View Full Version : This poor baby!

09-01-2004, 06:23 AM
Hi, I don't post work often because I'm incredibly slow. I don't know how some of you do it, getting new work up here every day! I tell myself that it's probably that you don't have young kids at home, so don't burst my bubble if you do.

Anyway, I am saying to heck with my ego and posting what I call "my ugly baby." :p This poor child is actually quite cute as you can see, but I think the way I've painted him isn't in keeping with his soft babyness. He's not my baby, BTW, but the son of one of DH's employees.

This is the first time I've tried a portrait in pastels and I feel like I was mostly throwing colors on to it to see what would stick, LOL. It's not "there" and I probably won't do any more with it but I'm happy that I pushed through the panicky "oh, crap, I suck at this" stage and that I ended up with a good likeness. I'm also getting a little better handle on which colors work well and which don't, although I'm still guessing a lot of the time. One of my goals was to try to avoid the "flesh tone" pastels which I mostly succeeded at.

Why is it everytime I try a new subject in pastel I end up frustrated that I don't have the right colors? Or also in this case, more pastel pencils for the fine details. Sigh. I can't really afford more colors right now either, though that may not stop me if I get in front of a case of open stock Schminkes.

Here's the baby. Any and all C&C welcome. Mostly Rembrandts with a touch of Schminke and some Conte on La Carte -- 30 x 40 cm I think.


09-01-2004, 06:37 AM
Well not ever done a portrait myself and only just starting out with soft pastels cant really offer any advise but it looks good to me :D

Deborah Secor
09-01-2004, 11:35 AM
Hi Jill. You're doing a good job on this one already! I can't imagine why you think you're so bad at it. Babies are THE hardest kinds of portraits to paint precisely because the angles are soft and everything is rounded in the face. Very few sharp parts to a baby anywhere... You've caught the roundness of the cheeks and forehead well. The eyes are bright and I love the choice of background colors, too.

You've seen the likeness and proportions quite well except I think the chin is a bit too long and the cheeks are a smidgen too wide right now. Her (his?) head tapers just ever so slightly at the bottom. (One thing you can do is pull up the painting and the photo here and lay them literally side by side to see this!) When you're painting people, centimeters count--at least one of the reasons I don't do them well myself (so consider the source here!)

The other thing I want to suggest is that you take one of your Rembrandts, or use a pastel pencil if you have one in the right medium-light color, and lightly feather over all the shadowed areas in the eyebrows, nose, cheeks and chin to slightly lighten all the transitions and round them out. You have a really beautiful painting going here, but it needs softer contrasts and edges.

Keep going! I'm sure you'll get more help from 'real' portrait painters here soon. Painting fast isn't important--doing a good job of it is! And this is a good one, trust me...


09-01-2004, 02:39 PM
I think it's coming along very well. I would lighten the eyebrows for sure. If you squint at the photo you will notice that the eyebrows practically disappear. They are pretty much the same tone as the skin. And also ..I agree soften the shadows a little.

09-01-2004, 03:27 PM
I'll have a better look tomorrow morning when my eyes are less tired. But looking good so far!

In theory (:D :D) you should be able to mix any colour you need from a fairly limited range. Depends how limited your range is of course.........and yes, I cannot resist any of those yummie colours in a shop either......... :angel:

Stoy Jones
09-01-2004, 03:47 PM
Jill, this is quite good!..especially for a first. My first attempts never looked this good...and in some cases, still...lol...children can be quite a challenge! Can't add to the constructive critiques made already, but I must agree portraits are not easy. It takes time and if you make use of that, it will fall into place rather quickly for you as it appears you are getting quite a good handle on it now. Keep up the great work!


09-01-2004, 05:57 PM
Great first attempt..like your skin tones..keep squeezing in the time to paint :)
Best wishes

09-01-2004, 06:37 PM
Egads, this is WONDERFUL compared to anything I could ever do! As the others said, a softening of the transitions should soften the skin tones nicely...he's really cute!

