Working with Clients – Portrait Commissions

I haven’t done a process post in a while, so here goes. This piece is for a client of mine who has commissioned a few paintings over the years. She always sends me high quality photos, which I appreciate. Blurry or low resolution photos always make my job more difficult.

tinas-grandkids-mock-upIn any case, I started with this photo here. I took it into Photoshop for a little pre-treatment. The first order of business was to crop the photo to the size of the final painting, making sure I was pleased with the placement of the boys within the frame. I then blurred out the background so that they really stood out.

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Once I completed this mock up and got approval from my client, I sketched in the figures. Next, I went to work on the background. In order to simulate the blur effect in Photoshop, I utilized the wet on wet technique. With a brush loaded with clean water, I soaked the whole background area. Then I got some pigment on the brush and started dropping in color. Because the paper was already wet, the colors began to run into one another, causing them to blend smoothly.

After I was satisfied with the background, I moved to the foreground. You may have noticed this ugly greenish-grey on the boys’ shirts and hat. That is masking fluid, used to preserve the white of the paper. It also allows me to freely paint large areas of color without having to paint around small details. I built up the folds of the shirts to my satisfaction before removing the fluid.

Although white, there are still some shadows in the numbers and logos on their shirts, so I added these with some bluish-grey. I have also done some significant work on the older boy’s face.

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When I got close to done, I sent a photo of the painting to my client. She felt that the legs in the background were distracting, so I got rid of them. I darkened the background while I was at it, using the darkness to cut out the younger boy’s hair. I sent a photo to the client again and she pointed out that I had aged the older boy too much with heavy shadowing on his nose and around his mouth.img_20161122_153522

Back in Photoshop, I applied a black and white filter to the original photo. This helped me to examine the shapes more closely and discover where I had gone awry. I changed the nose and adjusted the mouth while I was at it and sent it off to the client. This time she loved it.

This is how I work with all my clients. I take pains to make sure they end up with the painting they want. The process is fastest when the reference is clear. If you would like to commission a portrait for the holidays, place your order by December 13th. If you live outside of Denver, allow time for shipping. Click here to order.

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