For this portrait project, we chose a message and conveyed it through portraiture.
This piece, Flaw(less), conveys the central idea of beauty ideologies. “less” is in parenthesis to help emphasize the significant role the word “flaw” plays in my piece. It reflects how celebrities and Instagram models affect the self-esteem of many girls, especially now that social media is so influential and plays a huge role in our everyday lives.
To convey this message, I decided to use acrylic and oil, to paint someone from the model industry because I wanted to highlight the point that taking care of their appearance is their profession, so girls shouldn’t replicate what these models are doing based off of their presumptions. The model I chose to paint is Kendall Jenner, considering she’s known worldwide and is seen as many young girl’s idols; which is why I wanted to show that people like Kendall Jenner, have flaws and insecurities of her own.
The visual elements I used to support my message is the body language, texture and the different stages flowers go through. The hand position, the downcast eyes, and the blushed cheeks connote the feeling of shyness and insecurity. The attire is ordinary but still gives an alluring and glamorous sense, complemented by the wind-blown hair. The use of texture represents the flaws, while the smooth areas show the ideal side. To prove that imperfections are normal or ‘attractive,’ I used the symbol of blooming flowers and the flower buds for the smooth regions of the figure.
This painting is meant to set a relaxed mood with its effortless and simplistic feel. I created this by making the color palette cool toned with occasional warm tones. I used gray, white and blue tones the background and tints for the flowers and clothing. Since the skin is warm-toned, I painted the flowers with shades of red. The shirt is colored with a mix of blue and red, made to bring out the blues in the grey background, and the reds in the skin and flowers. This way, it creates a sense of unity between the warm and cold tones in the figure and the background, while still maintaining its overall dim color scheme.
Before this project, I analyzed Jenny Saville’s and Anna Bocek’s work. Their art interested me because of the rough brush strokes, and the color block styled painting. Borrowing these techniques, I applied it to the areas I wanted texture, such as the neck, back, hair and clothing.
Excluding slight adjustments such as removing the text and shattered hand idea, the final portrait looks similar to how I envisioned. Although, I wanted the piece to look more sketched-like and loose. The biggest challenge was finding a reference photo and matching paint colors. Searching for a reference photo was difficult because I was painting Kendall Jenner, and there wasn’t an exact photo that matched to my plan. My solution was to find multiple pictures of her in similar angles and positions. Even though this made the sketching and painting process more difficult, I thought it was good practice for my observational skills, since in future projects, there won’t always be an exact reference photo I can use. The second challenge was mixing the correct color. At times when I run out of a particular shade, or it dries before I finish that area, I would need to remix the exact hue in the precise tone while finding the balance between the mixed in colors. When this happens, I usually repaint that area with the color at hand or make sure I have excess paint.
In this project, I challenged myself with new techniques such as using loose strokes and laying similar colors next to each other without blending to create texture. I applied myself to do my best work, so whenever I spend too much time on the figure and end up feeling frustrated, I would work on other less detailed areas. During class, I would try to set a goal on what to complete, and sometimes stay in after school to finalize it. Now looking at my completed portrait, I see improvement in my painting skills. It seems much more realistic the paintings I’ve done in the past. Under the circumstances of not having an exact reference photo, I feel like I included Kendall Jenner’s main features to let the audience see some resemblance, such as her signature long, straight eyebrows, feline eyes and slightly jutted chin.
Artist Habits of Mind
For this project, observing was a critical aspect. Before beginning our painting, we prepared our reference photos, either taking them ourselves or going online. Since I was painting a celebrity, I had to search online. I used 5 of the 8 photos I found. Each picture served a different purpose: the ear, side profile, hands, arms, and back, etc. Additionally, I also referred to the painting I was inspired by, two cherry blossom paintings, as well as a person wearing a similar style shirt to the one in my piece.
After analyzing other artists’ artwork, I already envisioned a brief idea of how I wanted my piece to look. I knew I wanted simplicity from the use of muted, dull looking colors, and expression through the eyes. The idea was inspired by a portrait on my inspiration page in my sketchbook. In my work, it’s shown through the color scheme, eyes, and the loose brushstrokes. After media testing the paints, I decided to incorporate both types in my piece: oil on the skin and acrylic for everything else.
Since this portrait is more realistic than abstract, reflecting upon my work was important. In class, I would step back and observe my work to check for any problems with value and proportions. At the end of class, I would take photos and compare it to the original to see if the adjustments I made were necessary. During after school sessions, I would ask for advice from friends on how to make specific areas more realistic, or about the color choice.
After painting a base using acrylic, I stenciled out the figure from the projector and painted over the pencil marks with blue paint. Then I began painting a base layer of the figure, focusing on values.
I sketched out the highlights of the clothing and decided to open up the eyes and have the figure look down. I painted in the hair using acrylic paint. The piece looked too dark, so I repainted the background with a higher blue/gray color.
The piece had little color, so I added tints of blues, pinks and purples in the shirt, and sketched out the flowers using pencil. Later on, I painted in the flowers using reds and whites, adjusting its position and reducing the amount as I went. The final step was to repaint the branches and alter the clothing so the color change is smoother.