Painting Humans

Although I can often get a human to "sit" for at least part of a portrait, I work fro m photographs to create a portrait of a human. I usually compile multiple photographs to accurately study and render the physical characteristics of the image which the commissioner desires. But an accurate portrait captures as much of the subject's emotional and spiritual traits as is possible. In human portraiture, especially children, I endeavor to get to know the subject either by a face-to-face meeting or by interviewing the person's companion(s), then instilling as much of what I have gathered into the work as I can. Children are especially challenging, since they change moment to moment and it's difficult to settle on exactly what to portray and then stay with it through to the finish.

Click on any image to see an enlarged version.


MEDIUM: Pastel; SIZE: 16" x 18"; Commissioned, 1994

This is my niece when she was 16, and although she was bored to death at some family gathering, the odd angle of the light and the tones in the shadows made it interesting for me. I was the photographer at the event and caught this to keep for a few years before I put it in pastel. Now she's past the age where she's embarrassed at what she looked like at age 16 so she doesn't mind me showing it to people and telling them it's her. (That's a good thing, because I practice on family members all the time.)


MEDIUM: Pastel; SIZE: 12" x 12"; Commissioned, 1997

One daughter of a three-daughter commission, Gabriella was the cutest of them all because she was the youngest. In every picture I saw of Gabriella she was laughing, and her mother told me that was how she was. Since this was to be a gift to her husband, I had only pictures from my client, and with children that can make a portrait more difficult. Infants' and toddlers' faces are different from adults'; they are softer and more rounded, noses are sloped and tipped back just a little, lips are thicker and their shape more pronounced and skin tones are warmer, to name just a few differences, and these can be easily misconstrued in photographs, especially when a flash is used.

Elizabeth and Rebecca

MEDIUM: Pencil; SIZE: 10" x 12"; (gift), 1995

These are the twin daughters of friends of mine, and when I received their Christmas card, which is always a picture of their daughters, I knew I wanted to render it in some way as a gift for them. I chose pencil because the girls are wearing flowered dresses, and even though that is fine in a photograph, in a portrait bold patterns often overwhelm the subject, especially a child. I also wanted to create something unique, and thought that pencil was different enough from the original photograph that they wouldn't have something that resembled an enlarged photograph.

Don't Want to Go to Bed

MEDIUM: Pastel; SIZE: 19" x 13"; 1992, NFS

It was Christmas Eve and she was 18 months old and, no, she didn't want to go to bed. This is my other niece when she was just a baby. I really liked how the backlighting deepened the shadows on the near side of her face but caught strands of her blonde hair. I also wanted to catch the pout with the fingers in the mouth.

Carol and Smudge

MEDIUM: Pencil; SIZE: 10" x 13"; commissioned, 2006

The human is a friend of mine, and I assisted her in finding Smudge. Unfortunately, Smudge was with her for less than a year, so her sister and brother-in-law commissioned me to do a portrait of her, and I chose to do the two of them together. Also, visit my "Manuscripts" page to read about Carol and Smudge.

Allie and Abbie

MEDIUM: Pastel; SIZE: 19" x 13"; 1992, NFS

Allie's loved her kitty, and Allie's mom wanted to have a portrait done for posterity.