Archive for the ‘Portraits’ Category

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May 20, 2016

I saw a painting at a gallery here in Puerto Vallarta recently that gave me an idea.

Actually it reminded me of an idea I’d already had—one of the many painting ideas that bounce around in my brain for years sometimes before finally getting insistent enough that I start to act on them. The painting I saw that triggered this was a grid of several faces on colorful backgrounds. Because I’ve done a lot of Expressionist portraits over the last 2 or 3 years, the idea of doing something a little different and new with the same subject matter appealed to me. It also made me think of some other works I like, like Andy Warhol’s iconic multiple portraits.

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Andy Warhol's self-portrait is similar to the painting I saw which gave me an idea for a new approach to my Expressionist portraits.

I thought about this over a couple of weeks while I was working on commissions, then some time opened up and I started work on my idea. The first thing I did was search through one of my many image archives, this one of intriguing male faces. These are photographic images I’ve found online which I use as inspiration for drawings. I picked out a bunch, then I started sketching. I had a very good day and did around 20 different sketches. I liked a lot of them, so l would need to choose which to use.

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Here are 12 of the 20 or so sketches I did to get ideas for the painting.

My next step was to scan my sketches, then use Photoshop to group them and find the most appealing combination. I had been planning to do a grid of 8 portraits but I realized that was going to be an unwieldy shape—too tall and skinny for most walls. So I decided to do a 6-grid. I tried several combinations and ended up with the 6 you see here.

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I used Photoshop to try different combinations of the preparatory sketches to see which grouping I liked best. This is the one I liked most and decided to use for the painting. NOTE: The one at lower left is actually a sketch I did a couple of years ago, Asian Male Portrait, which I liked enough to revisit for this painting.

My next step was to cut a piece of canvas for the painting. I decided to make each portrait 14 inches square, which meant the entire image area would be 28″x42″. After cutting the canvas, I drew a grid, then transferred my rough sketches to their appropriate positions in the grid. Next I used one of my favorite tools, a Montana black acrylic marker, to re-draw the faces in black acrylic paint. When that was done, I painted a neutral cool brown wash over the whole thing and while I waited for it to dry, I began mixing my colors.

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In-progress shot 1: After penciling in the sketches on the canvas, I re-drew them using a black acrylic-paint marker. After I let this dry, I painted a neutral-colored acrylic wash over the whole thing and let it dry while starting to mix my colors.

Then I began painting. I wasn’t sure of the background colors I would use, just that I wanted them bright. As it turned out, I used the 3 primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and their complements (green, purple and orange). I didn’t plan this; it just worked out that way. For fleshtones, I used just about every color of the rainbow, since my six portraits constituted a broad spectrum of ethnicities and skin colors. (That was on purpose, by the way.)

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In-progress shot 2: I've roughed in all the background colors, and 3 of the portraits.

I’m noticing as I go along that unlike working out the fleshtones for a single portrait, each of these portraits must work not only on its own but in concert with the other faces and fleshtones. In other words, they are individual portraits but they’re also part of a larger composition and I need to constantly be aware of that as I work.

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In-progress shot 3: At this stage I've roughly painted in all the faces and their backgrounds.

At the end of the second day of work I’ve got all the faces painted in. I quit for the day, knowing that the next day will be about taking the painting to the next level of finish, and maybe completing it. My goal is to be satisfied not only with each individual portrait, but also happy with the way they all work together when I stand back and take in the entire composition.

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In-progress shot 4: At this stage I've worked on all of the faces to bring them to a higher level of finish. Some have needed more work and revision than others.

In in-progress shot 4, shown above, you can see there have been big changes to the two center faces, the African guy and the redhead, but I’ve also revised the Asian guy at lower left by making his left ear visible. I’ve also reworked the colors somewhat in most of the faces.

The next day I spent quite a few hours bringing the painting to completion. At the end I was happy not only with the portraits on an individual level but with the feel of the whole painting. I call it Six Guys.

6guys final

Final stage of the painting Six Guys. This image isn't that different from in-progress shot 4, but this has been properly scanned rather than just photographed in the studio, so you can get a better idea of the actual colors and tonal qualities of the painting.

Below are some closeups of the individual portraits so you can get a better look at each one.

