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Unknown Cowboy

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This is another Different Stokes for Different Folks challenge. Karin asked everyone who wanted to participate to send a photo of themselves which she then distributed to the group at random. No one knows who anyone is and the point is not to do a portrait but a good painting from the reference photo. Of course, wanting to capture a likeness is almost irresistible, but no one will know except the person who sent in the photo of themselves. The painting to the left is of me, done by John Wolff, who does not have a web site, so I cannot direct you to more of his work. This is a nice watercolor and it certainly looks like me. It inspired me to try a watercolor of the photo I received.
Here is how I went about the painting:

Session one:
Here’s the dude I got.

The first thing I did was convert the photo to black and white so I could see the values better with out the distraction of the color. Then I made a grid on the photo and a grid on my paper and started drawing. I did this because I know that a likeness does not come from details but from the proportions of the face so I wanted to get that right. I also consistently have trouble getting eyes to line up properly, so I added and extra diagonal line for reference.
After I got the sketch done I added a few dots of  latex resist to the right eye the tip of the nose and the stubble on his chin – all whites that I did not want to lose and were too small to avoid.
The guy removed all the background from his head-shot so I have no idea whether he is a real cowboy or not. I think not. I think he was trying to make things more interesting, which is the same reason I wore a red hat.

I’m thinking the black hat is way too bold and will overpower his face so I do some value sketches to see how I might switch things around for a better composition.  I like the last one best, thinking I’ll suggest some western landscape in the background.

Now I have to think about the colors so I do a couple of 2 x 2 color studies.

Speaking of color- the color of these photos varies wildly because the natural light in my studio was fading and I was using a study lamp for light.

I’m making the format bigger than I think I want it in the end. One of the nice things about working on paper is the option to crop the painting later.
Here are the first color washes and a B&W to check on the values. I find my digital camera very handy for this and can see things in that small format that I don’t see when I’m looking at the painting. It’s another way of “squinting”, I guess.

 A bit more color and I call it quits for now, leaving him as a Blind Bard for now.
Session two:
I allowed the painting to dry overnight before attempting the eyes. I didn’t want the color to bleed and besides I wanted to be fresh when I painted this important element. I’m glad the latex is there to keep that highlight!

Time to check the reference and the plan. The left half of the face is still too light and the nose looks like it’s sliding off to the right.

This is better but he’s beginning to look a lot like GWB!! Is it the white hat or have I just seen that face TOO many times?

Here’s where I decided to stop. I cropped it so his bright eye is about one-third down from the top and one-third over from the right,  a prime focal point. Don’t know about the red dots on his hat…hmmm.

Another adventure in watercolors! It sort of looks like him, but I won’t be hanging out a shingle advertising portrait painting quite yet!

18 Responses to “Unknown Cowboy”

  1. December 29, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Leslie, I think you did a most fantastic job with this portrait. It does indeed look like this gentleman. So beautiful, if one can say that about a man and his portrait. You’ve done this challenge proud!

  2. December 29, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    Well, well done! Beautifully executed and I love all the steps you shared with your viewers so we can see your process. You might want to get that shingle for portraits out right away!

  3. December 29, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Beautiful portrait! I love the colors. Thanks for sharing your process; it’s very interesting. Have a great new year! Akiko

  4. December 30, 2009 at 1:28 am

    So good! and in watercolor! Kudos to you! The cowboy should be happy!

  5. December 30, 2009 at 3:19 am

    Beautiful portrait! I appreciate that you shared your process and particularly the thumbnails. I tend to be too literal at times and this showed me a different approach.

  6. December 30, 2009 at 3:34 am

    It is nice to see all the options you had and all the thought you put into this. And it shows… It is a lovely portrait. Thanks for sharing.

  7. December 30, 2009 at 5:45 am

    Thanks everyone. Your comments really help me keep going!

  8. December 30, 2009 at 6:12 am

    A very wonderful portrait, Leslie. I loved seeing all of your work-ups. Well done!

  9. December 30, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Its a lovely portrait .Greatjob.

  10. December 30, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    gorgeous! Seeing the steps was great. You are really talented with watercolor.

  11. December 30, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    Leslie – I love the fresh look you gave this portrait. I see that you worked and worked on it, which means it is a true labor of love. The eye color is eye catching! Nice!

  12. December 31, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Well I think you should keep doing many more portraits. This one is fabulous.
    ps…… I love how you included your process, so nice thank you. Happy New Year

  13. January 1, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Well done, and thanks for sharing the entire thought process with us. Super.

  14. January 3, 2010 at 1:21 am

    What a fascinating journey from introduction to completion. After I saw the YouTube video, your portrait was even more impressive. Lovely work.

  15. January 3, 2010 at 4:11 am

    Loved following the progression of your fantastic painting – you did a fabulous job!

  16. January 3, 2010 at 8:08 am

    Beautiful colours, and you are so prave to share your process!

  17. January 6, 2010 at 11:32 am

    Hello Leslie, very nice picture! Funny to see the development of work.

  18. January 11, 2010 at 4:15 am

    It’s a fantastic job! beautiful work.

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