Last spring I did two larger paintings of the same subject for my recent show. I thought it would be fun to share some work in progress shots and a little about how I used photographs for reference. I knew that I wanted to do an outdoor portrait of the subject and we decided to meet before hand to pick out the clothing that I thought would best fit the painting. One thing that made this particularly easy was that I had seen a picture of her in the big white floppy hat and I loved the way it changed the way the light fell on her face, so I had a starting point.
After picking out the costume we went to Humboldt Park, a sprawling quiet park away from the noise of downtown Chicago. We tried several poses while I shot some photos. Eventually we decided on a simple straight forward look as she turned slightly away. Once the pose was chosen I set up and did a few couple of quick color-sketches in oil on an 11×14 panel (each took between10-20 minutes). After I had done the sketches, we began to walk toward the car, but I found a cherry blossom tree in bloom and asked if she wouldn’t mind posing for a few more shots . With a minor change of wardrobe, we tried some more poses, finally agreeing on her pulling her hair off her face.
These color sketches became invaluable in painting the two finished portraits. They allowed me to work out the fleeting color’s of the season and time of day without having to worry over drawing or getting too stuck on the idea of creating a finished sketch. The color that I captured in oil was both richer and more accurate to what I saw than any of the photos that I had taken. The two types of reference materials together helped to create more vibrant and convincing paintings in the end. I will post more about these two paintings in the next few days.