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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Portrait Of A Little Girl: Adele

Adele was a delight to paint. She was born in the winter and so I thought it would be fun to place her in a winter setting. We took her outside and captured the afternoon light which was gentle on this January day. There was contrast everywhere with this little subject: Adele's smooth, dark hair next to her white, furry coat...her large dark eyes against her light, peach colored skin.

16 x 20", Oil on canvas
Rita Salazar Dickerson (c) 2014
Stage 1: Sketching in the composition freehand with a thin wash of paint. In a portrait, my greatest challenge every time is to capture the subject's likeness at this stage instead of later when I'm painting. It's all about problem solving. Though it's hard for me to do, I try to force myself to slow down, take my time and draw my lines as accurately as possible. It's also a great exercise in training my eyes to draw what I see instead of what I think I see.
 Stage 2: Blocking in the shapes with a thin underpainting. Similar to what I would do if I were painting from life instead of a photograph, I brush in a thin layer of paint across her features to get a feel for her likeness. I study everything and make adjustments if neccessary. And then, while this thin layer of underpainting is still wet, I mix my paints and begin blocking in her eyes. From her eyes I apply the skin color. 
Stage 3: Painting her face.
Stage 4: Painting her hair and blocking in her headband.
Stage 5: Completing the headband and applying the underpainting of her hands. I liked her headband; it added to the composition but at the same time I didn't want it so detailed that it took the attention away from her eyes.
Stage 6: Completing her hands. I really enjoyed including her hands in the composition, they were so cute and chubby. Plus, they encourage the viewer's eyes to move around the painting, from one hand to the other and then back to her face. I also liked that her uplifted hands were individually framed in white by the coat's sleeves. I painted this small portion of coat sleeves next to her hands while the paint was still wet so that I could soften the edges of both her hands and the sleeves and not have to struggle with dry edges later.
Stage 7: Painting her coat. I blocked in the major shapes and values. It was great dressing Adele in this white coat. The contrast of color as well as texture between the coat and her hair was just what I was looking for.
Stage 8: Completing the painting. The challenge I found with this coat was to paint just enough information (brush strokes and color) to make it look like the faux fur that it was without it looking too busy or detailed. 
Every composition presents its own challenges and in this painting I decided to keep the background simple so that it doesn't take the viewer's attention away from Adele.

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