I may return to portaits after I finish up a couple of other projects that are waiting to be completed.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Update - Victoria's Portrait

   Let me start off by giving props to my husband who stayed up until 12:30 last night (he is so not a night owl) to help me with the proportions and perspective on my preliminary sketch for this portrait.  I had the basic sketch done, and had even roughly painted in the background with burnt umber and french ultramarine blue.  But I didn't want to get going on the skin tones without his help. I will gladly admit that he has a much better eye for perspective.  He is much more of a perfectionist than I am.  He is the detail guy -I am the creative free spirit.  Even in the simple tasks of life - when we paint the living room he does the painstaking, time consuming trim- I get the big block of color in the middle to go crazy on. So when I had her face as close as I could, I knew I needed his eye to help me see what I had missed.  It is amazing how a new set of eyes helps us see things a little clearer.  I suppose this is true in both art and life. 
After he helped me out (and then went to bed)  I was able to lay down some of the preliminary flesh tones.  I was most concerned with getting the strong shadow on her neck where it creases in the right place.  I didn't concentrate to much on the mid tone shadows of her left cheek yet.  That will probably be what I zone in on today.  At two thirty this morning I felt like I had a good start (although, I know I will need to somehow make her look younger - she appears to be about seventeen in my rendition at this point)  and headed to bed myself.

  When I woke up this morning I came into my office and realized that I have missed the mark on the lower half of her face.  I believe the lips and chin are protruding too far out.  This may be part of the problem that makes her look older.  I guess this will be another problem that I need to remedy this afternoon.
I would love insight or suggestions from any of my artist friends out there!  As I said  in my last post, this is a challenge for me and I would love to learn from anyone out there with some wisdom for me.  For now, I press on!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Portrait - Victoria Grace

   Every Christmas break I try and begin a new painting to work on while I have the extra free time.  This year I am stepping way out of my comfort zone to work on a portrait.  I have only done a couple of portaits and freely confess it is not my area of expertise.  However it is something that I have always desired to do more of.  I especially love the idea of capturing moments in my children's lives as they grow and change.
  I recently read two articles in "The Artist's" magaxzine  that provoked me to give it a try.  The first article was about an artist that did a painting of her son every year of his childhood (and into his twenties, I believe).  They were gorgeous and what a neat record of how he had changed throughout the years.   The second was from the January/February 2010 issue.It was a technique article by artist Chris Saper (http://www.chrissaper.com/ ) about capturing that small time period in a child's life when they are between the child and adult stages. She gave some great advice and pointed out things about a "tweens" face that I had never even noticed.
   Armed with that info and with an idea for a painting that had been floating around in my head, I am ready for my Christmas break project.  I chose to do a painting of my twelve year old daughter, Victoria.  Today I asked her (i.e bribed her) to sit for me with while I did a couple of sketches of her to get the feel for her features.  Unfortunately , those sketches didn't turn out so great.  So I took some snap shots of her to use when her neck gets stiff and tired and then I sent her on her way.

  This photo is my favorite.  It is exactly the look that I was looking for.  I wanted a dark background with light streaming in on her face.  I love sthe soft shadows on her neck and face. Talk about inspiring!  The photo alone has me jumping up and down!  I am not a photographer (although I have to admit, it is one thing that I have always thought would be so neat to do!), but somehow within twenty or so shots I was able to capture the look that I was going for.  I love how it expresses her sweet smile...now if only I can capture that on a canvas. 
I will be doing a few more sketches to work out some of the trickier issues - one being her lips which for some reason really snag me up.  One of the things I already see that I will have to work on is getting past the familiarity issue of assuming I know what she looks like and trying to see her as if it is for the first time.  I will give updates as things progress and let you all get to know why I find this special girl an inspiration to be painted.  Until then, you can check out my very first portait attempt that happened to be of  a five year old Victoria.  Remember, I told you up front, portaits are not my expertise!  She was much cuter than my feeble attempt displayed.  But even, after seven years, this painting is a sentimental treasure to me.

One last note: the poppy painting is finished!  I named it "Flander's Field".  I have two shots here, both zoomed in a bit to show some of the details.  The last thing that I did, which is such a fun part of poppies, is the highlighed fine hairs on the stems.  When that was finished I knew it was done.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Update on Poppy Painting

I wanted to give a long over due update on how things are going with my latest poppy painting. As you can see, it survived the paint brush of my two year old! She had painted red and magenta over most of the leaves and stems. After a lot of time and fresh paint I was able to fix it and proceed.
I just recently began to add lighter highlight strokes to the petals. I wanted to convey a redder tone to these poppies but had been feeling like they were too brash. My goal is to get a softer "glow" look with lots of small strokes in a large variety of lighter colors. I also tried adding variety to the petals by laying down some shadowy areas in faint blue to provide consistency with the blue background.
I am hoping to be finished up with this within two weeks if all goes well. Such a busy time of year - but what a joyful one! We have so much to be thankful for! God has sent a Saviour to save us from our sin!


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