Last week I felt like changing things up and took on a small (10.5"x13.5") portrait. About a year ago Meghan, a former student, posted a Facebook photo of her very blond little daughter named Madeline. She and her family took a trip out west, and the photo was taken in Yellowstone National Park. I told Meghan I thought her photo was iconic and she happily gave me permission to paint it--unfortunately she had lost all of those photos during a recent computer crash.
Maddy is completely unimpressed with Yellowstone National Park. Old Faithful is erupting in the background while an airplane contrail cuts across the sky. That reminded me of a Steve Martin arrow-through-the-head. Her fine hair is blowing all over the place and she is wearing a white t-shirt and one of those plastic gold medals you give kids. The bright sunlight is casting rather harsh shadows on her tired little face, and I worked on that first. I masked off a significant amount of her hair--the masking fluid is shiny yellow, and it protected areas I wanted to stay white.
I posted my progress on my Facebook art page and was pleased to receive this lovely comment from Maddy's grandmother Barb:
"You have captured our granddaughter's mood that particular afternoon. To say the least it was a long camping trip for two little ones. You do such amazing work, you have a true passion for art, and it shows. Thank you for painting her; of course we believe she is the most beautiful child."
Meghan loved the portrait too, and I can't tell you what a relief it always is to receive feedback like this, especially during the beginning stages when a painting can look awkward.
I painted some blondness over the top of the rubbery yellow and allowed it to dry. Then I removed the masking fluid and worked to integrate the resulting highlights with the rest of the hair. I also added the start of a neck.
I covered a lot of ground the next day. The light was a little too warm on this photo, but you can still get a pretty good idea of what I added, including her white t-shirt (the easiest item of clothing to paint with watercolor), arms, ribbon, and a bit of the background. It looks like Madeline is in the desert here. I had to paint the landscape a warm gray first before adding vegetation.
I spent the last day refining details and adding the medal, Old Faithful, and lots of trees and plants, including some small yellow flowers.
As usual, I asked for Jeff's help in titling this. My working idea was
"I Deserve A Medal," which Jeff liked, but then he tossed out "Honorable
Mention" and we both cracked up. There's something good but kind of not
good about an honorable mention. I think Madeline's face really
illustrates that feeling.
Prints are available here!