I just finished this painting yesterday at my friend Helder's house, where we were both painting his girlfriend, Sophie, who was kind enough to pose for us.
■STEP 1: BLOCK IN THE BASIC SHAPES
For this painting, I started with a general flesh colour for the face, then added darks to the shadow side. Normally I would block in all of the background colour early on in a painting, but to achieve a more spontaneous result I resisted, and limited painting it in only where it was absolutely necessary to describe the tones and colours of the face. At this stage, I was mostly just thinking about blocking in the basic shapes, but I was also thinking a lot about “big form modeling.” This means describing the larger, overall forms, such as the egg shape of the head and the cylindrical nature of the neck and body.
■STEP 2: HAIR AND FEATURES
For this sitting, I added the hair with my nifty new Langnickel brushes! They make really nice looking strokes! In rendering the hair, I thought very carefully about each stroke before putting it down. Then I made sure not to mess with them at all afterwards, to maintain the spontaneity. I used burnt sienna, burnt umber and ultramarine for the hair. Then I refined the features, and the overall form of the face. Once the dark hair had been added in, I found that I had to darken my shadows quite a bit from the first sitting, to get them dark enough.
■STEP 3: REFINEMENTS
While I liked the feeling of the brushstrokes in the hair after the second step, the shadow side of the head needed to be darker, so I worked into the hair a bit more, as well as refining the features and adding her necklace.
■STEP 4: FINAL TOUCHES
Although I liked the looseness and of the background up to this point, some of the diagonal brushstrokes were too distracting, and the contrast of her hair against the light background was just way too strong, so I carefully carried some more of the background colour around her head a bit more, being careful not to mess with each stroke too much, as I did want to maintain that looseness. I also worked quite a bit on her neck, which is a challenging area of the body to render successfully. The goal was to render it’s anatomy, which consists of tendons and large muscle forms, while also capturing the soft quality of the neck. Lastly, I went in and softened the cheek and hairline slightly.