I wanted to create a version for myself, since Kurt Vonnegut is one of my heroes. Unfortunately, I decided to remove the white vignetting on the painting by simply extending his shoulders and jacket. As a result, it looks like he is wearing a circus tent. Ugh. My options for fixing it are to paint over the mistake with a dark vignette, or to simply crop the image. I want to keep this as an A4 painting, but I worry that painting a dark vignette will ruin the painting even more. Instead, I think I’ll just cut it.
To start, I sketched the image using a drafting compass to help me get proportions right. I tried to measure most everything by “iris” units, to get a feel for how many irises the hands are, the face is, etc. It was a really interesting exercise, and I got to see some ways that the golden ratio appears in the human face that I hadn’t thought of before. For example, (1) iris, (2) eye width; (3) right edge of the eye to right edge of the nose; (5) right edge of eye to left edge of the nose; (8) right edge of the eye to left edge of the other eye; (13) right edge of eye to left side of the hair; (21) width of the head. I want to play around more with these proportions to see how well they line up in reality.
After I sketched, I compared my sketch to the photo by holding the photo under the paper and backlighting it to see where my lines matched the image. The face was pretty close to spot on, but the hands were way off. I erased the hands and tried again, and they were way off again. The third time, I marked some land marks with the photo under the paper, and filled in the details from there. This worked, and reinforced that I need to make sure to draw the biggest shapes first, then add the smaller shapes after.
When I started painting, I masked off a limited number of areas (seeing that Stan Miller appears to avoid masking quite a bit in his portraits). Then, I painted the background before anything else. I knew the pigments I would want to use in the painting, so I tried to use those in the background, and tried to make the background darkest where the face would be lightest, and vice-versa. I liked the effect this created.
Then, I layed down a very very very light wash of skin tone, knowing I wanted some areas to be just a bit toned instead of the bright white of the paper. I then built up layers by working the same exact skin tone into slightly smaller areas once the first coat dried. I repeated this step three times until I was down to painting just the wrinkles, and I liked the effect. Then, I went back over with some purples and yellow ochre here and there to add some interest. This process helped to get the dark values I was after without creating a lot of mud.