Figure Commission: Josh giving “Thanks”

"Thanks" 30x40" Acrylic. Josh praying before heading out into the surf.
“Thanks” 30×40″ Acrylic on 1.5″ thick frameless canvas. Josh praying before heading out into the surf. The camera likes to saturate red, but the actual skin tones on the painting are much more like the photo below. (Click on the painting image above to see it more clearly).

A few weeks ago, I had a request for another commission from Cheri of her son praying before heading out into the California surf. Her timing of the request could not have been better. I’m stalled in my Appalachian Trail series for the moment until I learn to paint figures better. For those who paint figures, you know it’s one thing to paint a small study of a figure, and quite another thing to paint one large scale. In small scale, a single brush stroke could be an entire forearm; in large scale muscles, skin tone variations, facial details, painting in layers… it all comes into play. What a great challenge!! I studied Vladimir Volegov paintings for weeks. What an awesome painter! You should watch his YouTube speed painting videos.

Cheri sent this iPhone pic and we chose not to crop the photo and keep it pretty much just as it is.

photo reference
photo reference

I wanted to focus on Josh praying and make all other aspects of the painting revolve around that concept. Here were a few consideration I made: I chose to mute the colors of the background trees and beach and not make the palm trees as tall and distracting. I also chose not the add the people in the background for the same reason. The photo grayed out the color of the water a bit, so I punched up the saturation to add some vibrancy that you’d notice from across a room. It’s a fun beach painting after all. I did bring Josh forward a bit as if he was next to the seaweed in the foreground to emphasize him more. The real challenge was keeping from getting too detailed, especially in the background. It’s a catch-22. If I try and get too detailed blending everything with small brushstrokes, it’s looks like I painstakingly did each part, but if I use a very, very carefully added single bold stroke, it expresses better the enjoyment I had in doing this. It really makes a difference in how Josh will enjoy it too!

When trying to critique myself, there’s a point to just let go and enjoy it. There is no “perfect” painting and never will be. When I ask myself, “Does this capture the anticipation to get out there and surf with his favorite board, but give thanks in prayer before going?”, yes it does. “Did I enjoy it and learn a lot about figure painting?”, absolutely. Does Josh like it? He responded, its “awesome” and he aptly named the painting “Thanks”.

I paint it, he enjoys it: Win-Win.

Thank you, Cheri for giving me this commission!!

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