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6guys upperrighttCU

6guys africanCU

6guys redheadCU

6guys asianCU

6guys lowerrightCU

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PORTRAIT OF MY SISTER

July 10, 2014

My sister Kelly is not just my sister, she’s one of my best friends. I had tried many times over the years to paint a portrait of her, but they never worked out. In fact some were horrifyingly bad. Part of it is that I’m just not used to painting white people! Another thing is, it’s often harder to paint someone you’re very close to. But despite the misses I kept trying.

This blog entry is about how I finally succeeded.

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I always loved this photograph of my sister Kelly and thought it would make a terrific painting.

I’d snapped a photograph of Kelly a couple of years ago that I really liked. We were hanging out with our sister Lisa and her family at their apartment which had a pool. Kelly was relatively relaxed. What that means is, she was only checking sales on her retail sites once every 20 minutes. It was during one of those moments when I saw the light catch her hair just right, and I snapped a picture.

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I tweaked the image in Photoshop to make it easier to paint (among other filters, I used Posterize and Noise->Median).

Later I looked at that photograph and thought it would make a great painting. But I didn’t feel ready to tackle it. For over a year, every time I came across it in my Photo Archives on my computer, I would look at it and think, I’m not ready. But then one day in my Lincoln studio, for reasons I’m not totally clear on, I finally felt ready. I dived in, and magic happened.

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I started by drawing outlines of the different color areas on my canvas.

I’m showing you the step-by-step in-progress shots of the painting here, but they don’t really explain how it came together. The real defining factor was my willingness to keep it loose by not worrying too much about how it was going to turn out. I say that like it’s something I can call on at will. I wish that were true! I wish I could always be in that space. But it’s elusive.

Kelly inprog2

Rather than my usual method of doing a single-color wash over the drawing, this time I did several washes giving me a general idea of the colors of the painting right from the start.

That said, I find the older I get, the less I care about shit in general. This is one of the compensations of age. Your perspective broadens and you have an easier time staying focused on the stuff that matters and kind of letting the rest go wherever it goes. At least that’s how it’s working for me.

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My best paintings seem to happen all in one go, and this one was no exception. This is the painting about 3 hours in.

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Here's the painting about a half-hour later--99% done.

What that means in terms of my work as a painter is that I have a higher percentage of those days when I’m able to just paint, stay loose, and enjoy the process of moving the paint around without trying to make a perfect painting. I say a higher percentage—so now it’s maybe one painting session out of 5 instead of one out of 30! That still means things are less than optimal 80% of the time. That doesn’t mean I don’t do okay stuff during that 80% (I have developed some solid skills in 35 years of painting). But having everything come together in a painting session is still a kind of miracle, and when it happens even 20% of the time, you gotta feel blessed. I certainly do.

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The finished painting.

That day, I was blessed by everything coming together to make possible a terrific painting. And that’s right in line with how blessed I feel to have Kelly as my sister and my friend.

Oh yeah—I call the painting “Workaholic” because Kelly, like me, is one.

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PORTRAIT COMMISSIONS AND COMMERCIAL WORK BY DOUGLAS SIMONSON


If you’ve seen much of my art, you know I’m pretty versatile.

That’s also true with my portraits and commercial work. I not only paint and draw portraits on commission, I also do custom photo shoots and commercial illustration.

I customarily go into the studio and paint whatever is exciting or inspiring me at the time. Working on commission is obviously quite different, but it’s a challenge I enjoy. As wonderful as it is to be able to paint whatever I want to paint, there are times when it’s really nice to have some specific guidelines, and that’s what I get when I do a portrait commission.


• THREE PORTRAIT OPTIONS
• ACRYLIC PORTRAITS
• PENCIL PORTRAITS
• PHOTO SHOOTS
• WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE YOU?
• COMMERCIAL ILLUSTRATION



THREE PORTRAIT OPTIONS

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There are 3 basic options when you commission a Douglas Simonson portrait: acrylic painting, pencil drawing and photography.

There are 3 basic options when you’re thinking about a Simonson portrait: acrylic paintings, pencil drawings and photography. The first choice, an acrylic painting, is the most adventurous and least realistic.

If you’re looking for a more realistic approach, a pencil portrait is the way to go. And the most affordable option is a photographic portrait.


PORTRAIT COMMISSIONS: ACRYLIC PAINTINGS

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This somewhat Picassoesque approach is one approach I use when painting portraits in acrylic.

