Finally completed this. My niece, Skye.
48"x24" oil on canvas
Here are the previous stages:(you may want to click on it for a closer view)
Ideally, this portrait would have been painted directly from life, start to finish. Unfortunately , that was not possible. It was started and about 85% to a stage of completion on site, when various factors such as my niece's and her mama's apartment move (the new environment would be a different one than her balcony..not something I'd rework as that would be a different light and composition.) In addition, the final possible sitting was interrupted by a surprise visit from some of my nieces's friends, cutting the session short. Then I had to deal with my own major move, getting settled and back into the oil paint and working from life. My dreamscape work (totally from imagination) sustained me when I didn't have much of my supplies., or when I was bouncing between many errands of setting up the household here in Arlington.
Although I do eventually finish what I start, I was very uneasy about going back into this piece. When I work in oils from life, I feel strongly about committing to direct on site observation. Photos usually don't cut it for me. Still, I'll photodocument the scene for insurance in case a tiny area needs adjusting or tweaking, and something prevents a final on-site session. I know some painters do work entirely from a photo source and make it work in its own world. Although it makes the logistics of working much easier, (no fading or shifting light to capture, no crowds, no weather challenges) I just find I can't capture the color (the human eye sees so much more color than what a photo can pick up) as well as the urgency, the many shifting moments, just the vibe of being there. Sometimes the frustrations of live sessions are the fire behind the most successful pieces.
So not finishing my niece in that final life session left me a bit bummed out last summer. It was a situation that left me with this choice: either I abandon the work as is for idealism's sake or try to make it work in a new circumstance with a different approach and emphasis that may drift away from the totally naturalistic direct observation route. After warming up with several smaller on site separate paintings, I pulled out my digital references and tried to resolve this one. I found that my dreamscape work actually helped. That body of work it is very decorative and patterned, with areas flowing into others. I manipulated the environment and pattern of lights and shadows as well as tweaking other shapes of colors to make the composition flow better.
I still think three more hours of a live sitting > a week of studio tinkering from photos and imagination. I did lose some things in the removed studio route, but it was an interesting experiment nonetheless.