Tuesday, April 8, 2014

About a Group Portrait

Portrait of a loving grandfather and his six grandchildren.
A beautiful portrait of a beautiful family!
         "I am always doing that which I cannot do in order that I may learn how to do it." - Picasso"

Our Zen Calendar posted this in February when I was right in the middle of creating a family portrait of seven for one of my favorite collectors. This collector is particularly interested in having very close likenesses in commissions, in sculpture and of course portraiture.

When we discussed the commission in November, and I received the initial source material, I had to think long and hard.  The source photo was very problematic, and creating seven likenesses in watercolor on one page seemed pretty daunting!
Original photo
Finally deciding accept the challenge, we agreed on a price, and my collector sent along Christmas cards (the photo collage kind) for reference.   I'm posting them for you here. Though I had done portraits for some time, the source material was almost always very usable from the beginning and I had easily replicated it in watercolor - this would require more radical revision!

Moving Jack out from behind his cousin Daniel, and taking the toy out of Camilla's mouth seemed obvious, but more subtle problems had to be addressed. Three of the subjects, Jacob, Linnea, and Emma were very blurred, and I couldn't tell what was happening in the very dark lower third of the photo. Scanning it in Photoshop, I lightened the whole photo, and could then see the bottom third.
reference photos
The three blurred children and Jack were painted with information from the Christmas card photos. Sending updated pictures of the painting to the grandfather frequently enabled correction where necessary as I progressed with the painting, and some weeks later it was completed.
Working in watercolor on 300# hotpress Arches is very forgiving - minute adjustments are easily made, which is the key to creating a realistic likeness.
now for the final adjustments!

With both of us now happy with the final result, the painting goes off this week to its home, and the grandfather, who truly adores his whole family, has a lovely "moment in time" to treasure, memorialized in a way that a photo cannot possibly do, especially not the origin photo!

As for me, the restrictions on the source materials I thought I needed  have become only suggestions on my watercolor portrait website  - probably most any photograph that a client treasures would make a good watercolor portrait (except a studio portrait photo!)

It would be wonderful for me if any of you would pass this along to anyone whom you think would treasure a memory in the form of a watercolor portrait!

Happy Spring!

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