When doing portraits, I like to capture something about the person I am painting as much as capturing their likeness – so I had a lot of questions when my client Asher approached me with the idea of giving a portrait as a gift to his friend Jack.
First and foremost, Jack is a proud grandfather to his grandson Jackie – so Asher made a point of getting his hands on a picture that showed a window into this special relationship (see below). Of course, like many snapshots, the background and composition of the shot weren’t necessarily ideal for a painting – which is where my process began
My first step was to work with the cropping of the image to get a good composition and bring the focus in to Jack and Jackie’s faces. From there, I worked with Asher’s input about Jack. As it turns out Jack is an art enthusiast (making this an extra-special gift!), so I wanted to make sure my final piece was as much a painting as it was a portrait. I also wanted to make sure my work was in line with what Jack likes.
Jack’s favorite artists are Willem de Kooning and a Maine artist named Bill Irvine. My first challenge was that neither of these two painters are realists, so I decided to use a looser style than I usually do to capture a little of the feel of these artists while still making sure the portrait looked like Jack and his grandson. I also used some of the minimal palette of neutral earth-tones together with primary and secondary colors that de Kooning had used in several of his portraits. To create some interest in the background while still keeping the painting minimal, I blocked out a primary yellow field and then used a Bill Irvine painting to balance it out with red.
When I gave the final 18”x18” painting to Asher, his immediate reaction was “wow, that’s Jack!”. Better yet, when I asked Asher about how Jack liked it, Asher told me that Jack gave him a big hug when he presented it – and shared that Jack is not a “hugger”!