Working With Photos In Portraits

Working With Photos In Portraits

Last week I started a new piece for a gorgeous client. A double portrait of her gorgeous toddler girls. When I consulted her about this piece in late Spring, we agreed to start work straight away to capture their youth while their faces are so quickly developing from their babyfaces.

So we scheduled a photoshoot. Pretty usual for my practice – cup of tea at their house, a chat and a introduction to the girls to get to know their mannerisms and take some pictures for reference. All was well – they are gorgeous girls and very well-behaved with beautiful manners (the tea was exceptional too – remarkable (see ‘I don’t thrive without caffeine’).

But. These little ladies would not sit still! Beautifully vibrant and full of life, apparently I had to see ALL of their extensive toys and plastic vegetables complete with mushroom and chicken. They were not in the mood for sitting still. Woe was me indeed!

Fortunately, their mother, my client, was happy for me to capture them in action. So I snapped away, various poses, engaging the girls and getting – quite frankly – some lovely pictures of their expressions, vitality and happiness. And Tomy’s back-catalogue.

When I came back from the studio I reviewed the photos, I realised that while I had some GREAT material, the final composition would work so much better if I patched two photographs together (a complete no-no in my book). I wanted to incorporate two almost-identical images, but with slightly different expressions of each of the girls in both.

‘…bugger!’ I thought. This idea put me way out of my comfort zone. After all, I’ve always drawn people ‘from the flesh’, in situ and/or from a single photograph after a fat to face meeting.

Moreover, I don’t like shortcuts in artists and was never keen or interested in merging photographs for reference (don’t get me started on contemporary art….). I’ve always believed that the energy in one photograph can never be replicated by merging two, especially when it comes to the energetic, dynamic pictures of people and pets. It would end up like a 15th century wooden staged pastiche of people’s faces. No thanks! Not satisfactory at all!

So I began to research. And actually I tested around with the photos and saw what I could come up with ( i was desperate). I was not going to be able to get new photographs, especially with the idea of time and growing not on my side – these girls were away for the whole summer growing up in a far away country and I didn’t have the option to revisit the photos. This HAD to work.

I’m coming to the end now of this work, and actually I believe it is my best portrait yet. Maybe it took more more than my located time to get there, but of the purpose of exploration and discovery, (not cutting corners for this very unique case) actually it has tested my mettle as an artist. Thanks to some careful – and time-consuming – trials and software manipulation, I think I got it covered. Now for the client’s verdict…..