Baby Wyatt Portrait in Oil

by Lisa Larrabee

oil  6" x 6"
Richeson 75 International
Small Works finalist

I was looking forward to working on this painting for several reasons.  First, I loved the picture and I was excited to create the painting for his parents. Second, I wanted to play with the process and try out some variations on a technique that is fairly new to me.  I thought I might try be able to use this technique on an upcoming painting on a much larger scale.  It was time to play!

My intention was for these mid-values to show between the lights and darks in the finished painting.  With this in mind, I used warm colors behind the face and hand and cooler colors in the shadows and blankets.

I began painting using the same process I mentioned in my previous post: Monochromatic Portrait Painting.  I used titanium white and allowed the colors underneath to show through by scumbling.

At this stage, in my previous post, I would have begun adding the dark values.  Instead, I opted to let it dry and glaze a layer of translucent colors.

I used minuscule amounts of alizarin crimson and cobalt blue mixed with Gamblin Gamsol (OMS) and Galkyd (oil glazing medium).

With the colors adjusted (and dry), I went back to titanium white to brighten the lost highlights.

At this stage, I added dark values.  I didn't push the darks to their extremes because I didn't want to loose the soft pastel effect.  I was very tempted to end the painting here, but I was caught on the idea of adding a very soft golden glaze to some of the highlights.  Also, I wanted to push the lights and darks just a touch.

I went with my instincts and tried it.  Let me warn you: a little goes a long way!  (and I mean very little).  I moved the tiniest bit around over key highlights.  It was so subtle, at one point I wasn't sure if I was seeing the yellow or if it was an optical after-image.  I made a few more adjustments and I am really happy with the result.  You can bet that I will be playing around with this technique some more!

~ Lisa


Monochromatic Portrait Paintings

by Lisa Larrabee

I started these monochromatic studies of my boys with the intention of glazing color over them.  This whole process was very foreign to me.  I typically build both contrast and details gradually.  Beginning with strong darks, lights and details was completely the opposite of what I was used to, but it was also instantly rewarding.  So much so, that I didn't want to add color.

Starting on a solid background color, I painted directly with white oil paint.  I began with the lightest area in order to make value comparisons against it. 

Titanium white is the only paint being used at this stage.  I did not thin the paint with any medium.  Transitioning from the light to medium values was achieved by scumbling with very little paint on my brush.  The effect is broken color that allows the underlying base color to show through.

Although this technique was new to me for a portrait, I had stumbled upon it quite by accident when painting the pin-striped baby blankets in my painting, New Day.

Once the lights were complete (and dry), I painted the darks in the same way.  I liked the old sepia feel to the portraits, so I left them as they were.  With each painting, I try to learn something new.  I started my painting of Aubry using this same method, but continued by glazing colors.  

I have also recently experimented with another variation of this technique that I will be posting once the original painting has been delivered. "Like" my Larrabee Art Facebook page to see updates from my teaching blog.