09-02-2004, 03:21 AM
New morning, fresh eyes..........actually this is quite good! You've got the likeness pretty well! And that is the hard part! Congratulations!
I'd add some yellow to the picture and the skintones to warm it up a bit. You might want to consider 'smoothening' (or blending if you're into it) a bit to give the baby a softer look. Be careful that the eyes are not too bright. The kids eyes are extraordinary but more because of their expression and size than by their blue-ness and lightness.

Fantastic portrait. Looking forward to the progress!

09-04-2004, 01:51 PM
Many thanks for the comments! I forgot to mention that I was painting this outdoors in the early evening while on vacation. While I was testing a color on the top edge of the paper, the textured coating started coming off (if you've ever gotten water on La Carte, you know what I'm talking about). I thought it was a fluke, but then it kept happening. I finally realized it was from humidity in the air -- dew was already forming on the grass. I had to quit so I wouldn't ruin it! Luckily, all the painting I was doing on the actual image was over other layers of pastel, so I didn't have any problems there. But beware of using La Carte in high humidity, I guess!

Another thing I should clarify is that I will probably not go back to this, unless it's to experiment. I don't plan on trying to "fix" it -- I would prefer to tackle the whole thing from scratch, hopefully taking what I learned from the first time so that I'd be doing less trial-and-error. I know I could fix it if I wanted to, but I've sort of mentally moved past this piece.

Thanks, dexonsbabe! I appreciate your stopping to look.

Deborah, I don't think I'm bad at it, I just think I didn't do this baby any favors! ;) I'm happy with it as a first attempt, planning to improve. The cheeks and chin did get away from me. Sharp eyes! Knowing how even a small error in portraits can cause huge likeness problems, I was very frustrated in not being able to get the pastel to go where I wanted it to, especially in small detailed areas like the eyes. That's one reason I felt I needed to pick up some more pencils. I haven't mastered how to get a sharp edge/point on a stick yet -- I still feel like I aim for a spot, stroke, and the color ends up 1/8" away from where I meant to put it. I think I also could have worked a little larger than this, which would have helped. And oh, yep, it needs some softening of all those shadows and transitions! Anyway, thanks for your suggestions and support!

Judy, thank you for your comments -- I never did get back to those eyebrows! :p

Stoy, good to hear from you! I haven't seen you around lately, miss YOUR portraits. I know I need to do about 50 more of these for practice, which is one reason I'm letting this one go. :D

David, thanks! Kids are back to school now, so more time is looking possible!

Hah, Sooz, I've seen your work (I lurk here alot :rolleyes: ), I know you're good! Thanks!

Sophie, really glad to hear from you as I've seen your great portrait work. If there's one thing that might get me to go back into this one some day, it's your comment about adding yellow. I don't think I used any true yellow anywhere. I did blend some of the early layers -- I think it needs "softening" as you say with some light feathering or suchrather than more blending. And I struggled a bit with the eye color since I probably have fewer blues in my box than any other color -- and I think I got a bit shy of going back into that area 'cause it took a LONG TIME to get them to remotely resemble human eyes! They ended up a bit too doll-like though, which I think is what you're seeing. Maybe I'll do some eye studies in pastel...have done many in graphite and charcoal but never color...hmmm, maybe a good way to get in some short painting sessions and use small bits o' paper.

Thanks again all! Got to post what I did with my Wallis sample soon. :cool:


09-04-2004, 02:15 PM
can I suggest you take a look at this, by Mary Cassatt? And while you are at it, have a look at some of her other, more portrait-y ones too. Look at the colours she uses, and the gentle transitions of tone. You might find it helpful.



09-06-2004, 04:27 AM
Thanks, Jackie, I enjoyed looking through her works on that site. I wish I could see some of those up close! Little by little, I'll get this color stuff. :D


09-06-2004, 09:05 AM
I don't know why you have an aversion to "skin tone" Pastels.
I have a large variety of these, and I use only these when doing skin tones.
They are buttery and soft and so full of colour.
The ones I use are made by our own Terry Ludwight.
By the way, this is a great effort for a first attempt.
Portraits are difficult, but children even more so.

:wink2: :wink2: