Well, at first glance there’s not much difference between the second post on this portrait and this final version until you look a little closer at the details. At this final stage I add textures where necessary, even out the highlights and shadows, make sure the color palette hasn’t shifted and make sure all subjects are the right shape and proportion.
It’s surprising how easily these details can throw things off if I’m not careful. Up to the final passes for details, I was working over the entire portrait each time, mostly to work out the palette and settle the details of shape and proportion and keeping an overall vision for the portrait. Getting down to details focuses on one are or another and that’s when things move and change.
Here Peaches not only has patches of color, but she also has fur, divining her texture from the blanket. However, in working the highlight from her chin down her chest and adding the nice soft haze of white fur I managed to work the leading edge of her fur out too far and in the process added a few pounds of weight! Poor Peaches, she doesn’t need that sort of thing, but when I removed it I had also drawn over the hazy trees outside the window and had to redraw them.
I clarified the flowers to see each of the petals, and went back and forth with the shade of pink. I had originally used a brighter pink which was not accurate and was too bright for the painting, so I toned that down with a slightly browner pink. I also shifted the blanket from the original bright blue to more of a teal shade to coordinate with elements in the curtains, which would also be in the person’s room, and the blanket’s highlights are blended so it looks fuzzy and soft. The highlights on the vase had made it look very shiny though it wasn’t, and those extreme reflections were also a little harsh for the soft tone of this portrait, so they got toned down.
The most important detail, the sweetest part of the whole image, was Peaches’ face where she has it happily pressed into the flower, her eyes closed, the sunlight shining through the flower petals coloring her fur. That had to be perfect, not photographically so, but in spirit. I enjoyed working many other areas of this portrait, but capturing the gentle shadings and gentle details of her face, her chin and neck and her ear were my favorite part of this portrait.
It will be given as a gift a little before Christmas, and I’ve shipped the framed piece to my customer. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks, and then how her friend reacts. I’m always honored to be trusted with another’s gift, and so happy to be a part of its giving.
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Among other things I’ve been working on the new portrait, and here is the latest update. Today I had the opportunity to work on it during the afternoon (with much feline assistance and supervision) and still had daylight to photograph when I’d finished my session.
I’ve been working more on color issues than finish work, determining the final set of tones for a unified overall composition. Some color combinations you can get away with in a photo but they don’t work well in a painting because the painting image is enlarged and I think our eyes are willing to overlook certain things in photographs understanding that we don’t always have as much control as we’d like. I also don’t mind changing the colors in a portrait from the actual to ones that suit the subject better.
The blue blanket is nearly one-third the height of the portrait and carries a good bit of the color in the painting. It’s a lovely rich shade of blue but looked jarring with the more pastel shades of teal and peach in the rest of the painting as I had continued to work. I put it up on the easel and looked at it for a few days and didn’t get accustomed to the combination and still felt it looked out of place, and so decided to change the blue to a muted teal. It’s partway through that transformation in this version.
Once I’d decided on that, I’ve done more toward completing the background than the subject, and this is typical at this point. Technically, pastel is just plain dusty and the areas that are completed first tend to get dusted over with later colors. I do brush this off, but Peaches the kitty and her flower will decidedly have more detail than the rest of the painting and as much as I want to get to her fur and the flower petals I’d rather dust errant peach and pink and gray pastel off the background than dust teal and green from her.
There is a pile of books on the table, another flower in a vase and some other things behind the curtain in the left corner, but aside from pulling out some interesting details like the corners of the books I’d rather leave these with less detail. There needs to be some restful areas in a portrait like this, even if they have shape like the blanket, so that your eye comes first to the subject. I may add a little more to this corner, and I’ll probably bring the green more toward the teal but not match it exactly to give the portrait some depth.
Outside the window was another area I worked out today. I’d been debating about the deck railing and the trees. I had already decided I’d keep the deck railing because it also added depth to the scene; when I sketched up a version without it the scene looked more flat. I also wasn’t sure I wanted the pattern of the trees right behind Peaches and her flower and originally sketched it in as shades of blue and white as sky and clouds. But I loved the way the tracery of the branches and trunks appeared and it reinforces that this is indeed a window not just a light-colored area so I kept them muted so not to interfere with the main subject.
I don’t make changes lightly, though, since the scene is often one so familiar to the people who commission me. Something that may seem trifling or indistinct to me may be part of a treasured memory. I’ll meet in the middle.
Next time I’ll probably get that blanket under control and finish off the background, and finally I’ll be able to work on Peaches!
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