I’m working on a portrait of Henry Martin this week. Last year I painted his older sister Francis, and what a different experience this commission has been! When I was taking the pictures, Francis was calm and serene, and did exactly what she was told. She held her little flower, and I was done taking the pictures in no time.
Henry, well, he does the opposite. I say that jokingly- he’s adorable and I just want to hug him. He calls himself “Hen” and me “Kay-kay,” and gave me a big slobbery kiss when I left. How could you not love that?
So I’m chasing him all over the house trying to get a picture of him. Everything is a blur because he is streaking past me.
His mom, Micki, and I try everything we can to get him to be still. We bribe him with candy. We put on his favorite movie, The Aristocats (he loves cats), but nothing is working. I mean, he’s only two, so it’s not like he’s going to stand perfectly still. Which is fine. I often work from several photos.
Micki originally wanted to have Henry holding a porcelain rabbit, the same one his dad was holding in his portrait as a child. We tried that, but in the end it just didn’t work. Henry is a lively, rambunctious, rascal and it didn’t fit his personality to have him placidly holding a heirloom.
So after taking LOTS of pictures, most of them unusable, I manage to get two or three that I could work from to make a beautiful portrait. And this one is going to be beautiful.
This is the study I did for Henry's portrait. I chose this pose and background because it expresses Hen’s personality. He looks so natural and relaxed. The elements of the background work to make him the focus. This is important, because you don’t want anything to distract from him. The red is so striking. It brings out his rosy cheeks and compliments the blue of his shorts beautifully. The lighting makes his skin glow and his dark hair shine. And I just adore his little socks and shoes.
For some reason, Henry's portrait reminds me of John Singer Sargent's work, this one in particular. It's very loose, except for the girl. This helps position her as the focus. It has such life and personality. You can imagine this is exactly how she is.