Historic Sites · Materials · Northern Neck Artisan Trail · oil painting · Reference Photos · Step-by-step

Girl in the Garden

I’ve not decided on a title for this one yet, although Girl in the Garden isn’t too bad.

This whole photo may end up as a painting one day… minus the cars in the background.

I found her in the main vegetable garden area of Colonial Williamsburg with the regular gardener. You can see she is working with the regular gardener, but her lovely black velvet hat just seems a bit too elegant and hot to me for regular gardening work. She is also not wearing a full apron which strikes me as rather odd for a woman at work. But I am far from expert on Colonial costuming, so I don’t know for sure.

Still need to do at lot of work on this portrait. I’m amazed at how taking a photo shows up the “off” spots in all their glorious weirdness. I can see that there is something still wrong with the chin and jaw line and some hat folds are off. And I think the back is actually too big over all. The ear is off in value and size. Ears are amazingly big, I think, but we don’t notice until trying to draw or paint them correctly. Value is also off in the lower part of her neck. Her shoulders and arms have grown to wide. She’s become quite burly! That nice warm burnt sienna/pink needs to creep further up her dress front and the shadows in the sleeve on the right are too light. Also, the sun coming over her shoulders needs to be brighter. I can see picking up some green color to reflect back onto her dress front a bit as well and maybe even into her face as it appears very flat to me at this point. And her lips still need their lovely reds as do her cheek. The ladies of Colonial Williamsburg are often, surprisingly tan!

Day Two of portrait

I was going for the idea of a very dark background with the subject coming out of it. And I loved the velvet black hat against the dark for the lost edges. However, since it does look like she is in bright sunlight (and she was), the total darkness of the background or perhaps it’s blackness is too stark. I am using a self-mixed chromatic black of Burnt Umber, Cadmium Red Dark and Ultramarine Blue. I feel that the green of the geranium in the foreground is really needed to place her in space. I’m also going to work some greens into the background a bit for placement of her in the garden.

Here is a photo at the end of Day 1. You can see that the face was far from finished, but I was getting tired and frustrated and had to stop for the day. I was happy with the block in for the rest of it, but her face was just too short and her nose was very wrong. That black mark on her neck is the dead center of the photo and should be the dead center of the painting. I used a grid to transfer the image initially using a light pink pastel pencil for the drawing of the grid and lines onto the canvas stained a dark brown.

Day 1 of portrait

Much to do yet.

In any case, I used a scrap of my oil primed canvas and used rabbit skin glue to attach it to a scrap of Masonite board to make a rigid panel. I’m not entirely sure I like the texture as I think it is a bit rough for some reason. I will seek a smoother surface for the next portrait which will involve additional coats of ground and more sanding and drying time… sigh.

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