Painting a family portrait is an intimate and challenging subject, especially if one is not a photo-realist painter. It requires care and attention to paint portraits that resemble one's image while balancing the characteristic's of one's style of painting. I just finished a commission for a family of eight (plus). The painting has more than eight figures, it has each family member depicted more than once, extended family members, and a dog. The piece has thirty-eight figures total. Some of them are depicted as portraits in the background, a reference to fond memories hovering over what resembles a family tree.
I wanted to stay away from painting a traditional family portrait. I was not interested in replicating a photo that could be easily captured in a photo booth. The piece has been a journey and the process included breakfast with the family, viewing and collecting family photos, listening to some of their favorite memories and becoming enamored with the sense of humor of the youngest set of twins.
I started off with simple line drawings from their photos. I scanned them on to my computer, moved them around, and scaled them up and down. I instinctively new that their home was the ideal environment in which to place them. Their home was welcoming, and the eldest twin girls mentioned one of their favorite things to do is to sing and dance in the kitchen. The sentiment was perfect.
I made several digital sketches, dropping in accent colors here and there. Once I had an idea about composition and color palette, I began to draw the image to the canvas.
Transferring the image to the canvas is different from working digitally. I had to change my approach to the piece and ditch the digital sketch.
The perspective changes within the picture plane, creating opportunities for inventiveness. From left to right, the family dines in their dining room, watching themselves perform for a camera where there parents capture memories on film. In the foreground the youngest twins draw their own version of their family portrait, while their dog Frida keeps them company. The painting is full of symbolism, subtly referencing the memories they shared with me when they welcomed me to their home. Painting this family's portrait has been an experience that I will never forget.
You may see an image of the painting here: Portrait of a Family