Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Marriage Proposal

Commissioned oil painting on canvas 80x100cm
The brief for this painting came right out of the blue, from the young lady featured, in this most romantic of portraits.  She wanted the painting to present to her fiance on the day of their wedding.  Such a charming idea, which instantly captured my imagination.

But there was a problem;  the only photo of the marriage proposal was a rather poor photo taken at night in very dim artificial lighting, out of focus, of a very low resolution, with the bride-to-be's face almost completely obscured by her beautiful hair.  Enjoying a challenge, as I do, I decided to accept the commission.  What follows, shows the several attempts I made to do justice to this special moment in the lives of this young couple, and in particular the struggle I had to capture that lovely face on canvas.

work in progress 1
I began as usual by drawing the composition onto the canvas.  On this occasion with graphite, as I wanted to be quite precise about the positioning of the hands and the tender way they were clasped.

A likeness to the subjects wasn't my aim at this stage.  It was more important to show the posture of the figures, and how they related to each other.

work in progress 2

Work-in-progress 2 shows how I loosely blocked in the background to reflect the dark randomness of what in the photo appeared to be a rough stone wall.  It was very apparent that this was not going to work well, and would need to be re-thought later.

Leaping onward to work-in-progress 9 by this time I had softened the background, with the beginnings of light glowing centrally.  Almost from the start I had the feeling I wanted to show the young people as if caught in a bubble of emotion, where their connection to each other was almost electric.  Totally separate from all the other people perhaps there at the time, or viewing the painting in the future.

The loving expression on the young man's face clearly showed in the photo, so was able to capture this straight away.  I then began a similar process with the other beautiful face, which was less straight forward.

Having little to go on from the proposal photo, because her face was hidden by hair, the client provided many other photos of herself.  None of them seemed to have the expression I felt she would have worn at that very special moment.  I made many attempts to combine how she appeared in the various photos together with my imagination.  The client collaborated wonderfully, with images and emails flying backwards and forwards, until we eventually saw her perfect expression emerge on the canvas.

Finally she sent images of furniture and decor in the room where the painting would be displayed, so I was able to add soft pastel tints to complement the room.

This project was a great lesson to me.  Emotions and instincts are far more important than any technical issues.  Problems are there to be overcome.  With persistence, plus enthusiasm and feedback from clients, magic things can happen.

Commissioned oil painting on canvas 80x100cm
How to commission a painting.  If you have an idea for a painting you'd like to discuss with me, you're welcome to get in touch.  You can reach me by email or see more work in my Etsy Shop or website

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