Category Archives: Portraits

Rita’s Portrait ~~ Session Five: More Home Work, using the iPad

I had made good progress during my work based on the reference photograph, but I decided it wasn’t good enough.  As a way to visualize changes that might improve the painting, I decided to do a mark-up on the iPad, using a side-by-side comparison with the reference photo.

markup of portrait using iPad

markup of painted portrait, as a result of side-by-side comparison with photo. iPad screenshot.

I cropped the photo included in my September 8th post and imported it digitally into the ArtRage app on my iPad.  I then ‘painted’ over the portrait area, trying to remedy the problems I identified in the painting.  This was a freehand process, done by ‘eyeballing’ the photo reference.  ArtRage is not able to make measurements for a closer comparison of the two images.

I like this markup as well as the final painting — if not more!  The ability to easily edit iPad marks liberates me from feeling that each (potentially incorrect) modification is ‘permanent’.  Playing around with the marks often yields spontaneous and interesting ideas that I would never have attempted initially in oils.

Even though I liked the resulting mark-up, I knew it would still be a challenge to implement these ideas in oil paint on the actual painting.


Rita’s Portrait ~~ Session Four: Some Home Work

A few days after my third meeting with Rita, I decided to spend some time at home, making corrections based on the photo I’d taken at the prior session.  Then I blew up a print of the photo, marked up the dimensions of key facial features and then taped it beside my updated portrait for a closer comparison.

A quick look confirms that the portrait is better than it had been, but . . .  the chin is too long.  The lower cheeks and forehead are too narrow.  The nose isn’t quite right and the eye on our left droops too much.  The hair is too high (but I love it so!  Will I bite the bullet and whittle it down?)

session five, after implementing changes identified via my iPad analysis

session five, after implementing changes identified via my iPad analysis

I show it to Rita who likes it ‘as is’ and doesn’t want me to make more changes.  Hmmmm.  What to do?

Rita’s Portrait ~~ Session Three

The next time Rita and I got together, I focused primarily on developing her eyes and trying to capture the slight grin we’d arrived at for the facial expression.  Didn’t want to touch the hair or general coloration, which I liked.

Rita at session 3.

Rita at session 3.

At the end of the session, I made a photo or two of Rita in this position and with ‘the grin’.  You can see immediately that I’ve got a ways to go!

Rita, in the selected pose.

Rita, in the selected pose.




Fresh Start ~~ Rita’s new pose, on linen

At our next session, I posed Rita looking straight ahead.  I thought that would be contemporary, as well as more fun for both of us.  We could see each other, converse more easily, and I could watch her sparkling eyes as I painted.  I thought it also might help her hold a little grin ~~ I knew I’d be grinning at her the whole time and grins are infectious.

Rita, first session in oils on linen.

Rita, first session in oils on linen.

Here’s how the painting looked at the end of the first session with oils.  My main goals were to situate her on the canvas, get an approximation of her bright shirt, rough out the face contours, and depict her silver hair in luscious pale colors.


The Painting of Rita ~ Steps toward a Portrait

My friend Carlos, who wants to experiment with natural-light photographic portraits, joined me for the first session with my neighbor Rita.  He made a number of beautiful pictures, while I snapped photos of Rita from my on-looker’s vantage.

Rita at ease

Rita at ease

After he left, I did a quick charcoal sketch of Rita, in a three-quarter pose.  It was ok for the first session, but I didn’t like the pose and definitely wanted to capture a grin, if not a smile, in the final product.

Rita in Initial Pose + Sketch

Rita in Initial Pose .  Charcoal Sketch.

Enough for one day!  Rita’s not tired, but I am!

Another Upcoming Exhibit ~~ Ten Paintings at the DC Writers Center!

The wonderful DC-area Writers Center regularly hosts art exhibits in its large space, featuring the works of local artists.  Ten of my paintings will be included in the next show, scheduled to open in late June.  This exhibit is organized around the works of those who have painted with Gonzalo Navarro, a fellow teacher at the Yellow Barn Studio in Glen Echo, MD.  I have enjoyed Gonzalo’s teaching expertise — it’s always good to practice skills under the tutelage of an expert in portraiture and figurative painting.  It’s great to have Gonzalo at the Yellow Barn, as well as Maud Taber-Thomas, supplementing the excellent portraiture teaching of Gavin Glakas.

Here is one of the paintings I’ll show in the upcoming exhibit.  More to follow.

ballerina in profile

Pensive Ballerina.  Oil on Arches Oil Paper.


Portrait Workshop with Bill Schneider

I recently studied portrait painting with Bill Schneider.  After he did a wonderful demo, Bill had us emulate Nicholai Fechin’s gorgeous ‘broken color’ style, by copying (on a larger scale, so we could practice our facial measuring skills) some Fechin portraits.

Fechin's portrait (L) and my copy.  oil on canvas.

Fechin’s portrait (L) and my copy. oil on canvas.

First I copied one of Fechin’s beautiful women.  And then this precious child.

Fechin's portrait (L) & MOW copy.  oil on canvas.

Fechin’s portrait (L) & my copy. oil on canvas.

The next day we painted from a live model, attempting to apply the broken color method on our own.  Quite a difference in beauty, eh?  (Just keeping it real!)


Working toward Fechin’s ‘broken color’ in painting from life. oil on Arches oil paper.

I ended the weekend workshop with lots to practice and mull.  Thanks, Bill!


Painting a Study during Maud’s Portrait Class

I made a quick portrait study yesterday during a class I’m taking with Maud Taber-Thomas.  I hadn’t been able to attend for several weeks and was happy to be back.

Dozing Damsel.  Oil on Arches Oil Paper.

Dozing Damsel. Oil on Arches Oil Paper.

During the first class, Maud had recommended as homework that we draw a series of skulls, each in a different position.  I was tickled to have found online an inexpensive, life-size plastic model.  I brought it in yesterday to show, along with the drawings I’d done.  You can catch a glimpse of the skull herself in the last post, where she’s shown modeling for the painting.

Skull drawings.  Charcoal.  (Doesn't that one in the left middle look like Donald Duck?)

Skull drawings. Charcoal. (Doesn’t that one at middle left look like Donald Duck?)


Ceci & I Took a Portrait Painting Workshop

Two weeks ago my sister Ceci traveled up from Louisiana to take a couple of art workshops with me.  The first was a three morning (!) portrait painting workshop with Maud Taber-Thomas of the Yellow Barn.  Ahead of time I was very skeptical that we’d be able to learn much about portrait painting in three half-days — especially in view of the four months it had taken me to do the one of Dad.

Maud used a very clever curriculum to crack that nut.  Morning One: Draw a charcoal or pencil sketch of the model.  Here’s our excellent model.

IMG_7190 - Version 4

And my initial sketch.

first sketch

Morning Two:  Apply that sketch to our canvas and paint a monochromatic value study (in burnt sienna oil paint, in our case) over the sketch, making any drawing adjustments we thought necessary.

IMG_7194Morning Three:  Apply more colors over the value study, using an extremely limited palette of white, yellow ochre, venetian red, and ultramarine blue.  That gave us three primary colors (of sorts), and the possibility of mixing the secondaries, green, orange & purple (of sorts).  Here’s how mine stood at the end of the third morning.

IMG_7202And here’s how it looked after a bit of tinkering back at home.  I tried to soften the jaw line; make her eyes and mouth more pleasant, as our lovely model’s had been; and  re-contour the edge of her face on the left side.  I’m encouraging sister Ceci to post hers too!  Hers were lovely – much more painterly than mine.