I recently completed two miniature portrait commissions (David and Isabela), and I found that working in colored pencil was well suited to achieving the detail I wanted in this small format. Although I have completed some larger portraits in colored pencil (Self Portrait with Tea is an example), I find that working with the small point of a pencil on such a large work can be tedious when working on areas of the painting that I wish to be less detailed or resolved. I do not usually start my paintings with detailed drawings, but rather simple sketches that provide the basic framework for the painting. Also, I find that my preferred method is to work very loosely in the beginning laying down broad shapes and colors, and becoming more resolved as I go. I was able to employ this method with colored pencil by using water soluble pastel crayons to create an underpainting in works such as Winter Blues.
Recently I have also been working in pastel, which I find more conducive to my style of laying down large areas of color. I use soft pastels almost exclusively, and can create smooth sweeping strokes or textures very quickly, and use the edges of the pastel for detailed work. Once applied, pastel can be blended very smoothly, a quality that I find especially useful when rendering children (Cate and Allison are two examples of my portraits in pastel).
This week I started my first oil portrait, and despite the huge learning curve, I am finding that it is quickly becoming my favorite medium for rendering portraits. Oil seems to be the most versatile, as I can start with an underpainting in sepia tones, or lay down large blocks of color, and still get the detail I want. I like that I can easily move the paint around the canvas, and come back to the piece the next day with the paint still wet. In fact, it’s so easy to manipulate, that I find it difficult to call it “finished”! Another benefit is that I work on an easel, which allows me to easily step back and continuously evaluate whether or not I am capturing the likeness.
My subject for this oil painting is Brian, who I also recently painted for my first pastel portrait. Next week I will post a photo of my progress on the oil portrait, and show a comparison of Brian in pastel and oil.