After taking more than a hundred photos and numerous sketches, I have filed photos for 6 or 7 portraits, for later use, and have settled upon developing this study for my next project. The subject photographed is my 4 year old son, Joel, who is a very lively but, also, very affectionate child.
Reference photos are a great resource when drawing or painting children. It is hard enough to get a child to sit still long enough to take a good photo, let alone paint a picture! For this portrait, I have taken over 20 photos and, still, there is not one perfect reference photo. Of the two possibilities for the figures, the best happened to coincide with the least favourable background. So, I have taken the procedure to the next step and sketched my favourite figure with my favourite background.
These are very quick sketches so accuracy was not a priority, but this is still an important part of the preparation for a portrait. It allows the composition to be fine-tuned and any issues to be addressed before the point of no return. Colour pencil drawing is very unforgiving - unless very light layers are applied, corrections are often very difficult to apply. The other benefit of roughly sketching the composition is that it allows the artist to become familiar with all the aspects of the picture. Thus, mistakes are less likely to occur later and, usually, a greater harmony will result. Tonal studies and colour studies are further steps which are likely to contribute to the final success of an artwork.
Modern technology is very useful for speeding up the preparatory work. In addition to sketching, I use the computer to view my photo in black and white, in order to assess its tonal qualities. I also crop, brighten, increase contrast and alter colour temperature to help me compose my final picture.
Tomorrow, the real work will begin!