Sketching Joy Hill From Facebook Photos

Many of my friends on Facebook post such excellent photos. The light or composition might be stunning, but honestly, I’m looking for the love: love of nature or the love of a dad for his son. It’s the element I’m drawn to more than light, color, and composition. It’s where beauty finds a home. It motivates and stirs me. The photos I find and put in my “to sketch” file are mere ghost images of what my friends love. Sketching them is like holding a precious jewel for just a moment.

Since the past two images I sketched were of living beings, I thought I’d mix it up a bit with a structure. My husband’s cousin owns a beautiful home in New Hampshire she calls “Joy Hill”. She is an excellent photographer and has posted many lovely images, but this one caught my eye.

Deanna's Joy Hill

Joy Hill web

Sketching Facebook Photos-Stalking in a Good Way Part 2

Neil ptg

My Facebook friends have no idea I am going to paint one of the photographs they have posted. It makes me feel like a stalker…in a good way. When I emailed the above image to one of my friends, I waited to have him tell me if this watercolor looked like his son or if it looked like a distant cousin or the kid down the street. With portraiture, it has to be right or it is all wrong. I hoped to hear back from him within an hour or two. I figured the more time it took, the more likely he was trying to work out how to tell me it didn’t look like his son. In less than five minutes, he called. “That’s awesome!” This guy loves his little boy so much. Can you tell by the photo he posted, below? The light on his face is so strong and tender. I just couldn’t resist. Neil 2

Some people want to know details and a bit of my process. Feel free to ask questions in the comments if I don’t explain something you might want to know. I took several workshops with Jan Kunz, so much of what I do is similar to her process. She is a great teacher and her book is excellent. I’ll post the colors and brushes I used in another post.
I started with a Bic mechanical pencil using a .7 lead. Don’t press too hard and don’t even think about using the eraser on the cap, unless you like permanent gray smudges. I use a gray kneaded eraser.
Below is the drawing with the first and second wash. I let each wash dry before adding the next. For the record, a wash is the same as a glaze, which is how some artists refer to it. It just means a layer of paint. I intended this layer to be bright so his skin would glow underneath the glazing layers. I have a friend who paints in oil and she calls her first layer “underpants”.

Neil process 1

Pretty scary looking, isn’t it? This is progress, but still scary:

Neil process 3

Below I’m starting to glaze over the yellow to get skin tone and facial shapes. Children’s faces are more about what isn’t there. No defined nose, eyes or lips. Lots of softening of lines and little bits of shading.

Neil process 2

It would have been good of me to remember to take more pictures, but at this point, I become focused on painting and forget. I take photos at the end because I am more objective with a photograph of the painting than the painting itself. In the image below, can you see the back of his head and his ear is too light? His left eye is too squinty, the shirt is too yellow and so many other details, but this is when his character begin to emerge. Neil process 4The final stage is an elaborate game of hide and seek, glazing correct colors and values. I mold those delicate features with a little bit of cool blue or warm purple or the reflected yellow light bouncing off his shirt up onto the bottom of his chin, under his nose and the brow bone. One eye might be just right and the other one…not so much. Or the mouth might be just a little bit…odd.
There is quite a bit of mumbling in the studio during this stage. I don’t talk to myself, but I talk to paintings. Especially when they talk back. Or if they are giving me grief. This piece didn’t give me grief, but I did have to encourage him to have both eyes going the same direction. Some people think expression is held in the eyes, but it really is in the mouth. The mouth affects the eyes, not the other way around. If you smile really big, those facial muscles will push up your cheeks, making your eyes squint. His mouth is very, very soft with more transitions of color than lines. Neil detail

“Well, hello, Neil!”

On to the next one…

Painting Facebook Photos 10

"Together" watercolor 9" x 9"

I don’t know if these boys inherited the songbird gene that runs in this family, but their mom, aunt, uncle and grandmother sing like robins in the spring. Years ago, my husband was their bus driver and every one of them serenaded him on the long ride from school to home.  Because of Facebook, we’ve been able to stay connected. This is a photo posted by Evelyn, the grandmother songbird. Sometimes one of them will post a video of a sibling singing and they post the nicest comments to each other. It’s a thing of beauty to hear them sing and “listen in” to their comments.

