Monday, March 5, 2007

Portrait of Ada

Last year I participated in a Terry Ludwig Portrait Workshop sponsored by the Pastel Painters of Maine.
Our model for the workshop was a lovely older woman named Ada who had worked as a professional model when she was younger. Terry started the workshop with a talk about his working methods then gave a demo that took 45 minutes and after that we all jumped in.
The materials list for this workshop included Kitty Wallis paper which is a heavy paper covered with a fine grit surface and lots of tooth, meaning it can grab heavy layers of pastel and hold on to it. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any before the class so I brought Colourfix which is very similar but comes in different colors. I chose a warm Terra Cotta that I use mostly for my landscapes because it makes the colors vibrate and really sing. It also seems virtually indestructible and can be used for oil paintings, and all water mediums. I decided to bring some inexpensive pastel paper to try, the name of which escapes me, that had little tooth and holding power.
Ada-1 was done on the Colourfix Terra Cotta. I started by lightly sketching the arabesque, just a faint outline of her head, profile, hair and neck. After some scrutiny of Ada’s facial features and the light effects, I started blocking in large shapes such as her nose, cheek, ear and eye areas. Placement for these features is really important…just a small degree off and suddenly you have someone else staring back at you! Terry’s pastels were great for this…they’re rectangular, not round as most brands, so you can use the flat side for blocking in large areas and they won’t roll away when put down.
When the big shapes are in and properly placed the fun begins…This is where the real personality startes to emerge. Large areas are gradually broken into smaller and smaller areas using different tones, and varying strokes. The finish is in the eye and getting the placement of light reflected on the eyeball is really important. Terry’s help here was invaluable.
This version of Ada makes her look very strong and severe. I was trying too hard I think. Ada-2 was done on the cheap pastel paper, and though I didn’t enjoy working on it, the finished portrait is much more accurate in portraying Ada’s delicate features and sensitive expression. The paper’s poor surface wouldn’t allow for a heavy handed method so I had to use restraint and a lighter touch…not my usual style…I got two lessons for the price of one!


Kpeters said...

You have a great way of explaining the way you work....keep me learning!!!

klp said...

Thanks KP! Hindsight is very enlightening...this is helping me understand why I pick a subject for a painting. Klynn