Painting Children: #6 of Kellie Snider’s 100 Faces Portrait Project

Painting of Boy with curly hair on red background
Painting of Boy with curly hair on red background

Oliver Walton

#6 of Kellie Snider’s 100 Faces Portrait Project


8″ x 8″

Stretched Canvas

The Model:

Oliver is the son of Allena and Devin Walton, of Tyler Texas. His little sister, Eliza, is included in the series, too. Allena has been a close friend of my niece, Chelsea Hutchinson, since they were kids. I’ve become friends with Allena via Facebook.

The Project:

I used a very technical process for selecting pictures for the project. I painted the photos that spoke to me. Yeah, not so technical really. Allena is a good photographer, and has a lot of nice shots of Ollie on her Facebook wall. I requested permission to paint him. For the majority of reference photos used in the project, I requested permission from the model, or their parent. There were exceptions as in Paint #5, where the model is deceased, and in the Mardi Gras paintings that will come up later, in which the people were in public parades in New Orleans. Those people did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and so it is okay to use them in artworks.

I chose the photo of Oliver that this painting was based on because of it’s simplicity, nice lighting, and the direct gaze of the subject looking at the camera. I sketched the portrait in blue paint. I’m often asked why I do my initial sketching in a specific color. Often it’s because I have a lot of that color on my palette, to be honest. But sometimes, as with this one, I wanted to see if I could retain any of the cool blue in the finished painting. Quite often in natural light there are cool reflected tones in the skin … meaning, the light looks blue in places where the sun is not shining directly on it. In this painting, I kept a lot of the blue as I began blocking in the skin tones. I am really pleased with how it created an accent without being harsh. Blue is a cool, withdrawing color in this context. Imagine if I had not left the blue visible when I added this hot, red background. It probably would have resulted in the boy’s face being lost. The blue is a complement of the vermillion red background, and kept the portrait from sinking into the background.

I chose the red background on sort of a whim. Texas is extremely hot, with summer temps above 100 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks on end in the summer. It can even get as high as 112. It’s brutal and punishing. I wanted to represent the Texas weather in that warm background, but I wanted the child to hold his own. He’s outside. He’s probably shirtless. But he’s not letting the heat win the day. He’s confidently looking at the viewer with curiosity and confidence.

By the time I reached this portrait I had realized that I wanted to include a variety of types of people in the paintings. Young, old, racially diverse, diverse genders, diverse modes of dress, and so forth. Oliver’s father is black, and his mother is white.