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Hints To Help You Paint

Jan 4, 2008
If you are going to paint a child one to three years old there is little help which anyone can give you. It is possible to get such a child's attention for only seconds at a time. Therefore, unless you are capable of storing in your mind sight impressions, the job will be very difficult. My advice is to start with older children and gradually work to the younger ones.

Don't try to make your task easy by painting a child's portrait from a photograph. It is next to impossible to get a lifelike quality in a painting when a photo is used; it usually looks like a tinted drawing. No matter how-exact and true the likeness, a portrait has no real value unless it is a fine painting - a work of art.

There is one legitimate exception to this rule against the use of photography: If you are painting a full figure, you can save your little model much posing by painting her apparel from a posed photograph.

Needless to say, children should be posed in the most natural way. The stereotyped poses appropriate for older people are not characteristic of children. Also, every attempt must be made to catch the evanescent, unselfconscious expression quite common to childhood, with the buoyancy, the clarity of skin, the fleeting smile or friendly grin so often seen in the young. Children lack patience so you must have it to spare. And children tire quickly so you cannot pose them for long. Between short poses let them rest by turning to other things.

As the features of children are rounded - the button nose is typical - no strong planes of tone exist as with the mature sitter. Lighting is therefore especially important; it should be arranged to force or key up any individualities of form so that they may be seen and caught.

The background color is also important; it must be right so as to play up the coloring of the youthful sitter. This can of course be adjusted by the artist at will. If his original background seems wrong in hue, he can change it either by adjusting the "props" behind the sitter, or in the painting itself. And don't hesitate to alter the colors of the youngster's clothes if they don't pleasingly set off his skin and hair colorings.

The eyes of the child are unusually large and expressive, so they must be located, shaped and colored with particular care. Speaking of location of eyes, if you look at a normal child from directly in front you will note that if you were to draw a horizontal line through his eyes this line would be about halfway between the bottom of the chin and the top of the head (exclusive of hair).

With a mature woman this level of the eyes is relatively quite a bit higher, and in the case of the mature man it is higher still. If, from in front, you face a baby or very young child, a triangle formed to include the eyes, nose and mouth will be very small in relation to the entire head. With every added year this triangle will expand faster than the rest of the head, so that in full-grown people (men especially), the triangular mass of these features is much larger than in children.

Vocational Opportunities

While referring to the child, it might be well to point out that many young portraitists with professional aspirations get their start through the painting of children. It is obviously but seldom that the beginning artist will be commissioned to paint a man or a woman - especially a prominent one - because most people just wouldn't think of spending on an unknown artist the thousand dollars (and up!) which they often assume would be the fee for a portrait.

Many young parents, however, proud of little Bob or Mary, would gladly pay a hundred dollars or two for a portrait which might be done in a few hours.

So you may just get your start by painting children. Good luck!
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