Friday, April 1, 2016

"Shauna Lily - Mona Lisa's Smile", A Portrait Finished - And the snapshots taken along the way.

Shauna Lily - Mona Lisa's Smile, 16" X 12"
Colored Pencil on  Ampersand Pastelboard

Well she's finally done, and submitted as this years 24th Annual CPSA International  (Colored Pencil Society of America) entry.  A portrait of my youngest granddaughter Shauna Lily.  The story of this portrait is tied to my CP art classes in a way and to the portrait of Cora, her older sister.

A few years back I taught a class to my students for recreating a master in colored pencil.  You can see that image below of "My Girl With A Pearl", my personal tribute to Vermeer's "Girl With A Pearl Earring" and my post of that painting here.

And of course when you do one grandchild's portrait you know your going to want to do all of them eventually.  As young Shauna watched me do Cora's piece she asked about which Old Master her portrait would be?  And with her coloring and the influence from my own mother's favorite painting we came up with a plan.  It had to be the Mona Lisa. And she liked that Mona Lisa and Shauna Lily kind of sounded the same.  While I didn't want to do her as I did Cora in the same clothing and setting, I did want the feeling of Mona's gaze and eyes that seem to follow you.  And of course the notorious smile had to be there.  Thus the title!

Next we had to take a photo as reference for her portrait and that meant a photo shoot!  Now what little girl doesn't want to model?  So we set up on a very rainy winter's morning to snap some pictures.  Below was the one I chose to work from.

Reference Photo

I always start a portrait with completing the background first so that the fine hairs which surround a person can be brought out and over the background.
Initial layers of pale skin tones defining the features.
I first lay in the pupil and iris, as adding them first help me decide the values of the skin tones better*.  The initial layers of pale skin tone colors are added to lightly define the features.  I continue adding layers of skin tone colors, varying degrees and going darker as I am contouring the features.

*Since my reference shot did not capture the warm colors that make Shauna's eyes so lovely I could not go dark enough until I had my son send me close up photos of her eyes in better lighting.  I find the eye color to be crucial in capturing a likeness as well as expression.   So I continued with the skin  a little before finishing the pupil and iris areas.

The photos below shows how I develop the skin tones further going into more detail as I go.  The shadowy right side of her face needed soft edges and working in that area one has to be cautious to not "dirty or make mud".

Excuse the iPad shadow here, oops.

Feeling like the skin tones are working well I need to get her dark hair in so I can see how the darker values in this portrait will influence the skin tones. 


 Completing the hair takes a while and I'm working in clumps and groups of strands as I go.   I ultimately wanted to keep the light blue highlights from the window light on her hair.  They look a bit white here but in the finished piece they are a bluish.

Now I'm happy with her skin and hair at this point but small tweaks and more softening of the right side of her face are going along as I begin her clothing.

At this point "knitting" her sweater has to happen and although I knit in real life I'm not sure I really want to do it in pencil.  But at the time this was a favorite dress for her so here goes.  I started to lay out the shadows and rumples in the sweater.

Purl stitches on the shoulder cap, stockinet stitches below.Knit 1 purl 2.  etc.  on and ooooonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! 

I wanted to get the garment finished because I knew that the pencil crumbles that always appear as you work (and especially on sanded board) would get onto her arm colors.  And speckles of teal/turquoise do not look good in skin!

As it was a few managed to get there anyway after I finished her arm.  !!$%&!!

Well there you have it she's finished! I hope you enjoyed a small example of the over 6 weeks this piece took.  I had shared the progress photos with Shauna and she was pleased.

Finished Piece "Shauna Lily - Mona Lisa's Smile"

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