View Full Version : Need some help

12-28-2007, 12:02 AM

This painting has been very challenging for me - which is good - but now I think I need some advice. This is the second portrait I have worked on. The reference photo is my mother as a young woman in the 1940's. The question is - I don't know what color to paint the background. There are other problems, too, but this is my main question right now.

Any C&C welcome. Fabriano, 22 X 30, DS and Cotman paints. And yes, the board is warped, I will ditch it soon.

Thanks so much!


12-28-2007, 12:47 AM
I am not the person to answer, but I know who is :).

Ask Sylvia (screenname: Painterbear) or
Amelia.... (screenname: AmeliaJordan)

I notice you are new to Wetcanvas, welcome aboard. Up in the right corner of this page you will see a little box with a line that says Private Messages. Click on it and familiarize yourself, this is a nice private way to communicate and find specifice people you are looking for. Now if you find a post by either of the ladies I recommend, just "click" on their name in one of their post, you will get a drop down menu, choose Private Message and let them know your title and what section your in....they are true blue...they'll come right along.

PS--Good Classic Colors so far, Italian? :) She had good taste in furniture too!

12-28-2007, 05:31 AM
Looks good as it is, maybe a pale complementary colour green or blue?



12-28-2007, 06:24 AM
Hi Picolo,
Your reference photo of your Mother reminds me of ones of my Mom and my Aunts. I love the clothes and hair styles from that period.

You have a very nice likeness of your Mother already. Since you used red on the curtains and reddish-brown on the table and green for the chair, you need to think what goes with those colors.

Doug's suggestion of a blue tone is good but I think you could also go into a warmish yellow like New Gamboge or maybe raw sienna in a light wash. Your Mom's pretty hair would stand out against them nicely.

You could print out color copies of your painting and experiment on them to see which colors you like best in the background.

Don't forget to show us the finished painting. :D


12-28-2007, 07:38 AM
If you copy my image above to your paint program, you can flood fill the blue background with different colours or even graduated colours to see which woud be best.


12-28-2007, 09:39 AM
Hi Picolo... I love this reference photo! It's beautifully clear and well composed... and your Mom is gorgeous! You captured her likeness and you've painted her hair perfectly! Eliminating the pattern of her dress was a good idea as it's pretty busy... I love the lamp.

At a FULL SHEET, this portrait will certainly have impact when you frame it!

I really wish that you had not painted your drapery in such a strong colour... The red acts as a drawing card and forces your viewers' eyes to the left and out of your painting. Just remember that tip for next time... :)

In fact, for next time, if you were to do this portrait again, I suggest you paint the entire room in a more monochromatic colour scheme... it would have been typical of that era anyway... by doing this, you give much more importance to your subject...

For instance, in this case... the beautiful green of that lamp and chair are perfect... painting the walls a weaker shade of it would have been ideal... The drapery could have been taupe with green bits in it suggesting the print in the fabric.

I also noticed that there's really good lighting in this photo... for next time, watch your light source and take advantage of it... the strong light coming from the left can add a lot of drama and pizazz to your painting.

Ok... now... to today's problem... you could use the blue of your Mom's dress to help with the unity of colour... Or, you could continue with the warmer colours and use the yellowy greens you've got in the lamp and chair...

I think you need to create that corner (notice that the actual corner is almost a pale line) in order to give your Mom some *space* to be in... It will keep her from looking pasted onto her environment.

Because of the left lighting, your wall will become a little darker as it approaches the physical corner. Both the drape and the lamp have left shadows on the wall, along with the table legs.

Please post your finished painting... this is a real challenge and you're doing great...

12-28-2007, 10:43 AM
Wow! Thanks for all the wonderful advise!

Doug - I didn't know that trick with paint before - that was *really* helpful.

PainterBear - Thank you so much for the great color suggestions.

Char - So many wonderful tips! So generous of you to take the time to really examine the painting. I actually painted the curtain a really vibrant red at first because I had just gotten my new paints from Daniel Smith. It took over the whole painting, so I put a glaze of red-brown over it, but you are right, it is still too intense for the rest of the painting.

I will post the painting when I am done. Thanks everyone - I was getting discouraged with it. I am going to do another painting of this photo in the future, but I learned a lot from this one.

By the way, the scene is from a home in Detroit from about 1944.

12-28-2007, 02:33 PM
Hi there! You've got a good start and lots of good advice! :thumbsup:

Just wanted to let you know that I'm at work and it's a slow day, so thought I'd browse. I brought your picture up and my co-worker said, "Oh, that's beautiful!" :) So you are certainly on the right track!


12-28-2007, 04:32 PM
Thanks for telling me that! It is so easy to be critical of myself. I keep reminding myself that I am learning.

12-28-2007, 08:19 PM
We are all learning, you've done a good likeness and captured the time period. I gleaned from Char's tips as well:)