Current Work

To celebrate the grand opening of the website I thought of recording the painting of my youngest son's portrait.  I finished this sketch over the weekend and, now that the website is up and running, I look forward to spending some time painting. 

My sons flipped a coin in order to decide who I would paint first. My youngest won over calls for "best two out of three" by his older brother.  During the past month or so I've tried several times to sit my youngest down in order to photograph him for a proper portrait. This gave him a chance to make his best silly faces for the camera.  Out of the several hundred pictures taken (which made me really appreciate digital cameras), this picture of him with his impish smile really stood out to me and my wife.  I'm hoping to capture his subdued smile and his personality.

So I usually start off most of my paintings with paints greatly thinned with matte medium to serve as the base layers. For this I used payne's grey with a small amount of van dyke brown for the shirt and a mixture cobalt blue and brilliant blue for the background.  As the background stands right now I haven't decided if I'm going to make a gradation from top to bottom or just keep it as one homogeneous color. I usually keep the base layers limited to three or four colors so as to unify the painting and to simplify the layering process.

The color contrast in the background in this picture and the following photographs is created by the lighting I use in my studio combined with using a smartphone camera.

As I begin to bring up the shadows on the side of his face I used red oxide mixed to varying to degrees with white and van dyke brown and will begin to blend as the painting proceeds. These initial layers are often pretty clunky looking and it takes several sessions to begin blending the light and dark tones in a way that resembles shadows on a real face.  I always am questioning if I'm taking the painting in the right direction in the beginning and take a lot of time to stop working and step back from the painting a few feet to see if the direction I'm headed works.

I mix it the colors of the skin and hair more and more in order to create shadows of the same tone. The lighter side of his face still contrasts starkly with the darker side and in further sessions, I will start to even this contrast out and bring out highlights along his cheek bones and forehead.

So I received some feedback that the dimple above his lip was way too dark and I agree.  At this point in the painting, I switched to a more pigment rich mixture and began to smooth the the features as you can see in the following picture.  I've always found skin tones tricky and like to build up a base of very translucent layers before starting this process and have found it gives the skin a living glow. 

At this point in the painting I've gotten about as dark as I am going to get with his face and will start to really bring the face together. I begin to add successively lighter colors with successively more red in them to bring out the glow in the skin.  I also begin to blend some of the more linear features on his face by adding very thin glazes of paint.

I also add thick highlights to the hair with an extremely light opaque layer that I will paint over in order give the hair some depth.  I've always found portraying hair to be a challenge and keep experimenting with ways to best portray it. For me, giving short hair depth is something I'm always trying to perfect to some degree.  

And here is the final result!  I'm fairly happy with it overall and my son is pleased with it as well. Currently this piece has taken residence in our living room until we figure out where to permanently hang it.  Next up I'll be taking on my older son's portrait for which I just stretched the canvas tonight and am looking forward to it.  I hope you'll keep checking back for updates.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know at

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