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.

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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. Nicoleโ€™s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Readerโ€™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.