A Portrait in Progress

by Howard Lyon

I thought I would share a work in progress today and then the final in two weeks for my next post.

I started the process by doing thumbnails and then a detailed sketch.  With that in hand I hired a model for a photoshoot and then did a couple color comps to nail things down.  I usually do my color work in Photoshop, but I have been falling deeper in love with oils and as much as I can these days they are my go to medium.

Here is the first color study I did:



The response to it was good, but I didn't think the color palette was quite right for the feel I wanted, so I did another study.  Both of these are 8"x10" oil on aluminum panels (OmegaBond is the brand).

Here is the second study with a different palette.


I felt that this more appropriate for the image.  It was a tough choice though.  If you happen to follow me on Instagram or Facebook, there was some strong opinion towards the purple palette and the blue palette.  I received some great input from friends too, thank you!  Ultimately, I had to go with my gut on it and went with the latter.

I shot a video of the study being painting.  It is 5 hours of painting time sped up to 30 minutes.



To get the reference for the fabric, I bought 5 yards of the lightest fabric I could find and set up a strong fan.  I set up my studio strobe and set my camera to take a photo every 5 seconds.  After some experimentation, I got a few shots that I think worked well.  Here are some outtakes. :)




Next up, I wanted to do a head study to workout the flesh tones and expression.  Even though I was painting from a photograph, doing the head study let me make changes to the face and experiment a little which helps me not be a slave to reference, but not experiment on the final paint surface.



With the color study, photography and head study finished, I was ready to move onto the final.

I transferred the drawing using a 2"x2" grid, and then inked the important lines.



Here is the color block-in, or ├ębauche stage:


This stage is done in a few hours and the goal isn't to do a lot of rendering, but to block in some of the key values and colors.  You can see things look a little strange and flat, but that is alright.  This stage just provides a foundation to paint into.  I find that I am more successful with a color block-in like this and it adds some depth to the final paint layer.  It also gives a good reference point for subsequent layers of the painting.  When you put a color down, onto something that is fairly close to the end result you immediately see if it is too warm or cool, too dark or light, and you can make simple adjustments.  So while this stage looks ugly, it is really useful.

I used a little drier for the ├ębauche (Galkyd Gel, I really don't like straight Galkyd, but the gel is quite nice), and by the next day it was dry enough to start the 1st pass of painting.

Check back in two weeks to see the final!

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