First Tweak "When it's Christmas. And you're five."
First Tweak “When it’s Christmas. And you’re five.”

I have developed a new portrait style called Tweaks. It’s probably not new, there’s nothing new under the sun, but it’s new to me and solves several problems I’ve been working on feverishly for months.

  1. I love pastels, but they have drawbacks. They are fat and you can’t get details, such as teeth in a big, happy smile. I like big, happy smiles. Pastels are also fragile; that is, they are easily smudged. Still for pure color and spontaneity, I think nothing beats painting with butterfly dust..
  2. I was a professional oil portrait artist long ago and I love the control and richness of oils. Alas, they make me sick. Literally. The fumes give me a headache and even nosebleeds. But oils can’t be beat for details, like the vein in the leg of a running horse.
  3. I like pastels on unconventional papers, like packing paper and construction paper. The colors of the paper sparkles through and adds life. But those papers will deteriorate over time. That’s not fair to people who buy them.

Tweaks are my solution. I make a regular pastel portrait on construction paper, letting the subject dictate the paper color. Then I take it into Photoshop and tweak it. I tweak it by painting in details, blending, using oil, watercolor, and spray brush techniques.

The finished product is digital. I can order a print on art paper, which supposedly will last forever. It will not smudge and I can get it in many different sizes. So far, the results are lively and…sparkly. Purists may say “anyone can do portraits like this.” No, anyone can take a photo into Photoshop and hit the pastel filter and I guarentee you it won’t be like a Tweak.

Below are the steps to “Maddy Dancing”

First the sketch. Yup, portrais look pretty ugly at this stage, especially on green paper.

maddydancesketchWhen the sketch looks right, instead of calling it finished, I photograph it and take it into Photoshop. I changed the coloring on her dress. The whole exuberant mood called for green-life and growing things, against that pretty upturned face in warm tones.

The original drawing wasn’t far off the photo at all and the finished portrait isn’t a carbon copy of the photo. The flying hair, the trees and lawn, the sketchy clothing, the vibrant blue eyes-all are deliberate. I used to do carbon copies, but they lacked LIFE. Maddy is bursting with life.


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