It was another portrait, but of many children of different ages.
I met with my client, who gave me the opportunity to meet and take photos of my own of each child, and she optimized my starting materials by lending me photographs collected of each one, some by her daughter-in-law, who is on a professional level when it comes to photography.
We discussed the positioning of each child, and the setting for the group portrait. My client loved the idea of having them around a campfire. I would need to imagine the sculpturing shaping of each face but one. The smallest boy was already lit from beneath his face. We agreed on canvas size, who would provide the framing, and the price.
The first sketch is rather cartoon-like, but served only as an arrangement of the children for my client's approval. I emailed it to her. She was enthused, so I continued with the second sketch in a larger size, and with tighter relationships between each child. Shown here, the paper is laid out on the canvas so that I can see how I will change the relationships a little on the painting, and enlarge the children so they approach about 75% of life size.
You can see from the 6" x 8" painting below the sketch, that the 30" x 40" size was right for the project.
Using the sketch and photos as a guide, I rendered the faces carefully on the canvas to keep a good balance going, using small brushes and thinned burnt sienna. Then came the big brushes and the sweep of sky across the top to unify each child into the same values. I taped each photo to an untouched (or dried) segment of the canvas, with non-residue tape, and started painting the portraits from left to right, reserving a period of time at the end of the project for correcting mistakes.
I usually left the eyes until I had shaped and painted the face and let it dry, so that the clear gray-blue of the whites and the brilliance of the irises and pupils do not pick up flesh or eyelash colors. I also did not re-shape the girl's face, but formed the intention of moving the fire away from her. I felt that bottom-lighting would have flattened her lower face in the position it was in. The closest I came to alla prima
with this group was in the smallest boy's face, which was already bottom-lighted.
The almost finished image in this last photo shows how I corrected the leftward girl's waistcoat to the actual article of clothing, and added some detail work to her brother's tee shirt. clothing details were also added to the three on the right. I made some additional improvements to the faces and painted the boy's hand. Now I was ready for fire!
This is the finished product, also shown in "works/portraits and people" on my homepage. As usual, I didn't want to let go of it, but my client was eager to get it onto her wall, and it's now where it belongs!