I don’t know about all of you “normal” people out there, but as an artist when I meet someone my initial reaction is sometimes, “Ooh! I’d love to paint that face!” No, I don’t mean face-painting balloons or tiger stripes at a carnival (though I do enjoy that and do my fair share of it). I mean there’s something in their features, smile, eyes that catches my attention…I want to try to capture that expression in paint. Don is one of those people. He’s a dean’s assistant at our school, so I often see him in the hallways. Not long after meeting him I got up the courage to ask if he’d mind my painting his portrait. I brought my camera to school one day (thankfully a day when he happened to wear his blue shirt, which brings out the blue in his eyes and tones well with the grey/white hair) and found a spot in school near a window with good lighting. Then we sat and chatted while I snapped photos periodically. When not roaming the halls as a DA, Don is (or was…I believe he retired recently) a basketball coach for Aurora University. He’s also the father of a few daughters who may have been traumatized once or twice as kids when their competitive coach of a dad insisted they be “tough” on the tennis or basketball court. You’d never guess that competitive streak was behind those kind eyes and ready smile!
Whenever I have the chance to set up a portrait shoot (and am not forced to rely on photos someone else has taken), I try to get candid shots. Its so much easier to capture a likeness in painting when you aren’t working from a stiff or posed reference shot. I went back to my beloved watercolor for this portrait. The layering of colors works well for subtleties within skin tones. One of the tricks with watercolor is to lay it down and leave it, not overwork an area. And my struggle is often to build skin tones without muddying them, resulting in tones that are too cold or brown. Not sure whether I’m done with this piece yet, I may add grey to the background. Any critique, comments, or suggestions are welcome!