comes to painting portraits, it helps to think big. This train of thought not
only applies to setting goals but also to applying paint. A direct approach of
applying simplified, accurate shapes at the beginning of a painting can often
lead to a strongly stated portrait which captures the unique personality and
character of your sitter from the very start.
that I'm referring to are seen as a result of the way that light falls across
your portraiture subject. By themselves, each one of these shapes has a specific value (how
light or how dark it appears), color (warm or cool), and series of edges (hard,
soft, broken, etc.) that accompany it. When put together side by side, these
shapes create a bigger picture. Although void of any major detail, this visual
shorthand carries with it the weight and strength of the entire painting. It's
the foundation on which all detail work is built. Without this framework of
solidity first established, you may find yourself frustrated at the results,
often focusing your attention on areas that are better left for a later stage,
such as getting an exact likeness or paying too much attention to unnecessary
details in a painted portrait.
|The initial stages of this portrait were
dedicated to finding the large shapes made
by light falling across the model's face.
|Portrait of Edward Wertheimer
by John Singer Sargent, portrait painting.
introduction into this broad approach to painting portraits came as a result of studying
the work of the great portrait painter, John Singer Sargent, particularly his
portrait of Edward Wertheimer. What makes this painting so rare and valuable to
an artist is that it's one of the very few unfinished portrait commissions that
have been left by Sargent, due to the sitter's untimely death. This canvas
contains some of the greatest insights into the working methods of Sargent and
his initial approach to painting a portrait by using large shapes to quickly
define the figure, while achieving a sense of volume in the planes of the head.
The importance of this broad approach of shaping the entire painting as a whole
cannot be overstated, as it's at this stage that Sargent chose to end the
sitting, leaving behind a solid structural foundation for future work.
So, the next
time you're looking for ways to strengthen your latest portrait painting, remember to
get into shape by exercising your artistic skills to see the big picture.