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
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
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
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.