Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Winding Way, Steps 1-4

I have a house portrait commission to do and I want to share the process and progress with you. This was the childhood home of my client, filled with many cherished memories, but he has not lived there since the 1960's. It is possible that this magnificent home will be torn down in the not too distant future.

Step 1: The photographs

The first thing I did was to photograph the home so I would have a record of how it looks today. I chose a sunny day so that I would have good light and shadow contrasts. I took many photos at many different angles: some closeups as well as distant shots. Below are two views of the house. The client chose the second view as the best. I used Photoshop to correct the camera distortion as best as possible.

Winding Way photo

Winding Way photo
After the client chose the image above, I printed it out, pasted it on a board, and painted in the background, as I imagined it would be. The client has supplied me with many old photos showing the grounds, plantings, trees, bushes, etc.

Winding Way color sketch
Step 2: The color sketch

The sketch below is proportionate to the final painting. It is considered a "quarter study," in that it's area is one-quarter the size of the final painting. In this case, the final painting will be a 20 x 30, so this "quarter study" is 10 x 15. I e-mailed a jpeg of it to my client for his approval.

Winding Way color sketch
Step 3: The burnt-umber underpainting

After my client approved the sketch, I doubled the size of the print and traced it onto the canvas. I corrected the perspective and the distortion that the camera had made. Since my lines were barely visible, I went over all the faint lines with burnt umber using a very fine brush and blocked in some darker values with larger brushes. This produced the burnt-umber under painting that you see below. You will note that the foreground tree has disappeared. I think I like it better without it, but time will tell. This is where I let the painting speak to me.

At this point, my client and his wife came to my studio to approve the underpainting. We discussed some changes that had been made to the house that departed from the original structure. I explained that making changes at this point in the process was a lot easier than later on.

Winding Way color lay-in
Step 4: The color lay-in (part one)

Yesterday I began laying in the color, beginning with the sky, worked down through the background trees, and did a little of the house where it touched the trees. This color lay-in is quite rough...nothing is finished on it.

Tomorrow I will try to complete the color lay-in, but there is a lot of picky detail in the house to deal with. I don't want to lose my drawing, so I will have to be very careful and take my time. I may not get it all done.

Check back late Thursday and see.

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