Acrylic portraits are the wildest and craziest approach to a Simonson portrait. What I mean is, when I paint acrylics I’m not interested in a strictly realistic approach: I like to get adventurous. So if you’re looking for a straightforwardly realistic portrait, this is not what you want. On the other hand, if you want something exciting, different, and bound to start some conversations, an acrylic portrait is the way to go.

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Here's a different approach that looks quite realistic until you study the painting more closely.

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This acrylic portrait is basically very realistic, but with a bit of stylization.

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This painting of my parents is one of my favorites.


Acrylic Portrait Commission Rates:
$2450 for 1 person
$3950 for 2 persons
Portraits with 3 or more persons: Rates on request.

(Terms: Pay 50% at beginning, remaining 50% when portrait is completed.)

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This geometric approach to the patterns of light and shadow is another approach I've used in acrylic portraiture.

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NOT YOUR TYPICAL PORTRAIT: My friends Jeff and Siew commissioned me to do a 'portrait' of their life in Hawaii to keep a taste of the tropics in their new home on the East Coast.




PORTRAIT COMMISSIONS: PENCIL DRAWINGS

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This portrait of Doug and Xavier is a good example of the cross-hatch approach I usually use in a pencil portrait.

A Simonson pencil portrait is a realistic black-and-white pencil portrait. If you want a straightforwardly realistic depiction of yourself or your loved one(s), this is the way to go.

Pencil Portrait Commission Rates:
$950 for one person
$1450 for 2 persons
Portraits with 3 or more persons: Rates on request.

(Terms: Pay 50% at beginning, remaining 50% when portrait is completed.)

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Pencil is ideal for this type of family portrait.

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This pencil portrait of my friend Randy captures his irreverent sense of humor.

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You have another option when you commission a pencil portrait: I also do white-pencil-on-dark-paper drawings. The price for these dramatic pieces is the same as for a conventional pencil portrait.



PHOTO SHOOTS

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This photo portrait is of my niece Hannah.

I’m available to do photo sessions on commission. What that means is, you and I will discuss what kind of photographs you’d like, a location is chosen, and you and I will work together for approximately 2 hours. This results in several hundred photographs.

Broadly speaking, I do 2 types of photo session. One is a Portrait Session, which results in a photographic portrait (or several) suitable for framing. The other is a Custom Session, a shoot customized to your wishes, whether you need images for professional use (business cards, brochures, websites) or personal (online profiles, fantasies, etc.). In either case, you’ll get to keep the images from the shoot (usually from 500-1000 images) for your personal use, and you’ll own all rights to them.

Below: Some examples from recent portrait photo shoots:

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Keep in mind that a photo session with me is not your typical in-studio shoot. I prefer natural lighting, uncontrived/natural settings, and spontaneity. My objective is to show you at your most joyous and ‘alive.’ I’ve had a lot of years of experience at bringing out the true spirit of even the shyest, most reticent subjects, so I’m good at it. It doesn’t matter how unsure you are of your ability to look good in front of a camera; you can rest assured I will bring out, and capture, you at your very best.

Photo Shoot Rates:

Portrait Session: $500 if client provides location, $650 if I provide the location
(includes photo session, a CD of all images, and up to three 13″x19″ frameable photographs)

Custom Session: $350 if client provides location, $500 if I provide the location
(includes photo session and a CD of all images)

Shoots involving 2 or more persons: Rates on request.


WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE YOU?

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Black dots represent recent Simonson travels. Wherever you live in the world, a Simonson portrait commission is within the realm of possibility.

I work only from my own photographs, so your geographic location is a factor in commissioning a portrait. But don’t let that stop you: I travel a lot, and I’m very open to considering some detours to accomplish a photo shoot for a portrait commission. (There may be an additional travel fee, depending on location and my traveling schedule, but not necessarily.) No matter where in the world you live, it’s quite possible for you to set up a portrait commission with me. Just e-mail me me with your questions or request.



COMMERCIAL ILLUSTRATION

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Some examples of recent commercial illustration work I've done.

My artistic versatility and technical skills are well suited to many kinds of commercial illustration. I’ve successfully produced CD case designs, logos, humorous ilustrations for advertising and product labels, and book illustration, among other types of projects. I utilize both physical-world approaches (painting, drawing on paper, canvas or board) and digital media (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign) to create commercial illustration and graphic design.

My rates are competitive. Contact me for further information.