View Full Version : Portrait - style - opinion

11-27-2013, 06:44 AM
I'd be really grateful for BRUTALLY honest crits please for this...as no-one has seen this in real life . Despairing of the light here, I decided to just play with colours in a portrait and be a bit more slappy happy than usual (well, for me). This is Anna from the RIL (thanks to Randysart) .I'm not unhappy with the end result from across the room, the colours are a little richer IRL, but the paintwork is very unrefined and positively murky in some places up close eg neck shadow....and not in a 'painterly' way, believe me!.....so while I would need to work on keeping things clean and simply better use of the paint as I was too heavy handed in my slappy-happy-ness...I'm wondering if the potential end results from this 'technique' seem more lively ( than my more usual tighter approach). I've included an en route image to show you the sort of path I took:(she's on 10x14" HP paper)

how she was at one point:

Thanks in advance I hope :clear: Suzanne

11-27-2013, 08:17 AM
Suzanne, You've already criticized your painting. I looked at this portrait for many minutes and I'm still captivated by this sweetheart's eyes. There is some over work on the hair but my attention to her eyes overcomes all. Also, very nice work on the delicate dress. This is a winner.


11-27-2013, 09:51 AM
Super work! Maybe just finish the unpainted area on the left chest and frame it?

11-27-2013, 10:19 AM
Hi Suzanne. I looked for the original photo but I can't figure out how to find it. I would love to see it! It's hard to ascertain what the values for the shadows and light and midtones should be. I usually use the values as a guide.

That being said, I love your looser use of color. I have no problem with her hair at all. You totally captured her expression (sweet!), and I can see your creative introduction of different colors into her complexion - it works beautifully and effectively, IMO.

As to her neck shadow, I'm wondering if her neck shadow needs to be darker in value? (again, no reference photo for me to compare). Maybe consider glazing your orange skin shade (I usually use Cad Red Lite) to help it blend in more to the rest of the skin on her neck? The blue underneath should come through nicely, but it may blend that murkiness you don't like better. By glazing, you can go gradually. One layer shouldn't change things too dramatically, but may give you an idea.

Do NOT give up on this painting - it's totally great.

11-27-2013, 10:22 AM
I'm looking at the painting again, and another thought would be to glaze your blue (cerulean?) over the WHOLE neck shadow. I really like the blue - it complements her skin tones in a lovely way.

11-27-2013, 10:34 AM
OK, I finally figured it out, after some poking around I found Anna's photo. What a gorgeous child.

I think you can safely go darker in your glazing of her neck shadows. If anything, you're not dark enough.

11-27-2013, 11:13 AM
First off, I think it's really good. I haven't looked at the reference so I'm just seeing it for what it is.
I have a feeling that the eyes are slightly squint. I think her left eye (the right one as we look at her) is looking too far towards her nose. Only a fraction, but it's a bit unsettling. Also. looking at the bulge of her left cheek and the left side of her chin, it seems ever so slighly crooked compared with her right side - and maybe there's something about the left corner of her mouth too.

I agree about darkening her neck - that would be a big improvement.

It's so nearly there! it's got the potential to be really great.


11-27-2013, 12:17 PM
Mike - you're very kind, thanks for taking the time. I would usually take more time refining the hair etc but was in slappy-happy time so didn't - the dress is 'unfinished' too. I just began to wonder if I was totally barking up the wrong tree with this, so posted her up:) .
Indraneel - thanks so much for taking time to comment...the ref photo will make a little clearer what is going on with her chest...(though she won't be heading for a frame but thanks!)
Terry - thanks so much for spending time with this - I should've posted the ref and will do at the end of this post. Yes, I did my greyscale comparison and knew the highlights are a bit less light than in the original (but didn't want to leave so much virtually paint free), so consequently the shadows should be darker.....I'm honestly not sure if I can darken enough to even things out and still look like it should (although it doesn't' look like it should' now so I should just plough in!:lol: )- I may have a fiddle or put this one to experience and try and be a bit more controlled if I do a similar attempt. Thanks for the encouragement about colour use......all this ifing and buting about is really a result of conflict between being very controlled - and not having the skills to be a bit freer ( I will never be a 'loose woman'....but I might manage 'a bit frivolous' :D) ...at the moment I've become uncomfortably inbetween and not sure which way I'm jumping!
Mike - thanks so much for taking the time too - you'll see the ref if you return - I did lose a touch of her original head angle which might explain? here bottom line chin angle needs correction though for sure. (still working on my drawing skills too *sigh*) Darker shadow.....yes indeed!

