As an artist, I’m always looking for subjects to paint. A colleague of mine got married in November 2011 and when she returned from honeymoon, I asked if I could see her wedding photos. Obviously, I had an alternative agenda – she’s very pretty and I thought it would be lovely to paint her. Also, the wedding was traditionally Indian and I had visions of beautiful outfits in bold colours, which would be great to paint.
Well, I wasn’t disappointed! She showed me a beautiful photo of her in profile with a stunning red and gold veil, henna painted on her hands and stunning jewellery. I asked if she would allow me to paint it, and she agreed.
I printed the photo on a transparency and traced it onto the canvas with a terracotta pastel pencil. The terracotta shows up very nicely on the white canvas and it doesn’t interfere with the colour of the paint like graphite does.
I had to take a decision on the background – on the photo it is light, but I thought a dark background will make her face stand out much better. Decisions, decisions. I finally decided in a mottled grey/black background – darker on the left side than on the right. Time will tell if it will work.
I started on the first layer of the skin. I used flesh, made darker with Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber, and for the lighter areas, I blended with white. The nostril’s dark colour was done with Burnt Umber and Alizarin Crimson – it makes a beautiful dark colour without being black. One of my teachers always said that the only thing on a face that is pure black, is the pupil. Good point.
The cheek had a decidedly red tinge to it, and I mixed Alizarin Crimson into the flesh colour. The lips were done with Alizarin Crimson and Burnt Sienna for the upper lip, lightened with white for the bottom lip. I did the shading of the chin and the background next to the neck with Burnt Umber. Two layers completed the skin.
Next, I tackled the veil/scarf. I used pure Viridian Green for the background behind the golden sequins. The dark red was a combination of Magenta red and Burnt Sienna, with black to give it a shadow. The blue/green patterns were outlined in a combination of Cerulean Blue and Viridian Green and filled it in with Yellow Ochre. I started building up the patterns as I could see them on the photo and focused on getting the patterns correct – the detail would come later.
Then it was time to finish the detail on the face and hand. I realised that the arm was too thick and made it thinner. The process of putting the detail in on the hand (fingers, knuckles etc.) took two hours. Initially I was concerned that the highlights on the fingers were too light, but I decided to wait until the veil colours were in before taking a final decision. It turned out to be fine!
The veil took a long time! I focused on putting in all the detail of the patterns. It was crucial to put in the dot in the middle of each sequince, as well as the thread binding them together. The henna on her hands was done in Burnt Sienna with a lot of turps.
The veil on the left of the painting is not quite in focus, so I didn’t put as much detail in there. When it was dry, I brushed over it with a thin wash of Burnt Sienna to ensure that it doesn’t stand out too much. I touched up the highlights a bit more after that.
I am very proud of how this painting turned out!