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In this project, I used a few simple digital techniques to design and present a portrait to a client before I actually painted it. My prototype image also served as my reference for the actual painting.

A customer of mine wanted an oil painting of his son and offered a few pictures he had taken as examples of what he wanted. He also told me he did not mind at all if I wanted to take my own pictures.

Here are the pictures he took. I generally don't like flash pictures at all because they light a face in an unflattering way. The other two pictures were better, but too overexposed to show skin color well, so I decided to take a few of my own.

Here are few of my better ones. I follow the photographers rule that says "take lots of pictures, for out of every fifty or so, you will probably get two or three good ones". Digital cameras are great for this because you can throw out really bad ones on the spot.

I put Eric on the shady side of the house to get good overall lighting. At first, he was rather too serious, but he rapidly relaxed and became himself. I learned he had a great sense of humor and was remarkably mature for his age. As you can see, we didn't dress him up from the waist down as that part would not be in the picture. The cat also helped lighten the mood considerably.

I chose this picture because it best showed Erics personality. I was him, more than any others.

I needed to change the background from pine trees to something more dignified, so I did two things: I separated Eric from the pine needles with PhotoShop and then I collected some alternate backgrounds. I had an advertisement from a photo supply house that had sample backgrounds, so I scanned a few and placed them as layers behind the separated figure of Eric. Then I tried each one till I found one I liked.

This is the one I chose. It is also the one I showed my client (he approved), and the one I printed to use as a reference for my painting.

I printed the figure in black and white and projected the general outlines onto a gessoed panel, then I painted in oils in a traditional manner. Here is a picture of the painting in progress.

This is the finished painting.


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