Tuesday, 27 September 2022

Fantasy Portraits Makeover

Hello friends! 

I've really been enjoying creating some fantasy portraits lately. Here are some more.

This first one is a reworking of a previous one I've shared with you. I didn't like the lips. They were too big. They were too red. They were too bold. They were like a slash of fierce red lipstick across her face. It did not bode well with me. In the meantime, I've been taking more online classes, and one thing I have learned is that gesso is quite a miracle medium, in that you can use it not only to stabilise your substrate but also to wipe things out. So guess what I did? You've got it. I just gessoed over those dreadful red lips and painted some new ones. Hurrah.!

In order, first is the original. The second one with the lips gessoed over.  The third one, the final amended one.  I used pink ink instead of paint for the final one.  I also added eyelashes, which is some facial feature I do need to practise. However, I think they've given the eyes an extra lift. And I also slightly reworked the shading in the eyes which is something I have learned to do since I painted this originally. Altogether, I'm very happy with the improvements made. I'd really like to know what you think. 

The lips gessoed away, makes me think of a horror movie where a spell is cast and mouths are sealed with web like bonds, but which one, I can't think.

I'm not going to pretend it wasn't scary. It was utterly terrifying!! However., I plucked up the courage and committed to it. I don't know how I did it, because it was frightening putting that first layer of gesso down over the lips, knowing that I could easily ruin everything with no going back. It was at work down the drain so to speak, but I think it's paid off dividends and it's a much better portrait all round now.

I may have mentioned that I subscribed to Tamara Laporte's. Life Book 2019 but because Mum passed away, I didn't even begin it. Once you've bought one of her classes you have lifetime access to all the components, so I've decided to go back in and work through the lessons.  Because I bought at the early birds price, I also got a free bonus class. It's called Garden Fairy; this is my result. I'm very happy with how it's turned out.

One thing I have learned is once you have set down your original line drawing and start applying your paint it can be quite a daunting process. I'm sharing just a few of the stages here with you to illustrate what I mean. To be honest once I start laying in the flesh tones, they really look quite frightening, as if you've ruined it before you've even started, but you just got to keep the faith and keep going.  Layer upon layer of paint builds up gradually and you hopefully end up with a finished outcome that you're happy with.

So, I create my drawing, with which I'm very happy.

First layers of flesh tones, and I already feel it's ruined. This is the point to keep going.

Now I'm terrified. What have I done?  Keep the faith. Keep going.

Then as soon as I start adding features, the colour of the eyes and the lips, it all calms down again.

Final Outcome

I'm showing you two versions of the same painting. First one is without the vine leaves hanging down in the background. The second one has the vine leaves added. I'm not sure which one I prefer. I can't make up my mind whether the hanging vines are a step too far or whether they add something to the portrait.  That's the thing with taking photographs at every stage of development. You get to see how things looked and compare. Photography can be a very useful tool with painting analysis.  I am very happy with how she turned out, either version!  Do you have a favourite?

Just bring everything up to date before I start on the taster sessions for LifeBook23. That is a fortnight of taster sessions with various artists similar to the previous one, Artist Soul Gathering, I did with Ida Lang Anderson.  I have already started it.

Until next time.
Stay safe, stay well.


  1. Both paintings are beautiful, I love the colours you have used, too. And I must say, I like the first verson of the first one, she's a femme fatale, and it's very dramatic . In the second version she looks sweet. I've started the new taster sessions, too. Have a great week, hugs, Valerie

    1. Thank you, Valerie. It is a benefit of modern photography that we can take such photographs to do a good comparison. And we can take almost as many as we like these days. So far I've only done the Blessing Feather by Tam. I'm going to do Tony Burt's Memories this evening. It's a great opportunity, but at the same time the lessons come in far too thick and fast for us to keep. It would be a very productive person who gets them all done, don't you think?

  2. So pleased you are enjoying your art classes, having fun and learning new techniques. The application of gesso is amazing. I love both the first two paintings but I do agree she looks sweeter in the second.

    I think I like the addition of the vine leaves in the other portrait but it is hard to decide. Lovely to see the different stages as you work - thank you.

    1. Thank you, Ragged Robin. Yes, I am enjoying them a lot. I agree it is hard to decide.

  3. Deb, I do enjoy seeing your progression of art. These are really nice portrait drawings, my friend. I do like the vines in the second piece of your darling girl. I think it frames her very well! I enjoy seeing the snail friend on her shoulder. Very clever addition! Thank you for sharing your artwork! xoxo

    1. Thank you, Martha Ellen. Haha. You noticed the snail. There are many in my garden, so it seemed appropriate. Glad you're enjoying my efforts. xoxo

  4. Hi Deb. You've been having fun. I love the way different colourings (hair, lips) make for such a more subtle or vital picture. Like the first one best I think, and love your vines on that last picture. They frame her face nicely.

    1. Thank you, Bovey Belle. Yes, who would have thought you could have given a facelift or a makeover to a painting just using gesso. If only we could do the same for ourselves.

  5. I tried to comment before and it's out there somewhere. I will try again.

    I like the first portrait with the red lips because the red from her lips is pulled into the red of the flower. They are like two sisters. One bold and daring, the other sweet and caring. they both are beautiful. I do bet it was so nerve-wracking to take the plunge and use the gesso. But it worked out so well.

    Seeing the progress of the next two portraits is interesting. I felt like you, that when you started with the flesh tones that you ruined it. How amazing it was when you added the details of eyes that it would make such a difference. Oh, and what a difference adding eyelashes to the first portrait redo made.

    I like the first portrait of the second set best.

    Love and hugs,

    1. Thank you my friend. I don't know what happened to your first comment either, but it never showed up. You have no idea how nerve wracking it was putting the gesso over the mouth. I still don't like the original and I'm glad I made the changes. My feelings are that that mouth was far, far too big for such a delicate chin. I think by sharing all the stages of 1 portrait it helps people understand some of the things I go through thinking it's finished and then just keep on working to get the finished product. It's something that doesn't really happen when you're sewing or making other things. When I think of the pieces of paper that I've just thrown out because I think they ruined. When all I should have done was keep on going. And kept the faith.
      Hugs and love back at you Deb.


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