Latest portrait commission!

A lovely friend of mine, Barbara, is leaving London and moving to a new life at the seaside in Cornwall, a county which holds childhood memories for her.

She is full of anticipation for a fresh start with her two talented daughters - one a budding artist and the other a musician.  And she's dreaming of how she will appoint her new home - and garden - with with a seaside theme.

After having bought her new home off-plan in Bude, she approached me to create a portrait of her that she would take to her new life.  Every time she spoke about her plans for the future her face lit up with expectation.  It was that expectation that I wanted to capture.

We spoke about how to integrate hints or elements of a beach theme into the portrait and, finally, after some discussion, we alighted on the idea of her wearing life ring earrings, a shell-inspired necklace ... and I painted behind her the pastel beach hut she hopes to create from a garden shed.

This is what she thought of the prcoess, "Stella has done a fabulous portrait for me at a time in my life where I'm at a huge turning point. Her kindness and patience and artistic vision are amazing. The entire experience was shared and each step was carefully communicated. It was a truly inspiring and creative experience. The end result a stunning portrait commemorating my new beginning in Cornwall. I couldn't ask for a better experience. Stella is a real star that shines bright in the artistic world and it was a real privilege and honour to work with her. Thank you for ever."
- Barbara Wichmann 10/8/2021

The commission process

After agreeing a budget, and the payment of a deposit, we arranged a sitting.  Barbara bought a couple of outfits to try out, and some jewellery, and we decided on an image of a beach hut to use. 

Once Barbara had decided what to wear, we had a photo session in my home studio with natural light illuminating her face from the side.  We selected the photos I would work from - and I then noted her colours in oils using the colour palette I had chosen, paying particular attention to the colour of her skin on her face and neck and her eyes.

Charcoal underdrawing

I started by producing a very simple, precise charcoal drawing on the cradled gesso panel we decided I would work on, to give the portrait a modern, borderless look.  I recorded in the drawing the proportions, features and planes of the face.

Drawing of Barbara Wichmann in preparation for painting by Stella Tooth

Acrylic wash

I began by applying a thin, acrylic wash (imprimatura) over the entire panel. I used ultramarine and raw umber pigments which gave a coldish mid-tone.  It dried quickly and allowed me to start painting without much delay.

Light wash in portrait painting process of Barbara Wichmann by Stella Tooth

Thin layer of burnt sienna and burnt umber for the face/neck/arm

A thinly applied layer of burnt sienna and burnt umber for the flesh areas mixed with the subsequent paint layers and helped unify the painting.

Colour wash underpainting Barbara Wichmann by Stella Tooth


I started introducing the colours of the planes of the face and paid particular attention to the neck ,where the skin is thin and delicate. This is where, eventually, the brushstrokes would need to be more subtle.

Contour painting Barbara Wichmann by Stella Tooth artist


Then I started adding the dress, building up the oils fat over lean to prevent cracking and reflected some of its colour under Barbara's chin.  I also began the process of blending the planes of the face. 

Barbara Wichmann portrait commission by Stella Tooth wip

I then added in the background, and via the fat over lean method, built up the paint all over the oil painting, using liquin to help speed up drying time, refining the colours.  And I used square brushes to help with defining the planes of the face and neck. 
Barbara Wichmann portrait in oils by Stella Tooth artist


Burnt sienna

Yellow ochre

Cadmium lemon

Burnt Umber

Cadmium red

French ultramarine

Prussian blue

Titanium White

Barbara Wichmann with Stella Tooth artist's portrait of her

 Barbara Wichmann with her portrait.

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