I'll see if I can just jump in tomorrow - when there is some light hopefully - and do some 'controlled corrections' - if I do I'll post.
Many thanks to you all for taking the time to comment and help - very grateful indeed in my hair-tearing-out!
Below the cropped ref which I hope it's ok to do - thanks again to Randysart for posting her (there are lots of images of this gorgeous wee girl)

11-27-2013, 06:44 PM
What a darling child, I have this ref pic saved too, have never done anything with it!

I like what you've done here Suzanne, and I love your more painterly approach. The likeness is almost spot on, wonderful skin tones too.

If you squint at the ref pic (or change it to greyscale) you will see the intensity of the shadows - that is what is making the ref pic pop, and it would also make the difference to your painting. There are lots of lovely colours on her chest shadow in particular, a cooler shadow there.

As for the composition, work out what you want your coi (centre of interest or focal point) to be. I think it is her eyes? If it were me I would crop the top hair and place the eyes on the golden mean, at the moment they are half way in the painting
I think your painting is absolutely wonderful, just not finished. Push the darks and see what a difference it makes.
To 'test' that, I've take your painting into photoshop (I hope you don't mind)increased the contrast (exagerated to show you) and also cropped it.

I don't think you need to do bring the dress up to 'finishing' either. What you've done here adds to the 'painterly' approach.

As Mike said above, you are so nearly there, don't give up on it! It is stunning already!




11-27-2013, 10:46 PM
Thanks for posting the ref. I have to say that your painting is better than the photograph. On the photograph, the highlights on the cheek and shoulder are close to being blown out, distract greatly and divert attention away from the eyes. The blue patch on the chest is some sort of stray light (or more possibly lack of light as it seems this may be a warmly lit studio portrait), and the photo would have looked better if it were avoided (these things are difficult to correct in post).

I agree the neck shadow in front might be worth saving. The yellow pink looks almost translucent in the photo and really shines. On the painting, it is a bit too yellow orange. I believe the light on the shadow area is from the main light and reflection from the dress.

11-28-2013, 05:25 AM
Lulu - thanks for taking such time to comment and help. I'm hopefully going to get the time to have a go at her this afternoon...if it's not a total disaster I'll post - or maybe even if it is!! Good idea about the crop - if she was to be framed I guess you can just do that with the mount? Just as interest would you have cropped the composition?( composition - my new abyss...teetering around it, I do still mainly just 'paint' as I'm still just curious to see if I CAN, so I need to start thinking a bit more about the composition!)
Indraneel - thanks for looking in again - I seem to remember reading you're a photographer too aren't you? Handy woman - I don't own a camera so although I read about the things they can to do light, and specially people's faces, I don't always spot them or compensate properly. (And I did get a bit fixated on the golden colour under her chin and got a bit carried away you're quite right - slapping forehead icon) Thanks....and, if you ever feel the need to take some wonderful portrait photos and post them, I for one would be ENORMOUSLY grateful!

11-29-2013, 05:38 AM
Well...I fiddled a bit more and it's a little better but never going to be really ok so I'm going to stop. Difficult to get a true photo, either the yellows are blowing or everything else gets too harsh so I'll just put her up regardless. Cropped a bit ( thanks Lulu!) and with the shadow extended more to the right and slightly blended for her 'bib' :D , but it's not going to look like I want it to....learned things though :rolleyes: I've started to do things like take an nth of a mm off her jawline - so time to stop!
Many thanks for your help and opinions, helpers - very grateful!

11-29-2013, 08:44 AM
I think it looks improved, Suzanne, and I like the crop very much. I think you may be your own worst critic, because this is an excellent portrait, IMO. The neck shading looks great, and believable.

I'll just throw a question out here that Lulu has stimulated in me about the coi. My understanding of coi in MOST portraits was that there was no coi, that the portrait IS the coi. Unlike landscapes and/or still lifes, it's your composition in portraits that really matters, as the face is the coi. (most of the time)

I mean, if your subject is looking right at you, I think her eyes would first focus your attention. Not sure if that would qualify as coi or not. If subject was in profile or posed obliquely, how would you choose a coi? Isn't the subject the coi?

Any thoughts to add about this? I feel like I need enlightening.

