My Family Portrait Painting Adventure
Today I delivered my latest commissioned family portrait painting to a lovely lady who lives in Hutto and works in North Austin. Tiffany called me at the end of May and asked me to paint a portrait of her deceased father, mother and brother.
She texted me a variety of individual photos and snapshots of them, but there was no picture of them all together. I was challenged to put together a painting that would show them all together happily in heaven. And to make it more interesting, my vivacious client left no doubt that her dearly departed family would be more mischievous than somber in their heavenly location!
Planning and Preparing the Portrait Painting
I started with six of the family photos Tiffany sent me. I cropped, enlarged, cut-out and arranged and re-arranged the family members on a canvas. The biggest difficulty was putting them together in a way that made sense, with their heads facing the same direction. Then I had to pretend there was just a single light source (despite the different lighting in the photos).
Although conventional family portrait painting doctrine dictates “lighting from the left” (think Mona Lisa and most studio photography), I opted for lighting from above because most of the snapshots where lit that way — and it is supposed to be heaven, after all! So I came up with a composition, which I sketched and texted to Tiffany for approval. She replied saying she “loved it”; so it was time for the fun to begin!
Painting Tiff’s Family Portrait
None of the details of the photos were particularly clear; but in the end that was probably better. It forced me to paint my IMPRESSION of Tiffany’s Dad, Mom and Brother, rather than searching for the correct LINE to define a shape. Once the paint started flowing I really got to know the family well.
My family portrait painting subjects and I had lots of little conversations about just what they wanted me to do. Sometimes I would sit down away from the canvas and they would holler at me:
“Hey you can’t leave my right eye like THAT!”
“Do you really think my left ear is down that low?”
“I need more of a smile!”
Yep, they kept it up until I got it right. I texted the final version to Tiffany for approval, and she phoned me back — she was so excited!
Delivering the Family Portrait Painting to Tiffany
After two weeks of drying time I was able to apply a varnish (satin finish-UV protected). I arranged to meet Tiffany for lunch near her work. [It’s great to have a local commission and being able to hand deliver my artwork — especially the family portrait paintings. By comparison, wrapping one of my creations in a box and just mailing it away is almost painful.] I arrived first and watched the door; and before long a beautiful younger version of “Mom” walked in! I had to have a photo of all four of them together!
Tiffany loved her family portrait painting, which she says is a tribute to those dear people she has lost in this world. Now she’ll have them on her living room wall, where she can talk to them every day. They are a gregarious bunch; I think she’ll be hearing a lot from them!