|Une après midi à la mer du Nord 18"x14" oil on board|
I called it a challenge for many reasons: first I'm not particularly familiar with portraits/figures as 90% of my work is landscape. Secondly this was done from photograph and I've never met most of the people in the painting so it's was a challenge to include 5 adults, 4 kids, a dog and a horse (!) in the same painting and get them all right... Finally this particular scene as such never happened which means I didn't have one photograph to work from, but instead around 50 different photographs/portraits of everybody in various positions/lights/clothing so I had to come up with a suitable composition.
Here is how I did it:
Before I could even dream of picking up my brushes, I had to come up with a concept, a composition that would enable me to display everybody in positions as natural as possible but still without showing anybody from behind. Being a Graphic Designer in my full time job, I thought I could make good use of my skills and do a photoshop montage using various pictures (some even from google for the background and objects), cutting out people and moving them around until I'm happy with it.
Step2: photoshop filter
To test the quality of the composition, get the essence of the light and structure and to erase all the montage imperfections, I applied an artistic filter in photoshop. That enabled me to get a feel if this would work or not as a painting and could see it going somewhere.
|Photoshop artistic effects|
Afterwards I did a quick sketch to place the characters properly.
Step4: oil background
Then I started painting the background of the painting (that's the easy bit).
Step5: sketch with grid
Then I did an other sketch of the outlines of the drawing and applied a grid to it.
|Sketch with grid|
Step6: sketch and grid on the painting
I then traced the same grid on my painting to enable me to easily reproduce the drawing.
|Paintting with grid and sketch|
Step7: colour blocking
I then started to gradually apply the colours and shapes of the people (and animals!) but I had to keep in mind where the light was coming from and keep it unified as the photographs on the photoshop composition were all from different lighting/colour etc...
|Building up the figures|
Step8: painting the faces
The trickiest part was probably to get all the faces right and make them recognisable. I kept referring to various pictures on my laptop while painting to try to get the correct expressions and features.
|Adding details with the photo references|
I wanted to only suggest the faces but still get them clear enough to be identifiable.
Step6: final touches
Here is the final painting. I added various objects and tried to unify the shadows and light effect.
|The final painting|
The family was really happy with it (what a relief!) and I've just heard that the mother/grandmother was really happy too and moved when she received it. I've been told, when she received it, she kept repeating "I love it, I love it, it's beautiful."
So, it was a tough challenge but I'm so glad I did it!