I’ve been putting this one off for a while. Imagine doing a portrait of your mother for your father. No pressure!

I started with a blue colour field so I would not need to “fight the white,” as one of my instructors used to say. This basically means if you miss a spot while you’re working, the bare canvas does not show through.

After the colour field was down, I used a white Conte crayon (similar to chalk but smaller) and a measuring stick (or paint brush handle) to measure and draw out the main outlines.

THREE MONTHS LATER, I finally mustered the courage to start painting. I went in with the shadows first so as not to lose my drawing while working, and I find this provides a good basis to build on.

Once I had the shadows, I went for it blocking in the basic skin tones. This is about the point when the nerves started to take over and I thought, “This is as good as it gets. I should stop now.”

I pressed on with the basic tones of the hair and the background. Then I put it up on my wall for long enough for a few things to bother me enough to get my butt off the couch and back at the easel.

I did a couple of rounds of touch ups. These for me include an intuitive process of squinting, mixing, smoothing, lightening, darkening, and experimentation until it feels right as a whole. Music helps a lot to stave off the nerves here, when the stakes of mess-ups are higher, and actually enjoy the process. If I’m lucky, the painting can really start to come to life in this groove.

And here is the original. I didn’t quite capture the subtle facial expression, but I think I did it justice overall. Phew!

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