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Self-Portrait Project

I have been quite on the Blog front since starting a few commissions but this weekend I found the time to start a mini painting! It’s part of a Self-Portrait Project being hosted by the Art House Co-op in Brooklyn, New York. Proceeds will be going towards their Free 10 x 10 Community Art Workshops. This Friday, they sent me a 4×4 inch canvas with instructions of painting a self-portrait using any medium and it must be post marked by May 15th.

Self-Portrait Process

Step One: What is the painting for? As mentioned above, it’s a self-portrait with the restriction of using a 4×4 inch canvas.

Step Two: Find an image. I started taking a few photos of myself beside a window. I liked the look of the bright natural light on my face with my hair casting interesting shadows BUT I wasn’t being very successful at taking a good photo. So, I finally decided to just scroll through my Facebook profile pics to see if any fit the bill. Success! I found an image that I really liked and thought it would be fun to paint.

Yes, it’s black and white. My work and I am not generally known for being sans colour but I thought this would be a nice contrast especially since I plan on painting the edges in colour.

Self-Portrait, sans colour

Step Three: Crop and Adjust image. The original image from my profile page was more rectangular, so I definitely had to crop it. I didn’t play around with the levels at all since I thought they looked okay.

Reference image, cropped

Step Four. Prep the painting surface. Since the canvas was sent to me already primed I didn’t have to do anything with it. Yay! I was able to move on to Step Five!

Step Five. Print out reference imagery and add grid lines. After cropping the image I printed two, full size images onto regular printer paper. I decided to use the Grid Transfer Method since the image itself is complex and I wanted to make sure that the facial proportions were correct. This will save me time when I start to paint because I won’t have to drastically change the shapes.

Step Six. Transfer image onto painting surface. Transferring the image didn’t take very long. There maybe small areas that need tweaking, if so I will do that with paint. Once I start adding paint I will then begin to see mistakes more clearly. Already, after posting these images I can see a few areas that need to be worked on. Can you spot them?

Transferred image with reference

Step Seven. Colour Wash. I decided to opt out of a colour wash and just go straight into painting. Why? I figured since I would be painting in grays, having a little gray bleed out from the graphite wasn’t a big deal.

Step Eight. Paint. I started painting, using a mixture of Ultramarine Blue, Van Dyke Brown and Zinc white to create a nice shade of gray. For areas that I want to be white, I am using Titanium White. I can use it in a pure form or mix it with a dab of the Ultramarine Blue and Van Dyke Brown mixture. 

I really enjoy seeing the paint. So, for this painting I’m going to make sure that I have interesting areas of texture. The really dark areas, like the hair will have thickly applied paint. The white areas will also follow suit. It is for that reason I have started this portrait amidst my commissions because I need to have adequate drying time for the Titanium White. Fingers crossed that it is dry before the May 15th deadline!

Here is my progress thus far!


Painting in progress

Step Eight. Continue painting. Next I will work on the eyes and play with enhancing the forms by using highlights and mid-tones.

FYI, I may decide to add small amounts of blue to the shadowed areas to give it a cool feel. As I mentioned at the beginning, I plan on using colours along the painting edge. Haven’t decided on what I will be painting as of yet, either florals, shapes, stripes, etc…, which are all on my list of possibilities. Will think on that while I paint the sans colour areas 🙂

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