Mischa, oil on linen 20"x20"
This is my latest portrait. I did eleven thumbnail sketches to try different gradations in the background as well as a full-size value study. The preliminary work showed me the importance of the highlight on her nose and the shadow cast by her ear so I decided that these would be the primary and secondary focus points of the painting. I chose a square format because it helped to situate Mischa in the right place relative to the canvas edges.
I photographed Mischa in bright sunlight which left me with a reference image that had very limited information that I could use to determine color temperatures. To provide a more useful reference for the painting I made some custom curve adjustments to the image which made the shadows cooler and the highlights warmer.
After toning the canvas a block in was started using a mix of burnt sienna and yellow ochre so that the darks could be applied over a strong, warm color. Once the block in was dry, the final layer was painted over the course of two or three days using long sable flats. The edges were painted carefully to help to keep the head as the center of interest.
I chose the background color and tone to help make the portrait more intimate and to keep Mischa's head as the focus of the painting.