Mélanie Delon explains how she uses light and avoids detail becoming too distracting, as she paints a figure inspired by the carnivals of Venice
Painting a portrait can be a difficult task, especially when you plan to add a lot of clothing details and jewellery. You can quickly become lost in your work! So before starting anything, have a basic rough idea of the final image. Here, I want to depict (with the help of the ImagineFX team) a kind of Venetian carnivalinspired costume – but without the mask, because we want direct eye contact in this illustration.
I draw a few quick pencil sketches and colour thumbnails, with the idea of a mysterious colourful lady in mind, to find a strong composition. At this stage I know the light will be a key part in this painting; this is always the case in a portrait piece. Light is how the character stands out – it brings volume, life and intensity – so it must be carefully worked. The light is challenging here, mainly because of the amount of detail.
Indeed, I don’t want the detail to become too distracting, which can soon be the case when there’s a lot of it. So I start with basic, classic lighting: a main light coming from the top and the rest in shadow.
However, during painting I decide to change some elements, including the light. The image was too dark and the composition too boring. When I’m not satisfied, I never hesitate to go back and change the elements I don’t like. Sometimes I even restart the entire illustration. For me, that’s just a part of the painting process – and it’s often for the best!