I know, I know,  it seems like I have focused on many different topics, but I have a reason for working on portraits.  First of all, I have wanted to do them for years, but felt inadequate in my skill.  So I purchased a portrait painting course that I am using to improve my skill with portraits. And now,  I may have an opportunity to use those skills for a non-profit organization.  For those of you who are interested, I purchased the "Portrait Painting Course" by Daniel Edmondson. He is well collected and trained in the classical style.  He teaches landscapes, still life, and portraits using online/dvd courses, and also runs an online  art masters program. You should check out his website at His paintings are phenomenal!

     So far, I have painted five official portraits.  All of them are in mixed media, mainly acrylics. But I added slo-dry medium to the paint to make it more workable like oils.  Time constraints are the only reason I haven't used oils.  My biggest and best portrait so far is 16 x 20.  I wanted to do it in oils for an art show, but when I checked the dates, I found that it was in February of 2020, not later like I thought!  Well as we all know, that certainly is not enough time for oils to dry so I went back to my standby acrylics.

     The portrait I wanted to do for this show called the "Human Form" show is of a close friend who is 91 years old.  Nellie is a very sweet widow whom I have known for about 10 years. Her daughter gave me some photos to work from and one in particular I loved.  She is standing at an event and looking off into the distance, but the look in her eyes is special as though she is thinking about something good, and she has a small smile.  My husband called her the modern Mona Lisa!

      Now, Nellie knows nothing of this portrait, but I needed permission to use it in this show so I asked her daughter and she agreed. If it is juried in, then Nellie will go to see it for the first time on opening night. She will be dressed to match the portrait per my instructions and she will have her picture taken with it. She probably won't care for all the attention, but she'll get it anyway!

     Below are the steps and photos of my process.  Enjoy!

This is the photo that I worked from.  Her daughter asked me not to include the glasses, which I liked as I don't usually see them on her.  And, we did NOT use the plaid blanket!  I used instead a rendition of her favorite shawl.  It was multicolored teal but it was busy so I made it solid teal with hints of other colors instead.  You will see as you go further.

I have just roughed in the shape and background.  Her skin is ruddy (red) so I used a teal/green mix for the background.

This is a closeup of her face roughed in.  I was able to capture the look in her eyes right away and so glad I did!

I have in beginnings of her hair, her earring, and her clothes.  I have also worked more on her complexion.  A friend stopped by and said Nellie looked much younger than her 91 years. I want a little younger, but not much younger!  We do want the subjects to like their portrait so a little younger is good.

Close up of the final portrait.  You must look closely to see the other colors in the shawl.  Notice that I have hard edges around her face, soft around her hair and as your eye travels to and along the shawl the edges disappear.  That is good composition.  I am proud of her jewelry, it wasn't easy but I got them to look like pearls!  I posted this on the Facebook page for students of Dan Edmondson to get feedback and critiques.  Everyone was very complimentary of it.  Yay!  The final photo is below.  If you zoom in you can see all the variations in her aged skin.  That was so difficult!

After a few days of looking at this portrait, I decided that it wasn't finished after all, it was just too bland. It so happened that I received a beautiful scarf in the mail from my sister on that same day. That scarf had the perfect colors in it to go with Nellie's portrait!  So, I set the painting up and got to work.  The scarf had pink and teal abstract flowers with purply gray bands in it. I didn't reproduce it exactly, just suggestions of colors and design.  Then I changed the background to have more teal colors with mottling instead of being so solid.  It turned out softer, yet now it pops!  I immediately sent my sister a photo and thanked her for the inspiration! (and for the gift too of course!)

I framed this in an ornate gold frame with a white insert.  It looks very nice! The final photo is below.  Have a good week and keep painting!

As a side note, when you want to display a piece of artwork at your art association, always use a big, ornate, or expensive looking frame!  It is much more likely to be accepted into a show and noticed by the judges!  This is a fact that any experienced artist will verify and you will see for yourself over time. It can get expensive, but you can save a lot of money by watching for sales or even clearance frames that have nicks and dings that can be repaired. In fact the gold frame used for this painting was one of those.  Apparently it had been dropped and the store had repaired it, but the repairs were visible.  I purchased it at 80% off, took it home, carefully filled the cracks with putty, then rubbed gold paint over the repairs.  It turned out beautifully!

I sent this to Dan Edmondson for a critique and he really liked it, Yay!  His only suggestion was that I darken her nostrils and the lines on either side her nose down past the mouth.  They were too light, especially the nostrils.  He said it would make her older, but at 91, she had earned her stripes as they say.  I made the changes and the difference was amazing!

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