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We need to tone down the pink on this one, but it’s coming along pretty well.

Acrylic on Canvas (with a little assist from a Sharpie)

We’re in uncharted creative waters here, attempting to render the human face in nothing but light and color. We don’t honestly have much of a clue what we’re doing, but we do know exactly what we did.

Here we started from a photo reference. We got the image on our monitor, held a piece of 8×11 office paper up to it, and traced the basic lines of the photo with a fine-point Sharpie. The original photo included the figure from the waist up, and the arms were raised so that her hands touched her hair. That was a bit much for our modest talents. We decided to zoom into the face when we got to the 16×20 canvas.

For our guide, we quickly scrawled the basic shapes and proportions of the face on the canvas in Sharpie. If you ever do this, realize that its going to take a lot to cover up that black ink. It bleeds through paint like crazy. We solved that by painting white over the messy parts, sealing that layer with Mod Podge, and using perhaps two more coats of white to get full coverage. Your basic artist’s paint in a tube may not cut it, but your basic white semi-gloss house paint does a decent job.

After that comes refining the shapes, like the eyes and lips and bone structure, and the clothing. Do you know how hard it is to paint two eyes at a slight angle that appear to be realistically looking at the viewer? Well, let’s say these eyes have been re-painted about 20 times, and leave it at that.

We ran the original photo by a friend to get a consult on the color of the lighting on the face. This is especially challenging for us, and we still don’t have it quite right. The pink remains too starkly pink, not the suffused glow of the original photo. Still, we learn as we go, and not every painting problem can be solved by splashing Kirby Krackle on everything until it explodes. This portrait has been a nice change of pace from the more abstract stuff lately.

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