I've been working on a large portrait lately. It's a life-size image of a young woman on a 60"x40" canvas. It's a classic, elegant type of painting. Development has been a bit slow, probably because my attention has been divided between the studio and job-hunting. Today, though, it came a long way in a short time.
I had the model come to the studio a couple of weeks ago. We tried a number of poses and quickly focused on a standing 3/4 stance. I did a bunch of charcoal sketches to work out some thoughts, then did a very rough color sketch that noted color temperatures. Then I took a lot of reference photos - whole figure, face, hands, and other details.
Reference photos are a necessary evil for me. I like working from life, but a painting like this one takes a long time to develop and model fees would bankrupt me long before it was done. So I console myself with the thought that Norman Rockwell and others use photos, too.
I got the painting blocked in in one day, and then worked on the face over two more sessions. By then, the figure had an interesting expression on her face - when doing my "stream of consciousness" scribbling in my journal, the word that popped up was "saucy". I liked the expression. The pose, though, was a different matter. It looked like a prom picture and did not go with the expression at all. So I had the model return to the studio and we came up with a much better solution. The body position is the same, but the arms are different, much livelier. I reworked the block-in and was happier with the changes. Over the next week, I made a little progress here and there. The painting was just crawling along.
Today, though, something happened. I started working on the dress, putting the dark layer down and wiping out the highlights with a rag. It turned out pretty well, so I decided to add the rose. It worked out well, too. Then I did another little little thing, and another, and everything kept turning out pretty well. I was on a roll! That doesn't happen all that often, so when it does, you gotta ride that pony!
So after making slow progress over a couple of weeks, we had major progress today. It still has a long way to go, but here's how it looks right now.
Here's the full painting leaning against my easel. The color looks flat and not well modeled in this shot, probably because of the fluorescent lighting, but there's more to it than appears here.
So what remains to be done? Well, lots. The whole background is going to change. I'm going to give the dress five or six days to dry, then put a glaze of cool color over it with cool highlights. The face needs more work, as well as the hands and arms. In other words, pretty much everything. But now I feel that I have a good framework to build on.