Evidently this is what I was waiting for: classes with Gabriel Lipper. I've been spending too much time alone with only my inner critic to guide me and even though I've been aware of this guy for a few years I did not investigate if he taught classes until recently. A week after I inquired a new session started with emphasis on portraits and there was room for me!
Gabriel's studio is a big barn of a place he shares with a couple other artists and this is where he teaches classes on Friday Mornings from 9-12. It's messy and full of works in process and finished which he readily talks about if it pertains to the issue at hand. Gabe is gabby and full of life and experience and knowledge, and for the first time ever in a painting class I feel like I'm learning something every moment I'm there. The other students are a good mix - some older, some younger, some more advanced than me, some not. It's great!
I have never been able to paint alla prima (all at once). My colors just got muddy and the brush strokes lost. In this class we are not finishing a painting all in one session but the approach is as if we were. For the first time I am experiencing the truth that color can be almost anything if it is the right value, and that changes in colors of the same value but different temperatures can define a change in plane. This is especially important in painting faces.
But enough bloggety words - you came for the pictures!
Here's my reference photo of Dennis reading to our grandson:
The first issue at hand was to change the composition so that Dennis' head was not popping off the top of the frame. I chose a canvas that was a taller proportion so there would be more room at the top. This brought his face down where the top third and left third of the canvas meet - a good spot for the focal point. Adding more dark also adds to the feeling of the two of them in their own private pool of light, which is why I snapped the photo in the first place.
This is a complicated picture and I wanted to get on with the painting rather than spend two days trying to freehand the sketch, so I traced the general "map" of the photo :
After lunch and a half hour nap I went back to it.Needed another reference for the hand. Good thing I live with my model! The cat is playing Liam's role.
This doesn't look much like Liam, and Dennis sort of looks like our friend Bjorn, but I have confidence that I'll find them eventually.
I'll give you an update soon. Since I'm doing this for class I will have to follow thorough on it and will share it with you. An THEN I'll go back to the other paintings with new eyes and you can see how I finish those as well.