Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

Miniature world

2009 . 04 . 23 - Comments / Commentaires (6)

A wedding diptych isn’t complete without a husband: Claire married Dénes and what follows is the process both for his portrait and for the framing of the two paintings together.

the process of painting

I had done Claire’s portrait before painting her for this diptych, but this was my first time working to capture Dénes’ likeness. The miniature scale of the piece added to the challenge of the new face.

acrylic on panel

I like my wide brushes, so working on a composition that’s 8 x 8 inches was not all that easy. To begin with, I was putting down a lot more paint than could fit on this small panel.

painting a portrait of a man

I work with acrylics but still the paint wasn’t drying quickly enough for me. When I’m working with a larger composition, I can leave an area to dry while I work on another portion of the same piece, allowing me to immerse myself more fully in one composition. It was impossible to do this with just 64 square inches of space.

portrait of a man in acrylic on panel

In the earlier process shots, I can see myself struggling with the limitations of the small panel, but, by this point, I had finally managed to get into the miniature rhythm. I was starting to like being able to change the whole piece completely with a few brush strokes.

acrylic on panel

Of course, even my new understanding of miniature didn’t save me from the trouble of portraying teeth! This image is a rather unfortunate layer in the process of painting Dénes’ mouth…

miniature painting

...but one that was quickly resolved.

acrylic on panel

Once I had the mouth more solidly worked out, I could focus on cleaning up the rest of the face.

the process of painting

I started bringing in the details that I’d been ignoring with the wide brushes.

Gwenn Seemel's painted portrait of Denes Harai

Gwenn Seemel
acrylic on panel
8 x 8 inches
(detail below)

detail image of a miniature portrait

I began the diptych before I even knew how I would present the pieces. I had some vague ideas about framing them and then creating a cardboard carrying case for them to make packing the works easy for the multi-national couple, but, in one of those delicious moments of obvious-ness, I realized that the case and the frames could be combined!

framing miniature paintings of panel

I fantasized briefly about building the box/frame myself, but a quick search online turned up Arizona Specialty Woodcrafts, and it seemed that if a professional could do it for such a reasonable price I had no business pretending to be a carpenter. I settled for decorating the box once it was delivered to me. I painted only the inside lip of the box—the part that reads as the frame when the diptych is displayed.

miniature portraits framed in a wooden box by Arizona Specialty Woodcrafts

Gwenn Seemel
Claire and Dénes
acrylic on panel
8 x 16 inches (combined dimensions)

I am thrilled with the craftsmanship of the box.

a wooden box by Arizona Specialty Woodcrafts

And my favorite part of the presentation is the unfinished wood of the closed box. From the outside, it looks modest, but it’s so full of color and life on the inside, just like Claire and her man!

- Working the whole composition
- Helping myself
- Giving away art

CATEGORIES: - English - Practice - Process images -

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(6) Comments / Commentaires: Miniature world

-- Megan -- 2009 . 05 . 20 --

OMG Gwenn that is the most beautiful wedding present ever!

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-- Bethy -- 2009 . 05 . 20 --

Wow Ms. Gwenn - I love this!!
Just as you said at the end, I think my favorite part is how unassuming and simple it looks on the outside, but once opened up, there’s a beautifully colorful, personalized masterpiece.
Hmmm… methinks I might have to have one of these someday wink

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-- Kristina -- 2009 . 05 . 20 --

the box really does complement your pieces so well.  it feels custom-made for this project.  AND given their need for mobility makes this gift so thoughtful and practical!

l o v e l y.

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-- Theresa B -- 2009 . 05 . 20 --

Ok, this is definitely my new favorite Gwenn Masterpiece!

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-- Deb -- 2009 . 05 . 28 --

What a lovely gift and a delight to read over your shoulder the process of its production, Gwenn!  I’m curious about a translation of the contract - nosey.  I’m loving the close ups too - in ways I can’t find words to describe, I can see your maturation as a portraitist and it is a pleasure to enjoy your work.  Thanks.

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-- Gwenn -- 2009 . 05 . 28 --

The contract from this post reads like this in English:
“Saturday, the eighteenth day of April, year two thousand and nine, at the reformed church of Tours were present in their persons the honorable man Dénes Harai of Paris on one side and the honest girl Claire Taylor Barker from the city of Tours on the other, these parties, on the advice and consent of their relatives and friends, have made and make their promises of marriage at three o’clock in the afternoon.”
It’s written in old French and very much follows the form of the Renaissance contracts.

Thank you, Deb, I do see my work changing and I’m glad that you see it too!

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