This is Faye, whose portrait starts off the TEACHERS series. She was two years my senior in medical school, and was an obstetrics-gynecology resident while I was on my internship year at the Philippine General Hospital. She is a full-time faculty member of the College of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. She has always been active in public health, especially maternal and child health.
We have kept in touch through social media, where she posts on a range of emotions, from bursts of frustration to giddy happiness. Most memorable are photos of her working at the obstetrics OR, cycling, belly dancing, and out adventuring with husband Allan.
Asked about what she wants to teach her students, she said passion and steadfastness but maybe more importantly, resilience in their professional and personal lives.
The drawing was done on April 4. The painting was finished on May 2, 2021.
|This is the reference photograph. We went through several and finally settled on this one. The challenge is to render the pattern of the dress by suggesting it, rather than copying it exactly.||The line drawing establishes the main shapes. The portrait has two parts: the face and the dress. I send Faye a photo to tell her that I’m starting the portrait.||The outlines are redrawn using raw umber. There is no attempt at likeness. The goal is to make sure the shapes are intact and ready for the next phase.|
|During color blocking, the entire canvas is covered with base colors + titanium white. The face is yellow ocher, cadmium red, and ultramarine blue to start with. Dioxazine purple and yellow ocher are the base colors for the dress. The same purple is used for the background. This is the most fun part. I call it the “alien life-form stage.”||Up to this stage, I avoid sending a version to the client, for fear that they would back out of the project. The face is made more human using white, yellow ocher, and burnt umber on top of the base colors. I aim for some likeness by marking the borders of the eyes, eyebrows, nose and mouth.||This is the stage where I have many doubts. I don’t have the face anywhere near the reference photograph and I don’t know what the background should be. I work on the face using burnt umber, yellow ocher and red. At this point I ask Faye whether she wants the purple background to be more on the red side or the blue side. She says she would leave that up to me.|
|I choose a background on the red side that picks up the reds from the face. With the dress slightly dry, I try to figure out the size of the patterns – diamonds, octagons, and flower shapes made up of triangles and quadrilaterals. The goal is not to make a copy of the pattern, but to render it in its most simple form. The face is starting to look more like Faye.||The face gets more highlights. The pattern on the dress is starting to become more clear. I make decisions on how the sheen of the fabric should be rendered, and tone down the yellows with white. This stage is focused on more detail work on the dress, patiently waiting for the lavender to dry so I can paint over it with a mix of yellow ocher and titanium white.||The face is ready for fine detail work. It is here that I think about finally getting a good likeness and getting the expression right. It is also probably the most labor intensive part, and where I have the most doubts about whether I could finish. Up to this point I have not used black. In the finished portrait, there is black in the pupils of the eyes, hair, and the shadow of the dress.|
This painting is the first of the TEACHERS series. More to follow.