Posts Tagged ‘portrait’

6guys header

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.

Andy warhol a set of six self portraits 1967

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.

12up sixguysroughs

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.

6upfaces 1

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.

6guys inprog1

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.)

6guys inprog2

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.

6guys inprog3

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.

6guys inprog4

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.

6guys upperleftCU

6guys upperrighttCU

6guys africanCU

6guys redheadCU

6guys asianCU

6guys lowerrightCU

I’ve just completed a really interesting project, a painting commissioned by a couple I know.

This is a portrait commission of sorts, but not the usual kind of portrait. This is a portrait of a place and time.

My friends Siew and Jeff have lived in Hawaii for several years and now they’re moving to the East Coast. They wanted a painting that would remind them of their time here, to hang in the living room of their home and take them back to Hawaii every time they looked at it. Siew was the initiator of the project, and he told me he really liked one of my paintings, “Summer Salad,” and thought that something in that direction would be cool.

I really liked the idea. This sounded like it would be fun, and something different for me to stretch out with.


This is a distorted-on-purpose composite of several photos I took of Siew and Jeff's house in Kalihi Valley.

I went to the house they still own in Honolulu’s Kalihi Valley to see the place and take some pictures. I also talked to Siew about some of the most notable things about their time in Hawaii. The list included cats (they have 3), fruit trees (they have a big tangerine tree right in front of their house), a rooster which used to wake them every morning way before they were ready, and various other things like rainstorms, rainbows and Geo Metros (don’t ask).

So I went back to my studio and started collecting image references from online, and started doing sketches.


Some of my reference images from the Internet, and some ideas for the painting. The large sketch at bottom is the final sketch I did before beginning the painting itself.

I worked on ideas for a couple of weeks, letting Siew in on some of the progress by sending him scans of some of the sketches via e-mail. After I sent him the final sketch before beginning the painting (he liked it) we both decided that I wouldn’t show him any more of the progress until it was done. He wanted to be surprised, and I knew that getting input from outside once I’d begun the painting could really interfere with the creative process.


Beginning of the painting process...

Then it was just a matter of doing the painting. I had worked out most of it in the sketches, so the painting was more about choosing and mixing the right colors. There were also some things that didn’t quite work which I had to shift around and alter a bit, but not many. The preparatory sketching process had worked out a lot of the issues already, so it was just a matter of bringing it to life on the canvas. It did take quite a while because there is a lot more going on in this painting than is usual with my work.


The above image shows the painting about 3 days before I finished it. By this point the painting has taken on a life of its own. My favorite things are the rooster and the fish. I don’t even know where those fish came from; they just popped into my head while I was doing one of the sketches so I put them in. And I liked them, so I kept them. The rooster I was always planning to include, but I didn’t expect him to have so much personality! I love the way he’s just standing down there in the corner of the painting, surveying everything, seeming to be saying to himself, “WTF??”

But I like the whole painting. I think it turned out really well and I was happy with it. That didn’t mean it was any less nerve-wracking to have Siew and Jeff come to my studio one morning to see it for the first time. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see their reaction. They loved it! And the more they looked at it, the more they saw there, and the more they liked it. What a relief!


The finished painting: 'Kalihi Valley'

This painting was a challenge and a lot of fun too. I liked having a specific “story” to tell with the painting. It’ll be interesting to see what new directions happen in my painting as a result of this one.