One of my previous clients recently asked if I could create a painting from three different reference photos of her grandchildren on one canvas. After taking a look at what I had to work with I told her that with a few adjustments it can easily be done.
Now to the step by step thought process ...
As with all commissions I presented her with some background ideas and she chose the one you will see below. My client loves to see the tiny toes unobstructed on a relatively plain background.
This was going to be a 16x20 in digital portrait and the first challenge that presented itself was to how to make the overall look of the painting be painterly with brush marks showing.
Only the little girl had a bit of an outfit and a headband showing. Since the painting style is realistic and babies skin is meant to look smooth heavy brushwork would have looked very out of place.
This meant that I had to be very selective where I made the brush marks show. Besides the headband, flower and sleeves the lips of the babies was suitable enough to add a bit more oomph to.
I love the noses of babies, the color shift is so subtle and with just a bit of highlight it pops right out.
To make the toes pop more I juxtaposed dark brown/reds against pinks and even some subtle grey. My second challenge was floating babies. Since my client opted for a fairly solid looking background I had nothing to ground the babies to. To somehow solve that issue I added ever so slight variations in the background color and then I played around with areas being in sharp contrast versus a bit blurry. This can be seen where the toes are.
Of course the whole process was repeated three times. Now how cute is that pout?!
When painting baby skin I use the softest brush I can find and try my best to avoid any solid lines. The eyes, even though closed had to be modeled by ever so slight changes in values. Where you see lines it is a series of dabs that have been slightly blurred to give the illusion of skin folding. It looks much softer than painting in a straight line.
To paint the hair, I tried to recreate the main look of the direction the hairs were shaped around the head. By using soft brushes and blurring them the soft fuzz was recreated. The crown was softened so that the head recedes into the background and tiny hairs were added to soften the outline of the head further.
I am moving on to the next baby and will revisit this one to fix a couple of things that I think could be better.
Baby number three underwent the same treatment .
When you spend hours looking at the same image you tend to overlook things. That's why I actually like to post work in progress shots on-line. It is amazing how quickly things that could be improved start to show themselves. I noticed that I need to soften more areas of the babies's bodies to make them blend even better with the background. I also need to make the light source read better. Since the reference photos were taken at different times and under different lighting conditions I have to make sure that the highlights read alike.
Sometimes I receive special request that mean a lot to the family. This was the case with this little addition of a sonogram. It took me while to figure out where to place the image and I finally settled for the headband. After showing it to my client it turned out to be the right move and I could not have been happier.
And here is the final version of the painting. My client is gifting this painting of the three little ones to the parents and I can't wait to hear what they think. If you like to order a portrait for a loved one you can see the available prices and sizes below.