Commissions · Materials · oil painting


As mentioned in a previous post, I decided to create a gift for my husband and do a portrait of his mother. I also decided to treat this in a similar fashion to a commissioned portrait. I had him pick from my best possible reference photos from our visit with the family at Christmas. I also went over the possible option sizes and surface choices. We also reviewed where the portrait will hang and how it will be framed.

What I did not do is talk about my palette (color) which I may or may not do with a paying client. Those discussions would probably be more along the line of warmer or cooler, but not specifically about the paints chosen as the subject sort of dictates that in most cases. In other words, if asked specifically to match the sofa color, I might endeavor to make the client happy and find a way to incorporate that hue into the painting if it wasn’t too far out of my wheelhouse.

Now, mind you, my husband is my harshest critic and ALWAYS finds the one or two little things (sometimes big things) that he doesn’t like about my paintings, so to take on a portrait of his mother is no small task. However, I think I may have pulled this one off. (Yes, he had a couple of small critiques, but admits that the painting is a very close likeness and he actually likes the painting). I did find myself telling him that Sargent said, “A portrait is a painting in which something is wrong with the mouth.”

I confess, that on reflection, her right eye is a smidge too big and the tilt of the mouth and that eye is off by a hair.

The background color choices for this one made a significant impact on the rest of the painting. Mind you, backgrounds always do have a significant impact, but normally, the subject matter drives the background and not the other way around, but in this case my early choice of a cool pinkish hue really affected the rest of the painting because I carry my colors throughout. However, I do think it worked.

The photo I took at Christmas that my husband chose as my reference

I posted some of my process steps in a Facebook post, but for prosperity and to help my fading memory, I’ll repost here: You can see my palette choices and the first few stages. I did use burnt sienna to do the initial part.

Amazingly, even to me, I started in the next day and worked from 11 am until 4 pm (a long painting session for me) and got this far:

I signed it, but it is not yet finished.

At this point I was pretty happy with her face, but needed to do more work on her hair and her jacket in this very unfinished state, was just distracting to me. I ended up going back into her face as well to push some highlights. Ken liked it so far and this is probably the stage, or maybe even earlier, with a commissioned piece, that I would consult with a client. I think I would aim to send along progress photos every day if possible… but this one went very much faster than I anticipated.

So here she is finished but still on the easel.

And some close up shots to show the brush work.

I almost think I should have cropped it this closely. If I can figure out how, I may yet.

2 thoughts on “Mum

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