The Process of a Portrait

By betterArts resident Jennifer Elizabeth Crone

In tenth grade, my then-boyfriend broke up with me a week before homecoming, right as the bell rang for me to go into art class. Seeing how upset I was, my teacher took me into her office and showed me a portrait she'd painted of her ex. Her advice? "Don't paint your boyfriends. Because then you break up, and you've gotta look at this guy." Ten years later I still remember that, but I painted Nicholas anyway, because I love him. And he would never break up with me right before homecoming.

To begin this piece, I applied vintage maps to a canvas, as well as a print-out of a ship I used as a source photo from a previous painting. I also incorporated some schematics I found while on a hike with Nick and his dad in Doodle Town, N.Y.

Next, I painted the canvas with beiges, whits, pinks, tans, and blues, allowing the maps and textures to shine.
For the pose, I used a source image that I took of Nick in December. I did a few preliminary sketches to get familiar with the shape, then drew a very simple line-drawing on the canvas to start.
Then I painted Nick, an hours-long act performed without breaking or taking photos:
I made the pillow behind him blow (in reality a dull tan), and left some of the maps showing through.
I added texture and light to the hair, added some aqua in behind his head and shoulders, and blending it all in. And the finished product:

"Swimming", oil and mixed media on canvas
Originally published at Jennifer Elizabeth Crone's blog, Sugarheart. To learn more about betterArts' residency program and to apply, click here.


Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.