My process for staging and painting a portrait begins with something that excites me. With this portrait, I found immediate inspiration when I saw Jonah under the natural light in my north-lit studio. The work of Raphael, Bronzino, and Pontormo came to mind as I observed his poetic expression, long graceful fingers and the tilt of his head. I loved the simple drama and limited palette of his favorite black leather jacket over a white shirt, which was both modern and classic.
STAGE 1 I typically begin portraits on an overstretched fine linen canvas I have carefully prepared with four to five coats of gesso. Next, I tone the canvas with a semi-opaque turpentine slush of quick-drying foundation white paint tinted with a little bit of cobalt blue. An oversized canvas gives me the opportunity to crop each painting near or upon completion to what has revealed itself to be the perfect composition. I “inked” in my preliminary drawing with a very thin burnt umber wash as I started into paint, keeping things tonal. I used the head, scaled to life-size, to determine the correct proportions for the portrait.
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February - March 2020