How big is a millimeter?
A millimeter is practically nothing if you're painting a sunflower or barn.
But it's the difference between fear and adoration if you're painting a baby.
Oh, what a sweet image this is! I was thrilled when I was commissioned to paint it. I couldn't wait to get started. As a general rule, I avoid faces - eyes, noses, ears... ugh... - As a rule of thumb, I choose images that tell the story from the back or the side. I thought that was just a niche that worked for me. But, I think that if I'm completely honest, I'm just too lazy to deal with the stress of getting it right on facial features! I was immediately drawn to the story that was told with these two boys... I told myself that they technically were profiles... sort of...
So, I drew it up and began. The background was so cool. I think it was some kind of barn with the paint peeling. I loved figuring out how to make it work. The shirts were a wonderful brilliant blue and came together fairly easily. The little boy's hair was easy and looked good on the first time around.
This was a fun painting. I had Pandora singing my favorite country songs and off I went with confidence on the little faces.
(I want to stop insert another issue here... I decided to try a new flesh tone recipe on this portrait. It said "great for children's skin tones." The recipe was Veridian Green, Light Red, Naples Yellow, and White. I think I don't know what "Light Red" is because I had a really hard time with this from beginning to end of the project. It kept giving me purplish tones - didn't want to look like I was painting bruised kids! - Or maybe if I didn't think it was fun to buy old tubes of paint cheap on Ebay, I'd have similar paint brands that worked better together... hmmm...)
Back to the good music and confidence... The faces came together so smoothly! I basically did them in one sitting... Then I got up and had a look at my canvas... I had a terrified baby looking up at a very effeminate young boy. There was no other way to describe it, How did that happen! I thought I'd painted exactly what was on the photograph! (See... here's the expression - terrified!)
I cleaned my brushes and quit for a few days. When I returned, it was time for careful measurement. How did I think it could have been right in the first place? The back of his little head needed a half inch shaved off and to be flattened on top. His ear was too round. And his eye was about 3 millimeters too high. Ok... more background, less head... good. Skinny up the ear... good. Paint a new eye just a little - is it even worth it? - lower... blend... oh my... three millimeters changed his scared expression in to a happy one. He looks like he adores his big brother! I bet he does.
So about that brother... what was making him look so girly? Again, I did some measuring. His ear was too far back - again only 3-4 millimeters and it was tilted just a little - maybe only 3-4 degrees. His nose was a little long - like only 2 millimeters. Wipe off the ear, build a new one and grow some new hair around it... touch a little more sweater under the nose... change the shape of the lip ever so slightly... and oh... it's a happy big brother looking down at his sweet baby brother.
(Thanks to Renae Burt Photography for permission to use her photograph.)