Art & Design Magazine

Commission Number 2

By Ingrid Christensen

Commission number 2

Commissioned painting
14 x 18

This was a challenge.  It's the second of the 4 commissioned paintings that I'm working on, all from the client's photos.
The photos were excellent, overall, but there are always things that I'd rather see.  The images of this young girl were varied: in some she was contemplative and elegant (like the young woman that she soon will be), standing in waist-high ocean and swirling her arms gently through the still water. The light in those photos was gorgeous: warm and glowing.
Then there were the photos that showed her splashing and vibrant like a boisterous girl.  The light in these shots was cool, shadowless and colourless.  It didn't enhance the subject matter at all.
But the decision had to go to the splash imagery because her grandmother described this girl as outgoing, dramatic and fearless.  The gentle swirling just didn't fit.
So I had to inject color where I saw none and still keep a likeness.  I took the color scheme from a copy of a Sorolla painting that I did a few weeks ago: the skin is very warm and the shadows mingle olive and red.  Those colours all appear in the water somewhere creating a harmonious fit of subject to environment.  In order to create a sense of the splash being white, I had to keep everything else in the painting at a lower value than that area, so most of the painting is in a mid value range.  Avoiding true darks also enhanced the sense of light and the bouncing color that's typical on a sunny day.  Because colours are at their most beautiful in the mid values, this all served to give the appealing feeling of a warm, carefree summer's day.
To get the likeness, I took the image of the girl into Photoshop and converted it to a simple pattern of black and white using the threshold function.  That allowed me to pick out the shadow shapes on her face.  It's these shapes that define the structure of each individual face: the eye sockets, cheeks, nose, temples - all cast distinctive shadows that tell the viewer what that bone structure is like.  Luckily, even though the splash photos showed very little shadow definition, Photoshop could pick out enough information for me to see the girl's skull structure and use it to achieve a portrait.
It was a challenge, but I like that.
Painting #3 is on my easel at the moment and I'm lucky: it has beautiful light.  Unfortunately, I have to switch out an arm and the face...
I'll keep you posted.

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