This is the final painting in the “Painting Facebook Photos” series. I’ve enjoyed it so very much. Your comments were so encouraging. Thank you!  I’d love to have you tell me which one was your favorite.

I’m going to start another series and I’ll post the first one in the next couple of days. This is a light-hearted and fun series to welcome spring.

Painting Facebook Photos 9

"The Shalom of Grace" watercolor

Her name is Grace. She is an orphan living in Kenya with Kate and Johnny who host an orphan home. There are also fourteen other children. Kate told me some of her story:

“We rescued her from an orphanage that made her work as a ‘maid’ for the home. She didn’t go to school and spent her days washing and cleaning for the other kids in the home. She was often beaten and just wanted out. Before going to that orphanage, her mother would leave her outside, not feed her, and beat her. So when she was six, a good Samaritan took her away from her crazy mother and put her in that orphanage.”

“Shalom” is a Hebrew word and although I don’t know many words in that language, this word is very special. In English we have words with many meanings, but this word has depth of meaning. From what I’ve learned, it means peace, but also restoration, wholeness, completeness, quietness, to be safe. But the incredible thing is that it also means the process and movement toward restoration, wholeness and completeness.

I called this piece “The Shalom of Grace” because she is at peace and safe in the love of her new family and she is in the process of restoration and wholeness. Here is a photo of Grace with her family, a picture of shalom.

Only one more painting left in this series. I still haven’t decided on which photograph I’ll choose. There were so very many wonderful images of my Facebook friends. Your comments on this blog and in person have been so encouraging. Thank you so very, very much.

Shalom…

Grace

“Snuggling Sisters” revisited

"Snuggling Sisters" watercolor

"Snuggling Sisters" watercolor in progress

Although there might not seem like much of a difference between the two paintings, the critic within relaxes. I’ve heard famous artists say there is always something different you would do in a painting, but when it is finished, just go on to the next one. So I’ve already started Painting Facebook Photos #9!

Thank you so much for your kind, encouraging comments!

Painting Facebook Photos 8

"Snuggling Sisters" 10.75" x 10.75", watercolor

Who could resist those precious faces and that hair? The mother of these girls told me they are always snuggling and love each other to pieces.

This painting has been going through what I call the “adolescent stage”. In case the term isn’t enough of a visual, I’ll explain. Most paintings have a beginning, a middle and an end, similar to a song or an outline for a book. In the beginning, I use large brushes, lots of water and relatively little paint. In the middle stage subjects take on definition. The last stage is for details with thicker paint using a smaller brush. The adolescent stage is when a painting seems to become uncooperative, stubbornly refusing to end and there is a temptation to torture it into submission. If you have ever heard “A Song That Never Ends” you will know my frustration. I know it is just paper, paint and brushes, but they do take on a personality. #8 needs a time out (maybe this one is in a toddler stage) and we need separate rooms for awhile.  I might erase the pencil lines and be happy with it and sign it or it might need tweaking just a tiny bit here or there…

I was away for several hours, looked at it and saw that there is a harsh line on the blonde girl’s jaw that needs softening because it is making her head look too big. I’ll post again tomorrow with the changes after I photograph it in the daylight. But their mother is eagerly waiting to see it so here you go, Kara!

Kara's Girls

Painting Facebook Photos 7

"Ella, the Biker" 11"x 14" watercolor

When I saw this photo of Ella, I chuckled. The “slow” sign did it. She is probably not old enough to read, but I don’t think she would care if she could. The sign obviously doesn’t apply to her.

Some paintings, like “Friendly Feet”,  I paint in pieces.  I sit at my painting table and apply the paint in a “paint by number” style. I painted each shoe and ankle separate from the other. It gives a crisp, bright feel to the image. With this little biker, I wanted to show lots of movement so I stood up to paint. I wet the paper on both sides to saturate the fibers and stuck it to a piece of  plexi-glass. I used a large brush to apply lots of paint, allowing the watercolor pigment to swim together on the surface of the paper. As the paper dries, I add sharper and darker details by using thicker paint. I used this same method to paint Hagar, the dog.

Now on to #8 in the Painting Facebook Friends series. This one warms my heart.