From Concept to canvas

Design (1-2 weeks):  A great portrait represents so much more than the sitter’s appearance - it tells their story.  For this reason, I prefer to paint from life.  However, since this is often impractical, I can use a series of reference photographs for the work.  I generally meet with the subject to get a feel for their personality, and take some photos.  After reviewing the photos and preparing sketches, I present the client with an idea for the composition.

Underpainting (1-3 weeks):  The initial painting phase, the underpainting, involves the preparation of a monochromatic painting of the subject.  This serves as a base layer for the painting.  Clients generally review the finished underpainting to make sure they are comfortable with the composition.  The underpainting phase takes about a week to complete;  if the commission requires the preparation of a canvas, another two weeks will be required.

Finish Painting (1-4 weeks):  Once the underpainting is dry, color glazes and painting will be applied to the underpainting, gradually building up the image to produce the finished work.  Depending on the size and scope of the work, the process can take up to 4 weeks, even longer sometimes for works with multiple figures.  The use of layered glazes requires drying time between painting sessions.  Once the studio painting is complete, the work is presented to the client.  It’s often useful to have one or two live sittings with the subject at this time to refine the painting.

Beau Progression:  This series of images shows how a classical portrait emerges. Day One is a rough tonal sketch of the subject, and Day Two shows the completed underpainting done entirely in white and green earth. In subsequent sessions color is applied, both in thin, transparent glazes and thick, impasto highlights. In the completed picture we can see, and hopefully feel Beau’s spirit — he is no longer with us, but look how his beauty shines on!

Just dash something down if you see a blank canvas staring at you with a certain imbecility. You do not know how paralyzing it is, that staring of a blank canvas which says to the painter: you do not know anything….
— Vincent van Gogh