So as I mentioned in the previous post, we did a number of painted portraits this semester. That last one was all about direct observation of color. This assignment was about observing value. We painted several studies of the portrait in monochrome and then added color through glazes later.
I got the original picture from a very interesting collection of mug shot photos taken by the New South Wales Police Dept. around the turn of the century.
Isn’t this picture fantastic!!! The Historic House Trust has a collection of hundreds of photos like these up on their website. The caption of this image reads:
Dorothy Mort, criminal record number 518LB, 18 April 1921. State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay, NSW
Convicted of murder. Mrs Dorothy Mort was having an affair with dashing young doctor Claude Tozer. On 21 December 1920 Tozer visited her home with the intention of breaking off the relationship. Mort shot him dead before attempting to commit suicide. Aged 32. Part of an archive of forensic photography created by the NSW Police between 1912 and 1964.
The photos are all haunting and amazingly detailed.
So anyway, here’s how my underpainting went. I took a photo part way through and then again at the end. I was trying very hard to map out the planes of the face and make her features more angular with the intention of rounding things over when I got to the color stages later.
Because the original photo is in black and white I was going to need to make up the colors for her face so I decided to do a digital paint over to play with a few things. Honestly it didn’t go that well. This was the best of the lot.
When the time came to add the color I decided to take a different tact. This same week in figure class we were working on master copies and were discussing the idea of using another artist’s images a touchstones. I’ve always liked this portrait by Edward Kensella:
In fact, I’ve got a really bad laser printer copy of it on my wall. The color laser printer amps up all the colors and really saturates everything and it gave this picture this angry red glow that is totally absent in the picture above. It seemed like an interesting place to start from. Here’s what I came up with:
Originally the idea was for the color to be a transparent glaze over the underpainting, and it was at first, I swear. But as things moved on and I kept adjusting it turned unto a rather opaque paint over. The glaze still comes through in the eyes. You can see where the black is now a deep red. I’m pretty happy with it.
Oil on board, about 8 in x 10 in