Positive Step!

Started this one yesterday, finished tonight…well, I might still work on the background, but I think the face is done. And I am pleased with the step toward looseness it represents in my experimentation!

I had a color experiment in mind too; I saw in a color mixing book the wonderful neutral greens that result from mixing ultramarine blue and yellow ochre, so started with them. I don’t usually like or use greens, so this was a good learning experience for me in that regard too.

In the slideshow below, the first one (the one that’s different from all the rest) is actually a completely different painting. I was struggling to get a likeness, painting out and re-painting various features, when I realized I wasn’t having fun. So I set it aside and started over using bolder color, less deliberation, and choppier strokes with almost no blending. Definitely more fun! Adjusting position/size etc of features was much easier as the entire image was freer, looser, more fluid.

It’s hard to quantify how well I did on the likeness…but for such an impressionistic rendition I’m OK with it.

I don’t like the background, may work on it some more later…or not…also want to keep moving forward to see what comes out next!

I scrounged some bicycle cartons today from a bike shop near my studio, so I have plenty of “canvasses” to work on. I’m motivated to make as many paintings as I can before April 1 when I open my studio for First Friday Artwalk. I don’t expect a big crowd, but it’s a nice motivation nonetheless.

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My thanks to Bill Wadman at http://www.365portraits.com/ for permission to use his photo as practice reference.

Keep clicking through several screens on the above image to zoom in close to see the brush strokes (the final click should show a magnifying glass cursor).

Big & Small

This was a challenge for me because of its size — about 3 feet wide. I wasn’t attempting a likeness, just trying to get proportions reasonably in the ballpark since I was working far larger than I’ve ever done before.

This one taught me I don’t like working small! Face is only about 2-1/2″ tall. I used teeny tiny brushes. Not that happy with the likeness either, although for having just recently started trying to do likenesses I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.

My thanks to Bill Wadman at http://www.365portraits.com/ for permission to use his photo as practice reference.

Lyle Lovett

Acrylic painting of Lyle Lovett by Steve Eichenberger (click on image for close-up view)

Painted freehand looking at various photos from the web (below).

Thank you to Lyle’s management office for giving me the go-ahead to paint his likeness.

on 8×13 corrugated cardboard

It helped to have various angles and lighting to discern shapes and decide what characteristics seemed most important for a likeness.

I did a preliminary study which took longer than this one, but I don’t like it as well as this one so I’m not posting it. But it did teach me that doing a study first is beneficial; I basically had the features memorized, including what to “watch out for” the second time around.

Portrait Practice


Lifesize portrait, acrylic on 34 x 42 cardboard, freehand from photo reference.

Photo credit: Bill Wadman, 365portraits.com. Used by permission.

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First two slides: Practicing achieving a likeness. Not sure my “corrections” are better…maybe overcorrected. Will try again tomorrow, maybe split the difference.

My thanks to Bill Wadman at http://www.365portraits.com/ for permission to use his photo as practice reference.

3/6 update: I’m painting entirely freehand, just looking at the photo for reference…no enlarging, no grids. But I was curious which iteration I’ve done so far was more accurate, so I put everything in the computer and did some overlays. My conclusion is that I did indeed overcorrect. I’ll keep tweaking today. I think some good learning is going on.

3/6 evening: I did paint out and re-do a third time, splitting the difference, and I think it helped. May add a few final highlights and/or dark accents tomorrow. It’s my largest painting so far; lifesize figure on a 34 w x 42 h piece of corrugated cardboard that was throwing around the Watershed.

Literature about portraiture says a typical newbie mistake is to make all the features too large. In comparing my painting to the original photo I think I was too careful on this count; I made the features too small rather than too large, which in my opinion makes the subject look more mature. To me, iterations 1 and 2 look the right age for the subject, but they look perkier, more open than she does in the photo, as pointed out by a friend who came in my studio during iteration 2. I think I captured her more inward, slightly guarded expression in iteration 3, but in so doing aged her a few years vs iterations 1 and 2. Interesting how such seemingly minor adjustments have unforeseen effects…effects I can use on purpose in the future. (3/7 addendum: an artist friend had the opposite opinion about apparent age: he thought my portrait looked younger than the subject. Jackie thought the painting and photo look the same age. My first lessons in how subjective evaluating my work will be…)

One thing I liked right away about this subject is her sweeping jawline and the way it presents in the pose; my extra attention to this feature resulted in a bit of an exaggeration of that sweep, which I’ll chalk up to artist’s license.

More practicing on cardboard

To test myself to see if I could produce a likeness. 1 hour sketch.

Unfinished. Can’t decide what to put under his head. Someone suggested making him a dandelion’s head 😉

Very fast sketch.

Quick sketch.

Quick sketch in box. My intention was to do the eye sockets in complete shadow, but I see from the photo I didn’t resist putting in some detail.