Sunday, March 27, 2011

Maria #12 - One Hundred Alla Prima Portraits of American Teenagers

“Remember what is really important in your life and don’t loose sight of who you really are, stay focused but remember to relax and have fun.”
I added two layers of Rublev's lead white ground to this canvas,  tinting the second layer gray, and applied it with a palette knife.  It created a wonderful buttery surface to paint on, but the way I applied it left "lap" lines, which I didn't intend.  I have known Maria and her parents since she was little, which always makes it special, and I have painted her portrait before, holding her cat.  Couldn't help thinking about Sargent's beautiful painting of the Capri girl while painting this. I am learning to work faster, but still finding only four hours to be quite a challenge.


  1. See you're experimenting w/ the ground as well as the actual painting. Beautiful area/colors around the chin.

  2. Thanks, Pam. There were incredibly beautiful pinks reflecting back into her skin from her shirt. I really wanted to capture that. I am trying all different canvases in this series, seeing which works best when you only have one session, and trying different grounds and ways of toning them (imprimatura). So far I have tried oil primed, acrylic primed and alkyd primed linen, and they all have different properties. Slippery, semi-absorbant, and rather dry. But these are modifyied by how you tone the canvas, a whether you add oil to the tone, and how thick you paint. I am writing notes on the back of each canvas edge, trying to be scientific and observe the properties. I have also tried adding a layer of Gamblin ground (it makes it smoother, but more slippery) and Rublev's lead white (which makes the surface dryer and more absorbant, and you have to be careful with lead for safety reasons).

  3. This is all so very interesting to me! From a technical standpoint and an artistic standpoint. I'd be curious to know what appeals to technique/preparation over the other, etc. I'm sure the posted images do not do the painting justice. But I just love the color and emotion in this one. It makes me wonder what is on this girl's mind! She looks so pensive.

  4. Hi Amy, the truth is, the painting does not do the model justice! She is an incredibly beautiful girl. Sitting for four hours is pretty hard for these kids. I realized after Maria took this pose, that her neck was really extended, and I think it hurt! After four hours I am sure this effects one's expression. But I did sense other things inside her, thngs that have to do with being 19. Adolescence is such a hard time, and becoming an adult is not easy. I am not sure which painting surface I prefer yet, I am still searching and experimenting, trying to be sensitive to whatever combination of materials I am working with. Different brushes work better with different surfaces. Sometimes using large sable brushes helps on a smoother canvas when a bristle is just too scratchy.