I had a hard time getting the colors in this portrait right. I did it in acrylic on a 15- x 22-inch sheet of gessoed 140-lb. watercolor paper. I’m not painting on that flimsy stuff any more. Watery paint kept gathering in the valleys of buckling paper. I’m beginning to prefer acid-free illustration board or 300-lb paper that will take almost anything. Canvas is good, too, but then I’m stuck with the format–I can’t crop out anything if the composition doesn’t work. And sometimes it’s fun to run some pastel over things, which I doubt would hold well on canvas.
I did this one in two days. The first day I drew it and started painting it with acrylics. Then I quit because I didn’t like what I saw and didn’t know how to fix it. Yesterday, I tried again. I got out a box of pastels which I’ve only used a couple of times in years and I colored right over the acrylic, which I’d painted over a coat of gesso on a cold-press watercolor paper block. Wow. There was plenty of tooth to catch the pastels but leave exposed a rich texture of acrylic. I didn’t know you could do this, mix media this way, but it worked. I was able to capture John’s likeness really well from a picture I took when he and Carol took me out on their sailboat on the Saginaw Bay last summer.
It began last fall when I painted a portrait of an old friend I hadn’t seen in years, using an emailed photograph. No one knew I was doing this outrageous thing that I shouldn’t be able to do. It turned out strangely well, considering it was a first and I was just playing. When a friend saw it, she asked me to do a similar portrait of the man in her life. She wanted a painting, not a coulda-been-a-photograph, although she gave me a photo to work from.