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Old 11-14-2002, 10:50 PM   #1
Enzie Shahmiri Enzie Shahmiri is offline
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Composition of Alexander's Portrait




I have a question regarding the composition.

This is my son, Alex when he was six years old. The way he has his fingers placed and the way he looks at you, all imply that he is waiting to do something. On the original photo he was waiting to blow out candles.

I feel he needs something placed in front of him to make the picture complete. I drew in a very rough chessboard with a few pieces to lead the viewer into his space.

Which composition do you recommend and why?

This will be a 8" x 10" oil painting on board. I needed a sample piece to show to customers for size relationships between small and large portraits and their impact as a whole.
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Old 11-16-2002, 01:46 PM   #2
Enzie Shahmiri Enzie Shahmiri is offline
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Developing the Composition

As I mentioned before, I needed a sample piece for my portfolio and with this in mind, I looked through our family photos in search of a piece. Based on the wonderful instructions on this site, I asked myself these compositional questions:

1. Balanced yet Unequal?
The Negative space vs. the Positive space is definitely unequal.

2. Does an eye path exist?
The extended finger leads the viewer into Alex
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Old 11-16-2002, 01:59 PM   #3
Chris Saper Chris Saper is offline
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Dear Enzie,

Notwithstanding the fact that your inquiry is about composition, I do not recommend painting a portfolio piece from this photograph.

The flash attachment on the camera that was used to take this photo rendered it a poor candidate as a painting resource. If you want to build the best portfolio you can, you can not start with poor source material.
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Old 11-17-2002, 12:22 AM   #4
Michele Rushworth Michele Rushworth is offline
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I would second Chris' opinion, and add a couple more reasons as to why I wouldn't paint a sample from this photo. His mouth is in a very awkward transitional position and I feel that his hand leads the viewer out of the painting, not in.

There's also one more reason why you might not want to paint this as you've discussed. Do you really want to be painting 8" x 10" portraits? If you'd really like to get some commissions at that size, then by all means paint an 8" x 10" sample. You may find that the work involved in painting a tiny portrait is the same as one painted life size, though, and you probably won't be able to get the same price as you would for a larger painting.

If your goal is to show clients how a larger painting has more impact and thus encourage them to commission larger pieces, then just paint larger pieces to show.
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Old 11-17-2002, 12:50 PM   #5
Enzie Shahmiri Enzie Shahmiri is offline
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Chris, your point is well taken, but I have already spent considerable time working on the piece and I am planning to finish it. My light source came from a chandelier above his head and candles on a birthday cake. There has been a lot of talk about proper lighting and quality photos, but no samples have been submitted as to what exactly constitutes a good photo.

Depending on the outcome of this piece, I will reevaluate its suitability for the portfolio.

Michele, your observation about the finger is interesting. I feel this is somewhat like the argument that the glass is either half full or half empty. Could one not take his finger and come in, rather than go out? The finger
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Old 11-17-2002, 01:28 PM   #6
Michele Rushworth Michele Rushworth is offline
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I do think having a chess piece facing to the left, and positioned just to the right of his finger, is a good idea, to stop the visual flow out of the painting.

Back to the topic of getting the price that your work is worth: I have found that the key is making sure my work is shown to people who do have money to spend.

I have donated head-and-shoulder portraits to four VERY high end private school charity auctions in the past year. Every one of the four winners has contracted to pay me thousands of dollars more to upgrade to full figure portraits with complex backgrounds, or to do three-quarter length portraits with two kids.

These are folks who spend $10,000 a year to send one child to private school, and who live in multi-million dollar homes. They also have friends with a lot more money to spend than what my friends or I have!

I also hung four of my life size portraits in the public library in a very upscale part of town. That led to a commission which will turn out to be about $7,000. That client has agreed to do an unveiling party for me next spring when the painting is finished, and to invite her neighbors who also live in multi-million dollar homes.

So, the key is to get the right work in front of the right people and you will get sales.

Good luck!
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Old 11-17-2002, 01:56 PM   #7
Enzie Shahmiri Enzie Shahmiri is offline
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Michelle,

The
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Old 11-18-2002, 12:04 AM   #8
Karin Wells Karin Wells is offline
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Composition isn't really the problem

Just to reinforce Chris Saper's observation, that although this is a cute photo of your son, it is not suitable for a painting reference. The light is all wrong.

You are quite fortunate to have a choice and I agree that it is tough to abandon something that has a lot of your time and effort tied up in it. But you have a real opportunity to learn something right now by making the extra effort necessary to begin your project on a solid foundation. Many good lessons are painful to learn, but worth it in the long run because you will learn to be a better painter.

If you search this Forum, you will find plenty of information about (and examples of) photos where the light is correct for painting.

Good luck.
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Old 11-18-2002, 03:12 AM   #9
Cynthia Daniel Cynthia Daniel is offline
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Enzie,

Quote:
There has been a lot of talk about proper lighting and quality photos, but no samples have been submitted as to what exactly constitutes a good photo.
There's quite a bit of information available under Resource Photo Critiques regarding what constitutes a good photo from which to paint. It may not be spelled out 1, 2 3, but if you study the various posts, there's much valuable information there.
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Old 11-18-2002, 08:46 PM   #10
Enzie Shahmiri Enzie Shahmiri is offline
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Thank you all for your advise. I am already planning the next project, this time with a photo shoot!
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