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Portrait in Progress – Stage One

I’m working on a portrait of two guys, the brother and son of my friend Do, both called Ted, or more precisely, Theo and Ted. it’s my first ever portrait, something I have wanted to do for years, so I am very excited about it and plan to document my progress here (It won’t be like blog posts which are upside down always with the latest at the top, I’ll add stuff on at the end or probably create new pages as time goes on….so if you want to find the latest scroll on down)

As a source I have been given a selection of photos of them. For the older Ted I have a marvellous moody black and white self portrait taken I think in the 70s. For Young Ted, Theo, I have a wider selection and have chosen another self portrait, this time taken a few years ago when he was still but a lad – and in the bath with a camera and a nice accompaniment of soapsuds. I’ve been rating Theo as a very classy and talented photographer since I first met him when he was about 12. He really does have “It” and now he is in the States studying photography at college. Given that he has both passion and talent in that direction I guess it’s no surprise that the photo that really got me going was the simple snap which nonetheless captured the concentrated, appraising look of the artist in him.

However, the picture chosen (below) couldn’t


be more different from the one of his uncle. So a bit of an adventure into Photoshop was necessary.

First of all I made a black and white version and sharpened it up a bit. I work from dark to light in a painting so my priority in making the first drawing is not to create a final piece of work that I am satisfied with but to emphasise the darkest shadows and the shape of the piece:


To investigate the shadows further I made a version and got a bit reckless in Photoshop. Using the Threshold function I wanted to find the nearest point from a white page where the picture becomes recognisable. Theo was very young when the picture was taken and a key task with this portrait will be keep the essential qualities of his age. However the underpainting will need to be much harder than the finished picture:


Working from these three images I produced the following drawing this morning. It is too hard but it absolutely serves my purpose as a working sketch and foundation for the painted portrait to come. I learned years ago that too softly shaded a picture at this stage is of little value to me as a painter.



Theo does have a bit the look of a young Greek God about him – I’ll be hard pressed not to get carried away and plonk a crown of olive leaves in his hair – I think he might have a word or two to say about that somehow. Because the lines are hard and I am only really drawing shadows and the darker midtones in this picture the sketch also makes him look slightly arrogant which he decidedly isn’t. (maybe – or is that just me worrying – I think he looks a bit gorgeous actually) That will sort itself out once I get into paint and colour. Paint will solve that little problem with mouth being too harsh. I’m happy that I now have a picture which matches the photo of Ted Snr in style. The next job will be to work on his drawing.

Damn and Hell I love doing this!! It’s such a trip working carefully with any subject – amazing what you learn about it. Until I got to work on Theo’s picture I never realised how much like his older sister he is. And yet they don’t really strike one as similar. I wish I could just carry on but work (the boring sort) beckons! Watch this space for more developments!


February 3rd, 2008

I’m now working on 3 portraits, The Two Ted’s and One Michael (my brother) – Interesting this as my dad’s name was Ted by sheer coincidence.

So for the progress report first up I have been working on Theo (Young Ted’s) first stage drawing. I wasn’t happy with my first effort even though it is only a working drawing to give me a guide picture for the first stage of laying on paint. There was, as you can probably see above, something wrong with the mouth that just wasn’t the young man in question.

So here’s the latest version which I feel is softer and more accurate. It’s still in a way quite a heavy handed drawing but my intention with this piece is to emphasise shadows above all – the midtones and light areas – and much of the subtlety – will happen (I hope!) in paint and in colour.



Next I have prepared a basic drawing for Ted the Elder’s portrait. In this drawing I really have stuck completely to the darks. By this time I was really getting into the process and working on an older face is quite generally easier than a younger one, especially at this point, because with young faces it really is a question of less is more, not so much what you put in as what you leave out. With Ted the Elder, who was more mature when the original shot was taken I found drawing from the reduced down Photoshop pic to be something like a voyage round his face, like mapping a newly discovered country. I was working from a very strong original black and white photo and used a similar process to what I did above for Theo to create this rather Guevara-esque drawing:


The other picture I have made this week is a ground drawing for a portrait I am to paint of my brother Michael (he who comments in poetry on a number of the paintings around the blog). After a certain amount of discussion we decided to take the portrait from a photograph that he and his wife are fond of. (he is in England and I am in Greece by the way so as ever there’s no chance of a sitting – likewise the two Ted’s are both in the US right now). So far I have just done this study of Michael’s face. Of course this is a face that is extremely familiar to me so it was extremely helpful to concentrate on the reduced-down Photoshop image and pure line, light and dark. No distraction from my brain filling in its own images, just absolute concentration on light and shadow. Very often on negative space too which made for an interesting pencil expedition.


