View Full Version : portrait comments welcome...

09-17-2004, 03:25 AM
I'm always up for some contructive comments on my work. I have not been to school for art - actually have an engineering degree. But now, thanks to some layoffs, I've been pursuing other ways to make some cash. I can say that it's helpful to use contracts when doing commissioned artwork. I already have been in a position where the customer thought that the quote included matting and framing. I guess some lessons are learned the hard way. Any comments are welcome..especially ones that could help me improve on my work. I did this painting from a someone else's photo..again, no choice in that matter. I would have preferred something that made the shadows a little more useful and the background a little more interesting. But this is what they wanted, so I did the best I could with what I had. It's a large painting..on a 2' by 3' canvas. The painting is actually 20" by 30". I used, for the most part, Rowney pastels with some Nupastels sticks and Stabilo Carbothello pencils for the small details. The background was with charcoal.

Kathryn Wilson
09-17-2004, 08:29 AM
Hi Adam! Welcome to the Pastel Forum - so glad that you dropped by to post this portrait. I am not a portraitist myself so won't comment on anything in particular, but the overall feel of the painting is very dynamic. It's a cute pose with that cap and the child is sooo cute. I am sure the parents (?) will appreciate this for years to come.

I am most curious about your using canvas - canvas board, stretched canvas? I've not used canvas and am curious how you keep the pastel from falling off - do you prepare the canvas with a gesso with grit in it? If it's stretched canvas, how do you keep the surface rigid enough for painting on, I would think it would bounce with each stroke. See, I told you I was curious - :D

Hope to see you here often! I am sure the portraitists will come along and comment - it's just something I am not comfortable in doing.

09-17-2004, 08:49 AM
Hi Adam!

This is truly an adorable pose! It's very difficult to paint a child from a photograph and be able to capture all the lights and darks at play.

One thing I have noticed from my experience is that younger children have a more peaches and cream complexion . . . that is what gives them that youthful look. I noticed that darker skin tones age children. You also have to be careful of laugh lines, eye lines, etc. on children. . . if the crinkles are too pronounced, it can throw off the likeness. Photographs are very deceiving in that respect.

Other than that, it's hard for me to comment specifically on the likeness and facial features, etc. without seeing the photo. . .

All in all, this is a wonderful portrait!! I'm sure the parents are thrilled with it!! Great job!!!

- Jenny

09-17-2004, 09:16 AM
This is bound to make the buyer happy! Cute kid, tho you're right about the background...this reminds me of one of those old fashioned cut out portraits that they used to frame on black satin/velvet or whatever. I'm curious about the canvas thing too!

Welcome to the forum! I think you've hit on a good way to fill in the lay-off time! I was a technical writer for a software company up until just before 9/11...can't say I miss the rat race, but then I'm lucky enough in that I haven't had to hunt another job...so far. Everyone here is keeping everything they've got crossed in hopes that hubby keeps his software engineering job with the DoD. Good luck to you!

09-17-2004, 09:54 AM
So cute. I'm sure they'll love it!

Deborah Secor
09-17-2004, 10:20 AM
Hi Adam, here's another welcome to the forum! I wanted to mention the baby's hands--nice job. They're hard to get right, I think. (And I'm no portraitist either--but I do paint hands!) The one on top of his cap is great. So little evidence yet well described.

I'm standing in the 'curious' line with everyone else. I know some pastelists like the liveliness of a stretched surface but I can't quite imagine how it would work! As Kat said, seems like it would be tough to nail down details as you have here, so I'm betting on canvas board... Let us know. And I'm stunned that you did the background with charcoal! :confused: It seems so definitely black, but in my experience charcoal tends toward silvery dark gray. Maybe I need another kind. So add that to the list of curious questions, too...

Glad you're sharing your work with us and I hope to see more.


K Taylor-Green
09-17-2004, 11:10 AM
Welcome, Adam. If this is what you do with a less than perfect referance, I can't wait to see how you handle a good one! Very nice work.

09-17-2004, 11:16 AM
Hi and welcome to the forum, Adam! I agree that this is a good portrait for all the reasons stated and too am curious about the canvas...is it fixed and will it be glass framed? I use canvas for oil pastels but that's a different ballgame.
It's hard to say how close it is without the ref, but i don't post children refs either, due to privacy issues.
Usually a child has softer, rounder features and one thing I discovered that made a HUGE difference is the eyebrows...the softer, the younger they look. It also helps to soften the edges of the face itself...with soft pastels you can feather the edges with a thin vine charcoal stick. Shadows and lines in the face are usually also very soft, I usually use a soft violet shade for those. Lips also have a soft, almost unformed look to them. I think the mid-tones in the cheek area go a little high, usually kids have enough baby fat that you can't really see the cheekbones. I'd say that change alone would really make him look younger and fit the face more with the chubby little arms. I think a lighter skin tone may not have worked well with this background, so it was probably a good choice in this case. You're really very good at portraiture, the features seem to be fairly proportionate and aligned correctly. And I like what you got from what sounds like a poor ref, the hat is great! Looking forward to seeing more in the future. :)

09-17-2004, 02:07 PM
Thanks for the comments and ideas. I am going to try to apply a couple of those thoughts before I get the painting framed and out the door.
To answer some questions about the canvas. I have tried painting on plywood, foamcore, and just about anything else that I could slap some pumice-filled gesso on. When I got this late request, she wanted it on canvas. I had wanted to try this on canvas anyway, so I was willing to entertain her request. I put about 3 layers of just plain white gesso on the canvas over a period of a couple days. Then I started with tinted layers (maybe 2), gradually darker, just to I could tell where I covered and where I didn't. With the white over white, somtimes I couldn't tell. I was trying to firm-up the canvas a little and to cover the canvas texture. The last layer was a pumice-filled layer of black gesso and black acrylic paint. I lightly sanded it after it was dry just to smooth the "too-aggresive" spots...and started to paint. There wasn't too much bound on this canvas - it did give a little, but the softer surface was more like painting on a cushioned board. I did use a maul stick and I worked from the face out. The charcoal just made the background more rich - it was already black - and allowed me to correct some smudges here and there.
I prefer this kind of aggresive surface to that of paper. And I don't like the high prices of the other textured papers out there. I have a friend who does home remodelling, and now I have a large supply of old cabinet doors to work with. In paintings, I like to see layers and textures as much as possible...and to be able to always put another color over an area again. The "painterly" effect you can have with pastels (despite the high usage rates) is so beautiful to me.
Thanks for all the comments and welcomes. I stumbled accross this website the other day and spend hours reading and looking at posted works. I look forward to meeting more of your and learning more from you.

09-17-2004, 10:56 PM
Adam......Uhhh, not sure, but I think the hat is a little too big to fit your subject's kid sized head .....LOL

Seriously, nice work!