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A New Portrait

(Part 3)

This is where I left off in Part 2:

I don't even know how I arrived at this point.
Psyching myself up, dancing in place. It's time to mix skin tones. I want a pile of light and a pile of dark on my palette. Yellow Ocher + Cadmium Red + Titanium White = light skin areas. Yellow Ocher + Cadmium Red + Ultramarine Blue = dark skin areas. I'm showing my palette below but with this disclaimer: I do not actually know the names of half of my paints because their labels fell off. I just roll with it.

Mixing unidentified paints is my version of living on the edge.
Below, is my focus area today. I rough in some clouds and perform corrective surgery on the shoulders. (I could spend all day painting clouds and if I let myself, I could procrastinate and avoid tackling the facial features, but the sky is not the point of this painting.)
Placing highlights on the face. At this point, the figure could be anyone.
I alternate placing light areas and dark areas on the face and hair. It is a bit unnerving when the painting starts to stare at you. Frances' eyes were close set, she had a prominent brow bone, and a distinctive nose she inherited from her German father. Her features were asymmetrical. This is the real challenge for me, to make her look "correct" to me, yet believable to the viewer.
Below, showing some underpainting of brighter colors in the hair. The building of thin layers is what I actually enjoy. When you put that last layer on, it starts to sing and then you know you're done. By the way, I'm not done.
Frances was famous for her red hair that she swore she didn't dye.
Time to quit before I mess up everything. I spend as much time looking as I do applying paint. I probably remove a third of the paint I apply. It's bonkers.

If she looks a bit manly at the moment, there is a reason for that.

My grandmother was not a beautiful woman. She was what people called "handsome" in the Victorian sense: well-groomed, well-dressed, with a strong presence, the kind of woman whose shoes and bag were perfectly matched to her tailored suit. When she wasn't dressed to the nines on the way to lunch at the Officer's Club, to church or to the opera, she was gardening and dressed like a yard man. She was a walking contradiction, she was authentic, and that was one of the things I loved about her.

I have a lot of work left to do regarding her likeness. All told, it's only been a few hours from start to finish. A portrait may take a month with short sittings like these. I'm grateful for the time I get and try to make the time really count.
Quit now, before I do something stupid.


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