There are going to be some decisions to make about this picture. The simple head and shoulders really does look to me like it will be a very strong portrait – which is after all about a person’s face and their personality. But I do like the landscape behind too especially as I am rather nostalgic for soggy England and the duckpond and willow tree have rather an impact on me out here on my rock. And the ducks. The fountain that spurts crownlike from Michael’s head will need to go though.

Next job will be transfer to the painting surface. I’ve made photocopies of the drawings which I will use with carbon paper to put the first marks down to orientate myself – not an easy job, I’m a woman who took some several years to learn to park a car so I do need to make sure I give myself all the help I can get. Another cool thing with that approach though is that you can scale the picture as you wish. I’ve made a double size version of the picture of Michael which is about the right size for what he wants.


Just for the record this was my Island painting which you can now see complete below whilst it was on the easel.

With Island complete (and available as a poster, print or greeting card (which looks rather fine! – See Buy Prints) I am now pushing on to complete The Return.




PLEASE NOTE I NOW HAVE NEW WEBSITES at and where you can buy prints of Island and many other new works. Please come by and visit.



  1. This white on white and white on white on blue
    Clear beams its thought across the Syros sea
    And is the magnet that attracted you.
    Escape to light and from old darkness flee.
    The windowed cubes surmount to climb the stack,
    To act as lookout for approaching sail
    That must itself be white lest sighting black
    Might re-enact the age-old Theseus tale.
    But here we have true life and all its fun
    With steps that lead from dinghies up the stairs
    To food and hanging gardens in the sun —
    A feast of joy that all the island shares.
    My eyes rise up to blood-red capping dome
    And now at last I know that I am home.

  2. I know this is unfinished, but….

    I take photographs because I can’t paint, but I need to capture a sense of a place as far as how I really see it and hoe it makes me feel. I often use Photoshop to make my images more like a painting than a photograph…and when I get thet sense of how a place made me feel, I’m happy.

    This painting gives me that sense of place…I have been to Lindos twice and this painting evokes a remembrance of the love I have for the island. All the elements are there, all the little details that make the Greek Islands unique. I want to be on that balcony sipping a glass of cold chardonnay and watching the moon rise over the water.

  3. Hi Gina,
    Great work. I know few things about painting but I like this one.
    Where are you from? and, of course, how did you decide to move to Syros?

  4. I can’t believe I wrote this whole blog and never thought to mention that I am from England. I was born in London and lived many years in Brighton.
    Why did I move to Syros? Pure Luck. I spent some years in the islands way back in the early 80s and always wanted to come back. I feel comfortable, healthy and ‘right in myself’ in Greece.
    But I didn’t know where to come to live. An old friend moved to Syros from Mykonos and said ‘Come on over”. I did, with everything I possess. I love it!

    If I could figure out how to put a new post on this page (I tried and failed) I would post that this painting is finished now. If you check out my main page you can see it complete and also that I have made a poster of it which I think looks kind of cool!
    Thanks for passing by Thanasi, Χαρικα Πολυ!

  5. Na sai kala Gina (χάρηκα πολύ)
    If you want to edit this page/post etc, sign in, go to your dashboard and then click on “manage” and ofcourse edit!


  6. KALIMERA Gina
    I turned my brother ted on to your paintings this
    he is thrilled. he has sent “flirtatious complements”
    but i don’t see it anywhere.
    by the way- good for you to put ee cummings poem on your poster.
    keep the faith
    love do

  7. Hi Gina,

    I was reading your english blog and came over here. I love your paintings very much. I’m in fact colour blind but looking at your colourful paintings just brighten up my day.

    Take care

  8. What a fantastic idea – to allow us voyeurs an insight into your thinking process and the progress of your paintings.

    I love the sketch and can’t wait to see how this evolves;)

  9. Gina, thanks for sharing your process. I look forward to checking back. You live in a beautiful place (and are making good use of it!)

  10. Duck-Pond Poet

    In Somerset and not so far from Wells
    There hides beside its pond a village pub
    That shows the patina of age that tells
    The centuries it has assuaged the rub Of local worries, ploughman’s earthy toil,
    And, coupled with the church, has done its best
    To bring much needed comfort and to foil
    The devil’s evil works that never rest.
    This inn has turned so many decades’ pages
    That it is living history of our land.
    Its beer has calmed as well as triggered rages,
    Uniting all in one coherent band.

    This poet. leaning on the duck-pond railings,
    Reviews again the army of his failings.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By Portrait of Two Teds « Syros Paintings on 27 Jan 2008 at 11:17 am

    […] Paintings Art by Luigina Ware About meGallery of PaintingsBuy PrintsWork in ProgressInspirations « […]

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