I was getting a bit fed up painting portraits with a black background. I had managed dark brown in the Shrimp Girl but this time I’ve managed blue!
This is from a painting by Peter Paul Rubens. It’s been called “Le Chapeau de Paille” though the hat isn’t straw at all. Rubens girl is shy, indeed rather timid. My lassie is altogether more knowing, and older, so I may have another go at her, time permitting.
I like the tilt of the hat, the touch of pink and the blue background but the modelling on face (almost non-existent in the original painting) is heavy. I don’t know why it appears to be blotchy in the photo, but it seems smoother in actuality. Maybe if I wash out the face and try again, I’ll do better.
However, the next copy portrait I am going to attempt is Van Gogh’s Old Peasant – a truly cheery picture, and I’m keen to see what happens.
Do you remember this lady? It’s a good while since I attempted to do some portrait “treasures” for my meander book. The small size is a good focus, however, and a chance to paint in watercolour again.
I am bothered about the faces in my “big” picture, trying to work out how much detail I need to put in them. Then I remembered William Hogarth’s “The Shrimp Girl”. The vitality of her face is caught with so few brush strokes. I felt sure she would aid me in my dilemma.
So, I made her the next “treasure”, knowing that the close observation required to paint her in minature would be a great study. I made a careful drawing, just enough to delineate the areas of tone, then, using very dilute Sepia I washed the paper except for her face and frilly cap. A light wash of dilute Burnt Sienna over the face completed this stage.
I darkened the underside of her tray, her hood and hair, leaving thin strips where the light catches the edges. She has a rosy glow to her face except where it is in the shadow of her tray, and her clothes also show warmth, so in with Burnt Sienna touched by Permanent Rose. Her eyes are very simply done, just a flick of dark added to the dark irises and a very slight shadow under the eye. Her happy smile is really only two tiny blobs joined by a line. Add blue for the shadows in her white cap and on the “shrimp” measure at the front of her tray, and she is done. She looks more modern than Hogarth’s girl, and I’ve managed to tilt her head slightly so she doesn’t look quite so happy. Evenso, I have to say I’m pleased with her. As a bonus, those “big” faces look more manageable now.
All my photos are turning out dark at the moment, whether I use flash or not, But I think the basic shapes are visible.
After a hard stare at the painting and at the photo of a stand-in, I came to the conclusion that his back leg wasn’t supporting his weight. When I think how many times I have corrected this error in my students’ work, I cringe that it took me so long to spot it in my own! Still, he looks more comfortable now, and she has somewhere to stand. Even so, her legs are now too long, and a bit like tree trunks.
It is less clear that I have done some work on the faces. There are difficulties here. The painting is very loose, so I don’t want to make the features too precise, but a reasonable likeness is essential. Moreover the size of each face is only 9 or 10 cms so the inclination is to use a small brush which in turn can lead to finicky brushwork precluding happenstance.