Thursday, February 09, 2012

FPM: I'm baa-aack! Meet Matt

Matt - reference photo
 Fall Portrait Marathon, Painting #7: Matt 

This is Matt.  Those bedroom eyes with their serious gaze are inspiring feelings of warmth, and a distinct desire to give him cookies!

His owner, Christine, got in on an earlier marathon, giving me the chance to paint her boy Hamilton in a field of lupines.  For Matt's portrait, we chose to sprinkle some yellow daisies into his background, so I decided to warm up the whole tone of the image and imply a sunny day.  It also gave me the opportunity to get more of that soft gold tone into his colored areas.

With the reference approved (a process that took a few rounds), I prepped my canvas (sanding down the rough, raw primer a bit, and wiping with a damp rag), printed out my drawing, chalked up the back with conte crayon (hard pastel), taped it carefully in place over the canvas, and traced over the drawing to transfer it to the canvas.
Matt - reference 2: sunny
That has by far been the most successful method I've used to get the drawing onto the canvas.

I mixed up a (too generous) puddle of cadmium yellow medium (a warm yellow) with acrylic polymer, to thin it out and make it more transparent, then carefully brushed it over my drawing and the rest of the canvas.  That set the drawing, but also gave an overall tone to the painting that will fill it with that sense of sunny warmth even as the layers build on top of it.

I got out my trusty Payne's gray, thinned it with the glazing medium, and started in on the underpainting: all the shading, basically.  Working in the darkest areas first - the nose and eyes - sort of got me anchored, and allowed me to move into paler tones to set the overall dark-light balance.

Starting with a wash of yellow means I'd need to come back up to some high whites, as Matt has some white areas, and he's in the sun.  So, out with the titanium white.  I toned it with just a teensy touch of the yellow, to preserve my whitest whites for the final touches, and moved back into the painting to pull out the lighter areas.  I worked on layering up the whites in the lightest zones, keeping that subtle shading, and continuing to play back and forth with the Payne's gray in the shadows.  At this point, I'm almost done with the underpainting.
Matt - work in progress
acrylic on canvas, 5" x 5"
©Xan Blackburn, 2012

I always enjoy the subtle early phases!  :)

Okay, some of you may be asking, "Hey, where the heck have you been?  Isn't this the FALL portrait marathon?  Hmmmm???"  Yeah.  Ahem.  

Well, you know.  

 I got busy!  

I started working with a rescue group bringing sighthounds out of S. Korea, took on my very first foster, dove into working on her fear issues, meanwhile pretty much devoting all my remaining time to the workings of the group itself, eventually failed fostering (that is, we adopted our little charge!), and began to surface to the reality that I hadn't painted in about TWO MONTHS!  You can read about our adventures with Katie on my non-art blog, starting here.  I stopped writing just after Christmas, which was days before we gave in and made it official.  After that, I was just buried in the group's work.  Balance must be attained (or re-gained!) however, so, as I said in this post's title, "I'm baa-aack!"

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