Updated: Jun 11
How you ever wanted a deep dive into the artist's mind behind a painting? Well, you've come to the right place! Here is everything you've ever wanted to know about my painting, "Portrait of a Candy Man."
Last year I decided I needed to paint something cheerful, colorful, and whimsical. “But Samantha, don’t you do that all the time?” Ah, well… I haven’t done candy in awhile! I theretofore set out to do a whole miniseries of candy-themed paintings, the first of which was this: Portrait of a Candy Man. Firstly I painted a whole mishmash of brightly-colored bonbons behind the man himself. Next, with a little nod to the formal dark portraits of the 19th century, I added mystery and gravitas with a succession of alternating brown and blue glazes. Despite the smokiness, if you look closely, you can still see the happy little candies shining through. Kinda sounds like a metaphor for our times, doesn’t it.
Genesis of the Idea
I got it into my head that it would be jolly good fun to do a painting centered around candy. The minute I got thinking of candy, a certain song popped into my head:
"Who can make a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew, cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two?"
Off I ran to the store to get loads of sweets-- for reference, you know. One candy photoshoot, a soundtrack listen, and a mouthful of Dots later, I was ready to begin idea sketches.
Still humming, I got to work on what my candy man would look like. To my surprise his house started to appear, too, but that story is for another day....
After doing a bunch of studies of dudes from the early 20th century, I picked the most promising character and began compiling the reference I would need to complete the painting. I used a combination of photos from the internet collected on my Pinterest boards and photos I took myself.
Once I had all the reference I needed, I got to work on the line drawing that I would use to set up my final painting. The portrait came together quickly. Sketching in all that candy? Not so much, but we got 'er done!
Color & Value Studies
Looks super busy, right? The next trick was figuring out how to manage the colors and the values to make my candy man sing and the candies support the portrait. I tend to favor dark people against a lighter background. When I tried the reverse, however, I liked that option better. I then tried a bunch of different color options until I had a handful of candidates that I liked. I took a poll for which one people liked best to determine which version I would paint in oils.
Once I had picked a color scheme, it was smooth sailing. Firstly, I transferred my drawing to my panel. To accomplish this, I scanned my line drawing into the computer, cleaned it up, and printed it out to actual size. I covered the back of the scan with lilac Nupastel, attached the scan to my panel, and traced over my lines.
From there I sealed the Nupastel to the surface with a workable fixative spray. I covered the whole surface in a wash of purple gouache, which I lifted out of the light areas, namely the skin, and any area that was to be light blue; I've learned from previous experience that purple makes a terrible underpainting for cyan.
Once the purple layer was done, I sealed it again with my spray and added another layer of gouache with colors that were more true to the final colors. Doing this gives me a head start in the oil painting process because it takes fewer layers for me to overcome any transparent paint areas.
I sprayed the painting one final time with the spray fixative and began in oils. I knew my face was going to take the most layers to finish, so I got a layer of paint going on the skin. Then I got to work on the candies. I painted each candy in a medium value. When that was dry, I rendered out each candy to make it look dimensional. I worked on my figure a bit more while the rendering dried.
I quickly discovered that the best way to mix that pink was not to mix quinacridone magenta and cadmium red medium, as I had supposed, but to mix the magenta with cad red light. It gave me a brighter pink, for some reason. I still don't know why.
With the candies dry I began the successive washes of brown and blue over the whole background to achieve that smoky dark in my color study. Because I used linseed oil as my medium, it took ages to dry between coats. I used to use Liquin as my paint medium, which dries faster, but I found that it tended to turn to unusable jelly in the bottle before I could use it all, so I've abandoned it that medium. Now I just try to be patient.
Besides painting, I also design the frames for each painting. That way I can handcraft a frame that fits the painting perfectly, and it's also cheaper than buying them.
Recently I've become enamored with this brightly colored wood called, Purpleheart. It looks just like it sounds. My candy man definitely needed some bright candy colors in its frame, so I designed a candy-striped inlay frame for it.
Attempt #1 did not go well; my framer and I accidentally switched the inside to the outside, so when we cut the legs, they didn't line up right.
We got the legs cut the right way with Attempt #2. Sadly the inlay pieces were all just a bit off, so the symmetrical design was off. Here's a little video showing the wonkiness that happens when you take a theoretical design to the real world and then don't measure your cuts from the center of the leg.
We decided to try one last time and... it worked! Never has creating symmetry been so hard!
And there you have it, everything you've ever wanted to know about my painting, "Portrait of a Candy Man."
My painting is currently on display at Springville Museum of Art in Springville, Utah through July 3, 2021. Please direct all purchase inquiries to the museum. You can contact the Museum here.
*UPDATE: this painting has sold.