Tag Archives: portrait

Portrait commission – Ellie Mae

The artist’s niece, Ellie Mae

I do not paint portraits very often, but this portrait commission came about so organically, I just went with the flow.

At Easter dinner on the family farm, my mother-in-law mentioned that she was looking for something for a particular wall in the newly painted eat-in kitchen.

She pointed to some decorative plates hanging on the wall, one in particular, and wondered if I could paint the girl in a hat, to go with her new theme.

As a professional artist, I did not want to be copying another artist’s image, so I said sure, we could just put a hat on Ellie (the only grand-daughter there at the time), and I can photograph her.

Two minutes later, I turned around to see her trying hats on my niece, Ellie Mae. I knew right away it had to be this hat. But it was all moving so fast.

My mother-in-law is a woman of action, she promptly placed Ellie on the edge of an armchair in the living room, and looked up at me.

There was light flooding in from the large window on the right, but also through a frosted window in the door on the left. It would be tricky to photograph. And my good camera was at home.

Still, timing is everything. So I borrowed my sister-in-law’s camera, and before long I had at least 3 strong contenders. It was difficult to tell, on the small screen, so I just crossed my fingers that they were clear enough to give me the detail I’d need to paint a portrait.

It just all came together so well, from the plates she had shown me, I knew my mother-in-law wanted an innocent young girl with a big hat and flowing hair. Ellie was the right age, with the right hair, and she was right there!

When I e-mailed my mother-in-law the image of the painting for her approval, she responded “Wow… really like it Donna. Love the eyes especially, and the look overall is eye catching and fresh … she looks like she could talk to me. Very happy with it!”

I delivered the painting last weekend, and it looked great against the red-orange wall. My mother-in-law was thrilled with the portrait, and I hope the rest of the family will be too.

Daily Painting Challenge, 30 paintings in 30 days. Day 4

Ants in his pants, side B, acrylic on board, 6"x6", © 2014 Donna Grandin
Ants in his pants, side B, acrylic on board, 6″x6″, © 2014 Donna Grandin

Getting a likeness in portrait painting is not my strength. I have a friend who is kicks ass at getting a likeness, check out her Facebook page, Shauna Johnson illustration.

That being said, I can usually get about 3/4 of the way there … so this painting isn’t my best attempt. I could have taken the easy way out and painted from a photo, not that that’s any guarantee, but considering my model is an active 8 year old, it would have made sense.

Still, I’m taking this month and this challenge to stretch myself in a variety of ways. I know from experience that each time I do this, I end right back on my original path, but usually with more insight and focus.

Anyway, although he stayed in the chair for an admirable length of time, my little model was constantly moving, picking up nearby objects etc. I let him do what he needed to, just trying to center him when I was working on something specific, because I didn’t want to turn him off of modelling for me. This was our first time together, and he is a budding artist himself, so I wanted to paint from life so he’d see what the process was like, ask questions as I mixed the paint. I turned the portrait to him every now & then as I made adjustments.

There was no fixing the crazy eyes though, and the nose is at the wrong angle … well, it doesn’t really matter, the point is in the doing. I cropped the painting in half, the eyes don’t look as crazy then, and I’m sharing the side with my initials. I’ve been signing these daily paintings with my initials in a new way, to distinguish them from my previous miniatures which could have taken a week to paint, because the price-point is different. Though some, like this one, won’t leave the studio, and will eventually be recycled (painted over). That’s okay though, it’s called quality control.




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