Painting Child Portraits: #2/3 ‘Princess Charly’

I really love painting child portraits, especially of my granddaughter Charly! This is the second in a set of three portraits I’m doing in the style of famous artists.

Franz Winterhalter Painted Child Portraits

My ‘Princess Charly’ was inspired by Franz Winterhalter’s’ masterpiece ‘Princess Charlotte of Belgium’. Winterhalter was the go-to painter for European royalty in the mid nineteenth century. He is most well known for his court portraiture and painting child portraits. Winterhalter’s fame spread across the globe; but he gradually lost favor with art critics because he tended to flatter and romanticize his subjects. Happily, he became popular and wealthy from his tactfulness!

winterhalter-child-portrait-paintingpainting-child-portraits-charly3Winterhalter’s Charlotte (painting) — Princess Charly (photo)

Princess Charlotte was born in Brussels in 1840, the only daughter of King Leopold I and his second wife, Louise of Orleans. Charlotte was about 8 years old when Winterhalter painted her.

At seventeen, she married Archduke (rarely called ‘Archie’) Maximilian of Austria. in 1864 French Emperor Napoleon III asked Maximilian  to become Emperor of Mexico. Charlotte embraced her new country. She changed her name to Carlotta and enjoyed exploring the Mayan ruins. I know this doesn’t have anything to do with painting child portraits; but bear with me.

After three years, France grew weary of the difficulty and expense of occupying Mexico. They recalled their troops and reduced supplies. This caused Carlotta to return to France to plead for assistance. Juarez led Mexican resistance fighters to retake control of the country. Maxmilian was promptly executed (firing squad). His last words were ‘Poor Carlotta’. Back in Belgium, Carlotta became clinically depressed. She spent the remainder of her life in seclusion (a quaint suburb of Meise) and died in 1927.

Back to painting child portraits. After this depressing vignette, wouldn’t you like to have your spirits lifted by a fabulous original oil painting?

I’m Painting Child Portraits for Christmas!

‘Princess Charly’ was great fun to paint. I’d like to spend the next few weeks painting child portraits for friends to give as Christmas presents. Do you have a young family member who deserves to be a prince or princess?

I’ll need to start soon to have your painting ready for Christmas.
Call me and let’s talk about it!  (512) 422-0654

Posted in Portrait | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Family Painting — ‘The Puzzlers’

oil-family-painting-puzzlersWe are family I got all my sisters and me! Sing it!

I love to paint flowers, still lifes and landscapes. But the most fun for me is PEOPLE, especially those I know and love. This recently completed family painting is a celebration of the last time I had a “girls weekend” with my sister and two cousins.

Although we are scattered across Austin, San Antonio and Houston, we still manage to schedule this special time without much difficulty. If we just make up our minds that it’s a priority! But if we’re not careful, we get busy and eventually realize it’s been 8 months since our last reunion. That’s too long!

Taking Photos for a Family Painting

When we are together, one of our favorite activities is working a jigsaw puzzle. There is something compelling about getting those weird shapes organized into a beautiful picture. And there’s all that teamwork! Last time, at my sister’s house, I made everyone sit still for some photos I could use to paint a group portrait.

Yes, they mugged a lot of goofy expressions. But finally I got a couple of photos I could combine in a composite image for this family painting. A bit of artistic license :)

Family — Painted with a Palette Knife

I tried to capture the energy of the moment by using my palette knife and lots of color. The images in the photos were so backlit that everyone appeared silhouetted. I figured my family painting “victims” would not be satisfied with that; so I lightened the forms and added a few details. But didn’t want to get too hung up in the features — it is an abstract painting of the family, after all!

There is such a joyful vibe when I am with this branch of the family — painting them brought back such great memories. When we’re together, we’re so relieved not to be called upon to do ANYTHING for anyone! We don’t discuss world problems or other weighty matters. But we do lots of reminiscing and laughing about our grandparents and parents.

Oh, and we all SING while we are puzzling. We just tune into an oldies radio station and viola — we are the Supremes, Elvis or The Four Seasons! It is DIVINE! These weekends are SO good for the soul.

I hope this family painting reminds you to get together with your favorite people in the coming weeks. Don’t let the time slip away — schedule it now!

You’ll be so glad you did! And don’t forget to SING!

Posted in Family Portraits | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Three Child Portrait Paintings — #1 ‘Charly with a Pearl Earring’

child-portrait-paintings-charly-pearl-earringLast month I had an idea for some child portrait paintings of my granddaughter Charly. It involved posing her in the manner of some classic masterpieces. I first imagined her as Mona Lisa, but then gravitated toward more youthful child portrait paintings.

3 Child Portraits — Paintings of Charly

I mentioned this to my daughter-in-law Sarah (Charly’s mom) one day at lunch. She seemed enthusiastic, so I started planning the project. Since I’ve done previous child portrait paintings from photos, I planned to have Charly over for a photography session in my studio. Much easier than painting a live subject – especially a precocious and active girl like Charly!

I got all hung up thinking about the appropriate period clothing, staging the background, and setting up the right lighting. But more importantly, how to ensure Charly would be amenable to an enormous amount of sitting still, prodding, moving and adjusting.

Well, just a couple days after I talked with Sarah, right there in my email were pictures of three famous child portrait paintings. And three amazing photos of Charly — dressed up and posed just like these masterpieces!

winterhalter-child-portrait-paintingchild-portrait-paintings-charly3Franz Winterhalter’s ‘A Young Girl called Princess Charlotte’

Sandro Botticelli’s ‘Portrait of a Youth with a Medal’

Johannes Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’

My brilliant daughter Sarah had turned this project into a game and totally engaged her six year old with getting EVERYTHING just right.

I chose the Vermeer for the first of these child portrait paintings, since it was so perfect! My plan was to do it in layers of glazes to get the subtle color changes. This would be more like the painting style of Vermeer’s day, rather than the direct method that most artists use today for child portrait paintings. Almost immediately I regretted starting with such a coarse surface. It seemed the colors went right into the texture of the canvas and made a smooth blendy look very difficult. Charly’s skin tone is more golden than Vermeer’s pale-faced model (probably his 13 year old daughter — not the servant girl depicted in the beautiful ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ movie.)

Completing Child Portrait Painting #1

I used 30-40 layers of glazes on her face; and with drying time it really took a while to make progress. After almost every layer I would think “Aha, that’s almost it.” The next day I would come back to it and see half a dozen things to change. This happened every day for weeks! But working on my favorite child’s portrait paintings is such a pleasant task, I hardly noticed that it was taking forever.

Historical Note: Vermeer didn’t gain much notoriety in his lifetime. His ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ was relegated to the class of artwork called “tronies” in which a model is posed in exotic garb with sumptuous fabrics to “whet the appetite” of an art patron in the hope of securing a commission. That explains the unusual turban — certainly not the normal dress of a Dutch girl in 1665.

The beautiful ultramarine blue that Vermeer used for the turban was one of his favorite colors. Made from crushed lapis lazuli, the paint was so costly that art experts hypothesize its purchase must have been funded by a wealthy art patron!

I know I am a lucky artist. I can afford to buy all my own favorite colors. My family won’t starve if I don’t complete my child portrait paintings in a timely manner. I have a terrific model (Charly) and an artistic stage director (Sarah) helping me!

Wow — I have it all! Vermeer should have been so lucky!

Posted in Austin oil painter, Paintings of Women, Portrait | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments