They were the most difficult portraits I've done so far. They're a little bigger than the others, at 8 x 10 inches, so I think much of my initial fumbling was solved by investing in some bigger brushes. But all the fumbling that came after that... I don't know.
It took me a good amount of time to settle in to my palette -- and to mix my 37 different hues each and every time. And while there were some exciting moments, like that electric orange on the eyelid, there was also a lot of fighting with exactly how dark that shadow should be on the cheek, the chin, or the neck.. and is it more purple or more brown?
I'm really good at reading all the nuances in one tiny spot, but I struggle with the bigger shapes, the relationships within the whole. What good is the perfect highlight on the lip if the whole mouth is too wide? And then the more I work into it, the more blended the paint becomes, and the initial vitality & expression of the brushwork is lost.
I think they turned out beautifully, don't get me wrong; I'm too much of a perfectionist to allow the piece to go unresolved. That's my problem, though -- the perfectionism is steering me toward ever-more-detailed realism, and what I really want to see is a looseness and economy of brushwork. This is always my challenge: doing less.
So now I'm trying to scale back: fewer colors, fewer hours, fewer moments of despair. I'm experimenting with collage too, and doing quick studies. Confidence, restraint, balance... these things just take all kinds of blasted PRACTICE.