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In Memory of Prince ~ Rogers Nelson ~ Memorial Portrait

In memory of Prince ~ Rogers Nelson – memorial portrait.

The Artist known as Prince, aka Prince Rogers Nelson was as multi-dimensional as an artist could be. So a multi-faceted approach to his portrait might just do our subject justice.

However there are multiple approaches to a portrait.

in memory of prince rogers nelson -

It depends on the result you want:

1- a portrait in the classical tradition
2- a commissioned portrait
3- a portrait of a family member – non-paid
4- a stylized portrait
5- an impressionistic portrait
6- a celebrity portrait

Because of Prince Rogers Nelson worldwide celebrity … let’s entertain what’s necessary for multi-faceted portrait approaches.

A portrait in the classical tradition

starts with an understanding of anatomy.

face musclesShould you approach a portrait from this perspective – there is a lot to account for.

Such as:

making sure the eyes sit in the sockets, accounting for the large muscles surrounding the eyes, the broad band of muscle over the upper lip, the split muscles of the chin and more.

Fortunately for you the artist – you have a license to take liberties with your portrait.

Because the most important thing for you – is to make your portrait appealing to the viewer.

So while your subject may hint at an overbite – you don’t want to focus the viewer’s eye on that.

rosa focuspointshape.comThis style while rewarding in art class … won’t yield much reward unless you determine to become a professional portrait painter … handling commissioned portraits.

Should you attempt commission portraits

such as the painting on your left – accounting for bone structure, facial muscles, skin tones that react according to light sources – you will need stamina, attention to detail and a strong color grounding.

This watercolor painting done years ago took almost a week. It was done on 300 lb cold press paper with bristle brushes. Most of the time spent on this painting was waiting for washes to dry.

I found bristle to be an excellent brush for lifting color at that time.

Today I only use Kolinsky sable. As the saying goes … once you try sable …
you won’t be tempted to continue with bristle.

Now a portrait of a family membernon-paid is wholly another matter.

Such a work can be dashed off in an hour or two, unless you are a stickler for punishment.

As long as you stick to the 3/3 rule – 1/3 from the center of the eyes to the top of the head, 1/3 from the center of the eyes down to the top of the upper lip and lastly – 1/3
from the upper lip down to the bottom of the chin… you are sure to come up with a reasonable proportional likeness.

rule of thirds_portrait painting_focuspointshape.comOf course as my algebra teacher used to say … there are always exceptions. And that is where the fun is.

Some people just have huge foreheads. Others have squinty eyes. And some seem to have no chin at all.

Leave out those marked characteristics and even if your painting is non-paid, assuredly you will reap some non flattering remarks.

Now a commissioned portrait can drive some artists up the wall.

John Singer Sargent – one of the great commissioned portrait artists once remarked … “It helps to be a wonderful story teller so as to maintain the subject’s interest while sitting.”

And … if you draw and paint exactly what you see – your subject many times does not see themselves with the critical eye that you do. And they may express their displeasure by simply leaving. So it helps to get part of your fee – upfront.


Which brings us to the stylized portrait.

Here you zero in on significant facial features and work those features into a sharper take on who or what your subject represents.

As an example, the nose is elongated, the chin is chiseled, the jaw muscles are slightly puffed to give the overal impression of quiet strength … a man … not to be toyed with.

And the eyes don’t look out a you. They are focused away from you to generate the impression that this person is constantly scanning his surroundings … ever watchful.

These kinds of portraits give you lots of lee way to accentuate the significant features of your subject. Just do not over do it or go with the large ears. These can be a sore point with many subjects and they will definitely tell you about that.

By now you are wondering what these approaches have to do with a portrait of Prince Rogers Nelson.

Think about it – Prince is an international musical phenom. Would a formulaic portrait do justice to this person? No.

Alas we have one more portrait approach to consider before we put it all together.

impressionist portrait - focuspointshape.comThe impressionistic portrait opens the floodgates within this artistic niche.

You’ll notice colors that don’t appear in nature unless you have rogue color flood lights to illuminate your subject.

You’ll notice greatly exaggerated features – the nose.

The 3/3 rule is taken into account – yet the chin appears to bend.

The shadows and high-lights appear posterized.

In other words the image is not life-like in it’s rendering. Yet it is startling and commands

So let’s take another look at our progressive portrait rendering of Prince Rogers Nelson.

prince rogers

How can we convert this sketch into a startling painting?

Classical would be uninteresting because every trained artist could do that.

And … sorry to say … it is too late for a commissioned portrait.

And for most of us … Prince is not a family member … at least at last checking.

So just maybe we can work out a stylized or impressionistic portrait and still take into account the 3/3 rule and the facial musculature of the the classical method.

What do we know about Prince, ne. Prince Rogers Nelson? These will be our keys to a startling portrait.

1- He believed that he had the energy of 10 men.

2- He said he needed very little sleep.

3- He wrote, produced, arranged his musical masterpieces and played multiple instruments.

4- He produced multiple platinum albums that sold in the millions.

So – is the first painting of this article … representative of this person? No.
It is just the beginning.

Let’s have a go at it –

We are about to paint an expressive and impressionistic – multi-faceted portrait of Prince. In other words … a celebrity portrait.

prince rogers nelson_focuspointshape.comSo first we get our basic drawing going.

Here we are using a type B charcoal pencil to work out our basic sketch.

And we don’t worry about the lines because we will be painting over them.

prince rogers nelson_ focuspointshape.comNext we use a palette knife with watercolors on acrylic paper.

This combination allows us to go for the large muscle groups quickly, and the acrylic paper gives us a vibrant look to our colors.

What colors are we using?

We need colors that reflect Prince’s vitality, vision, musical mastery and signature works.

How about – quinacridone yellow, cadmium red light, cadmium orange, quinacridone purple, white quoache-titanium white, cobalt blue, veridian greeen, rose madder, jaune brilliant and transparent brown.

prince rogers nelson aka prince

Prince Rogers Nelson

The palette knife gives us a brilliant fresh look, works quickly, and helps us create an image that is not stilted, dull or boring.

So here we have a combination of classical base, stylized, and impressionistic.

We have used the celebrity’s signature color purple … Purple Rain … as our background color.

We have splashed colors in to symbolize how this Prince pulled his music from all gendres.

We used a uniball pen – white for the eye high-lights and black watercolor pen – thick edge for the eye lashes.

And the great thing is … no one will confuse this painting for a photograph.

So there you have it – a fitting portrait of the maestro himself – in memory of Prince ~ Rogers Nelson.

contributed by Mars Burnell – watercolor juror

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