Friday, October 8, 2010

Rachel with Process Photos!

Oil, 16 x 20 inches
(click to zoom)

I've gotten several requests to show my painting process on these portraits. Now, I don't have a great camera, but took a few shots during the model breaks of this portrait. It's a three hour session, during which this model took two breaks, so here is a picture of where I was at each break. The first is only a little more than a drawing in oil, the second has most of the planes of the face blocked in. Other painters tell me I tend to "pull it all together at the last moment", so in the final (above) you can see I've put in all the final details and highlights.


  1. Hey Rob, thanks for sharing your process.

    One thing that comes to mind, is that you wait to put the background in until the very last phase. Any particular reason for this, or was this more coincidental and do you usually go more back and forth between background and foreground?

    I'm only mentioning because my teacher is hammering on doing this constantly, because it eases the mind. This is because the background is considered as "something easy" and the subject as "something hard", according to him.
    So the first stages are then something easy, something hard, something easy,...
    Of course it's not desired to keep working on the background constantly during the whole painting process, but it surely helps me in the first stages of the painting.

    The painting is really nice :D
    Are you happy with it?
    Or do you see things that you would like to improve (perhaps on a next painting)? I'm trying to find out more about your mental state once the session is finished.

    Hope you don't mind my "bombardement" of questions

  2. Thanks for the questions Johan, I'll try to answer all of them.

    I usually work on the background during the model breaks. This night I was probably too busy taking pictures during the breaks or maybe I had not made a decision about what I was going to do with it yet. I liked the edge marks around the bottom of this one so I was probably spending some time contemplating whether or not to go over them with more paint.

    I suppose "something hard" and "something easy" is one way people may think about the subject and it's background. I don't tend to think of anything in a painting as easy. Doing so is relatively equivalent to having lower standards for that area. It's easy, so it shouldn't require much work, and you're probably more likely to stop before it looks as good as it should.

    With portraits, the most significant mental distinction I think I have for subject and background is probably "from life" and "from imagination." Sometimes the imaginative part becomes more difficult, sometimes not, but they work together. Whether sparse or complex, the background is the compositional support on which the subject is presented. All that really matters about the background in the end is whether it is good (supportive of the subject and interesting) or not good, no matter how easy or difficult it ends up being.

    I'm glad you like it. I like it alright, it's not one of my favorite portraits, I suppose I feel pretty average about this one. It's sparsely composed, which tends to not hold peoples attention as long. So generally I like to put a little more into the background. I think I wish I had put some lighter marks down underneath this one so the negative space didn't feel quite so empty, but it's too late for that now.

    I'm happy with it for three hours of painting, I don't see any glaring mistakes. If I had more time with the model I might have included more of the figure, but then I probably would have wanted a different pose and then it would be a different painting completely.

    Any judgment I make for myself about a portrait immediately after I finish it tends to change the next day, so I usually try to wait until the next day to decide how I feel about it.

    I hope that answers your questions.

  3. I do really like this one & a friend I visited with over the weekend saw it, she remarked it had a "beachy" feel to it :)