Commission 2009 - Grandma and Twins

One of my main delights while painting is capturing sunlight on form.  The reference photo was overflowing with light and shade making the subjects really come alive to me.

This particular commission was given to me by the client with a little extra information.  The painting was to be a surprise gift for his wife.  I knew the picture was a childhood photo of his wife, her twin sister and the grandmother she dearly loved.   I also knew the background of the photo was the grandmothers house and important to the memory of the moment.

 Working out just where to crop the photo was crucial.  I decided to leave the shadow of the twin on the wall as it helped to ground the figures (and incorporate some of those beautiful roses) but to crop as closely as possible without losing the structure and essence of the house.

I started the painting using tonal values to really help capture the depth of each person and to understand how the figures would work with the background.   I can usually tell how a painting is going to develop, or not, at this stage of planning.  This one looked great just blocked in.

I thought the ‘Grandmother’ was going to be my biggest challenge, as it’s been a while since I’ve painted anyone elderly, though she took form in the painting very quickly and easily.

Capturing the likeness in both the children was a huge challenge on such a small scale painting, each tiny stroke of paint has an enormous impact.  After spending many days on one child I decided to leave the painting alone for a couple of days hoping for new perspective.  It helped a lot.

I loved the connection created in the photo between the girls and the grandmother regarding the colour of their clothing.  It brought back personal memories for me as my sister and I were always dressed in the same outfit with her in blue and me in pink.

Developing the detail of the clothing was also something I enjoyed immensely and realised later how crucial it was in creating ‘presence’ for each individual. 

Making sure the background didn’t dominate or distract from the figures was important I therefore purposefully painted with little detail, particularly in the foliage.

Overall I hopethe painting proves to be a special memento of a cherished past relationship for my client’s wife.