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The Evolution of a Portrait

I've been painting since 8am today. This portrait of Ava Grace is the fruit of my labor so far. It's not yet finished. I still have a lot of detail to add. But I felt like taking a break to write a blog post and I want to show you what painting this has looked like from start to--almost--finish.

Portrait of Ava Grace


Here is the original photo I used to paint the portrait. Ava is my friend's daughter and I took this photo of her while we were waiting in line to ride the tea cups at Magic Kingdom. (It only took me 10 minutes to stop spinning after the ride stopped). The photo's background is terrible, I don't want to paint a crown on her for a portrait, and I don't even like how her hair looks. But her expression and the light in her eyes are PERFECT. It's so hard to capture this little girl with a natural expression. It's either crazy toothy smiles, tongue out, or frowns. I knew I could work with this one.

Original photo


My first step was to crop the photo to block out the crown and zoom in on Ava's face. I also adjusted the lighting just a tiny bit.

Cropped photo


I painted Ava's portrait on a linen canvas. Normally I use a cotton canvas that is primed in white, but my local art supply store just started carrying these linen canvases and I decided to try one out. So far, I'm impressed. Here is what the painting looked like at various stages throughout today.


I changed the color of her shirt from white to dark indigo and blended those colors into the background. I also decided she would look more like herself with a little more hair flowing out at the sides of her princess updo. All I have left to do is smooth out her skin, and add more detail to the lips, eyes and hair.

Almost finished!

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