Portrait of Vali - 5x7
Painting a mature model is quite different from painting children's faces. The skin tones alone are different, and the beautiful textures and lines that map out one's journey in life add so much interest and detail! Here is a short demo (sorry I was working quickly and only stopped to take 4 photos) that describes the steps involved.
First, I laid in just a suggestion of skin tone and the lightest values in the hair - all wet-in-wet. I usually take a stronger saturation of skin tone and add it to the lips, still working wet-in-wet so that the lips do not appear "painted" on top when it is complete. I used a mix of burnt sienna, permanent rose and raw ochre for the skin, adding a touch of ultramarine blue to cool the mixture when needed.
I started on the eyes right away, beginning with an initial glaze of quinacridone gold. I didn't leave any highlights in the eyes this time, preferring to add them with white gouache at the end.
Isn't it amazing how dark the initial washes appeared at first? Now that I've added more details, that first wash almost faded away!
I've used a limited palette, so each subsequent glaze or layer is just a different mix of the same initial colors. I've added a little cerulean blue for the shirt and dropped it into the right side of the painting (near her hand) to cool the shadows there. I've suggested a few soft lines around the eyes with a rosy mixture - the last thing I want to do is put cool colors around the eyes at this point, as it can so easily turn to mud! It is very easy to "cool down" a warm color, but much more difficult to warm up a blue tone once it's on the paper.
The shirt does not have to be fully detailed - remember that this is a painting, and you are suggesting shapes whenever possible. When painting a portrait, I prefer a loose job on the clothing so that nothing distracts from the subject's face.
Time for the background - as you might have noticed, I'm so partial to green backgrounds for portraits. This beautiful woman was relaxing at a patio table so I simply had to use outdoor colors. The olive tones here are neutral enough to not distract from the subject matter - but I've added touches of violet lake and quinacridone gold to suggest a hint of foliage behind her. Also, I like to blend a little wet-in-wet with the hair at this point so that the subject doesn't look pasted in front of a background. Notice the gold "aura" around the hair?
I added more shadows and finished the eyes, making sure to add a little blue to the right side shadows.
The hair was a little muddy at first - I was working a little too fast with wet-in-wet washes, so I finally set it aside for a day and came back refreshed the next day.
After consulting with the client, it was brought to my attention that the subject's face was a little broader in my painting than it should be. This was (luckily) an easy fix: those shadows on either side of the face needed to be cooler and darker anyway, so I simply brought them in closer to her mouth and adjusted the contours by lifting out and applying shadow where needed.
The hair came together beautifully the next day. I grabbed my 1 inch flat brush, laid in some warm burnt sienna and rose fairly saturated with color, and then let it dry - after it dried I used clean water and a brush to lift out the highlights. Much better!
I hope this has helped - don't be afraid to tackle any kind of face, as each new subject has a story and provides an opportunity to learn something new.
Have a great weekend!