11-29-2013, 01:14 PM
Terry - thanks very much indeed...."It's the monologue in my head" is my only explanation....self crit is necessary to correct as you paint, (as I'm sure you, and virtually everyone does) and mine is pretty much never ending because I paint mostly unseen by others (though a couple of 'arty' friends sometimes get a look...one's an art therapist but that's just a coincidence!!:lol: ) - but on the other hand my discontent with the end result is why I try again with the next one :) !

Your question - I know posed to Lulu, and I'll be very interested to hear her opinion when she's awake :D - has got me thinking.... FWIH I agree with what you've said about COI overall with straight on portraits....also about eyes (almost everyone being disconcerted at talking to someone with sunglasses on - we're hardwired with face recognition after all)...made me think about off-centre portraits, and historical 'Lady Very Posh' historical portraits where, for example, their gown may almost take centre stage in terms of painting skill .....but then that part of the portrait would, presumably, also be making a statement about the person, their wealth, status etc so part of the portrait and personality capture? Arguably 'portrait' perhaps as larger than face...but usually billed as such?....hmm...I certainly don't know any answers...but very interesting thoughts!
ps....to you and Lulu both - have just been reading/viewing Jacob Collins...just stunned! Thanks to phillipe56 for saying his name... Nudity alert if you follow the link http://jacobcollins.4ormat.com/

11-29-2013, 03:11 PM
Wow, he's fabulous times infinity. Thanks for that link!

11-29-2013, 03:25 PM
Well, I wasn't going to come on line today but I sneaked.......and this is where it got me :lol:
Firstly, Suzanne, a great finish to your painting. She's beautiful!

Regarding COI in any painting, portraiture included - this is only my opinion and I'm still learning, but is from books I've read, teachings I've had...
It really depends what you want your painting to say.

A quote from Jan Kunz:
A pathway for the eye:
Successful composition is the result of creating a path for the viewer's eye to follow in the picture. Unity, dominance, and contrast can be used to make a trail that the eye can follow...... Unity is achieved when all the elements of an arrangement are subordinated to one plane. There should be one obvious route for the eye to follow and one major idea for the viewer's mind to grasp.
To created a unified composition some element has to dominate. There should be one centre of interest, which should act as a magnet for the eye. If there are competing centres of interest, the viewer will be confused or disappointed. Contrast, such as a dramatic difference between light and dark or warm and cool colours attract the eye to a definite focal point. Contrast also entertains the eye once the viewer's attention has been attained.

The portraiture work of Jacob Collins really grabs the attention doesn't it, and I think it's because of the focal point, coi. Look at "Michael" - full frontal face but dramatic lighting.
Again 'Irma' - dramatic eyes!
Each of his amazing paintings have fabulous compositions and have that magnet for the eye.

Better log out again and go back to my weekend off the computer - well I'll try lol

11-30-2013, 11:40 AM
Thanks for sharing these great thoughts, Lulu. It gives me so much to think about and consider as I approach each portrait. I think it confirms in my mind the absolute importance of composition.

11-30-2013, 12:32 PM
Thanks also from me Lulu - more food for thought!

12-01-2013, 09:25 AM
Wow, Suzanne, I think your portrait is fabulous! The crop does really tighten it up and make those eyes pop even more. Great job! :thumbsup:

12-08-2013, 02:33 AM

I have read your post with interest, may I suggest, this could be simply a balance of values, I have joined your original pic with one that I have played with to show you the difference between them both. :) The blue on the little girls right chest i would soften back, as I feel in the photo below its maybe to intense.


12-08-2013, 07:27 AM
Yours is better than the reference. Super painting!!!

12-14-2013, 11:15 AM
Frame it...
I would think that any little fiddling could ruin it, especially in the eyes.
There is a slight discrepancy in the eye looking at the nostril, but doesn't take away from the overall....
well done.

12-14-2013, 11:54 AM
Reiki, Merritt, Jan and Brian - thanks for your helpful comments and taking the time to give them....I had finished after post #12, and didn't go back and fiddle anymore - (for that way, I know, would have led to disaster!)

Devoted 2Art
12-14-2013, 03:07 PM
Excellent work Suzanne - Great tips too but I'm glad you've decided not to fiddle anymore. It's fantastic just how it is. Time to put all that useful knowledge to work in your new masterpiece.

12-15-2013, 11:29 AM
:clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :thumbsup:

12-15-2013, 12:58 PM
Wow, what a breathtaking thread! The result is simply stunning, huge congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!