Portrait of Isabella

This little oil painting has been in the works for many months. It started with a profile sketch about two years ago, then a second round of profile sketches last year.

Profile Sketch of Isabella, pencil on paper, 2013
Profile Sketch of Isabella, pencil on paper, 2014

I decided to turn the sketches into a small-scale painting this past January. I drew inspiration from Leonardo DaVinci's La Scapigliata (Head of a Woman). I love how the work has the impression of an unfinished sketch, worked up to full form in the face, with the surrounding details fading into the background.

La Scapigliata (Head of a Woman), Leonardo da Vinci, oil on canvas, c.1508

I also did some research on portrait painting before getting started. I wanted to create this work using glazes, or thin layers of paint to work up form and color. Will Kemp offers some fantastic tutorials and courses on many genres of drawing and painting, and I followed his technique outlined in "How to Paint a Portrait in Oil" in order to develop a grisaille (monochrome) underpainting. Instead of his black and white, I decided to use tones of burnt sienna. Since the portrait is of a child, I also decided to use a brightly-colored background. I was aiming for something beautiful and soft with just a hint of youthful playfulness.

Here is how the image developed. First, with a colored ground, then an underpainting of the darks, Then the monochrome tones, and finally the color and texture. I didn't photograph every phase, but these three images give you a good idea of the progression.

Portrait of Isabella, Underpainting and Image Development

...and here is the final painting. Isabella loves it, especially how she "looks like a lady."

Portrait of Isabella, oil on canvas, 20x20 cm

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