A Happy Place - painting the figures - commissioned oil painting demonstration

The Happy Place is now a beautiful landscape with flowers blooming, a rainbow arching in the distance, butterflies flitting about and sheep baaing in a distant field. All that is missing are children and animals to frolic and play.

So let's call them into the scene starting with the two boys and then their pets.

First, I mix some flesh colors using burnt sienna, yellow, red, blue and white in various values of light, medium and dark. Then I paint these colors in the skin areas keeping the right side darker because it's the shadow side.

I paint the clothing before working on the facial details. This will help me get the colors and values right.

Finally, I add details using the photos that I'd been given as a guide. This is not a quick process. It takes time and lots of patience to get the boys to look the way I want them because I do not have photos of them in a running position or with their heads turned as they are here:

The younger boy had expressive eyes and my goal is to capture that.

The older boy did not ever have a chance to run and play since he died before birth, but his twin brother who is now age 11 survived. I use photos of the twin as reference for his features. I want to keep the face and hair soft and somewhat angelic looking.

When the boys are painted, I add a gray cat, one of the family pets:

And then a golden retriever:

Since I paint pet portraits much more often than people, the animals take less time to paint.

Next is a chocolate Labrador retriever:

Now the Happy Place has come alive with the joy of children and animals!

For a final touch, a pair of bluebirds flit about in the pear tree. They are not noticeable, unless you look closely at the painting but they are there: bluebirds of happiness.

Since the sides and top edges of the canvas are painted, we cannot forget the bottom. I turn the painting upside down to paint the bottom edge:

While the painting is upside down, I check everything out.  Because I am not seeing things as they normally are when a painting is turned upside down, anything that is not drawn or painted accurately tends to jump out at me. If I can see it, I can fix it.

In this case, there were a couple of small things that I noticed like places where the paint was not covering the canvas enough, so I touched them up.

Here is the completed oil painting: you can click it to see it larger

I found it a very moving experience to create this painting since I raised boys myself. I hope that the piece will be meaningful for the family of these two beautiful children.

Here are the other two parts of this three part demo:
  1. A Happy Place, Part 1
  2. A Happy Place, Part 2
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Kessie said...

What a gorgeous painting! I think you really outdid yourself on this one.

Janet Zeh said...

Thanks Kessie. It was a bit of a challenge, but I enjoyed painting it. Perhaps I'll do more paintings like this - either just landscapes with flowers or with animals and children as well. Will have to think on this! :)

RhinestonesPast said...

It's beautiful girl, but you always do such a great job, this one is very special! :)

Janet Zeh said...

Thanks so much. It is a very special piece, I agree! I learn something new every time I work on a custom piece.