Painting a portrait from a live model is a specific skill and, like any skill, it needs to be practiced in order to grow and improve. As I mentioned in my last post, it has been 2 years since I worked with a live model and when I started on this portrait I felt a little rusty. Thankfully the model was patient and had a sense of humor as my painting went from looking abstract and a "little like" her to looking more refined and more "like" her.
Progress photos of my painting as I worked on the portrait
refining to make it look more "like" her.
With Classical Realism the goal is to make your painting look as “like” the thing or person you are observing as possible. After making a mark you step back to evaluate if the mark helps your painting look more “like” the object or not. If it does you leave it and move on. If it doesn’t you change it until it does. It’s a long and laborious process that requires a lot of objective observation both of the subject and of your painting.
Because my model is a busy young woman I ended up taking a reference photo of her to look at when she wasn’t able to come to the studio. The photo was somewhat helpful for refining shape but not very helpful in capturing true color and minute shifts in value. In the end, I didn’t use it very much, opting instead to work from my memory or just wait until she returned.
The human eye sees far more than a camera lens and working from real life cannot be improved upon. At our final sitting I saw subtle differences that made the painting look much much
more “like” her than I could have achieved from a photo, my memory, or my imagination. I’m very pleased with the result and hope to find more opportunities to work with live models in the near future!
The finished portrait.