JENS MALMGREN I create, that is my hobby.

The Ingrid Bergman Project

On 2 February I made a nice portrait from a magazine, the Douglas files. After this I was poisoned by the idea to achieve another painting on a comparable level. I decided to make a portrait based on a photo of the actress Ingrid Bergman that I found in a German magazine. Emotionally the idea was to go from success to success so to say. The stake was high.

I always thought that Ingrid had been married to Ingmar, the famous director, but that is not so. She is an actress and he is a director and they were swedes but that is what they have in common. Now I had that misunderstanding sorted out.  The reason I found out about this misunderstanding is this blog actually. Before the blog I had just been thinking that she was probably married to Ingmar but I would not go and check the facts. Now with this blog I need to research a bit more about the motives that I am painting and photographing and then with this research I learn a lot more.

I found the portrait of Ingrid Bergman in a German magazine. It looked like an innocent candidate for a successful portrait project but maybe I was fooled by the feeling of the casual approach on 2 February of the Douglas files.

Without much contemplation I started this project by making a bunch of quick Aquarelles of various result, when I look at these aquarelles now do I think they looks like they were painted through a funhouse mirror.

I decided that this quick and casual approach was fruitless. It was time to make a slower and more conscious attempt so I decided to paint the portrait with oil on a hardwood multiplex panel. In this new stage of the project I decided to first draw the portrait with charcoal as good as I could and on top of the charcoal paint with oil paint. Actually this charcoal version is not that bad. It has a certain Ingrid feeling to it.

When the charcoal drawing was done I started to paint over it with oil paint.

In this process I actually lost some of the likeliness without noticing. Now I was further away from my goal than when the charcoal drawing was just finished.

For the purpose of this blog I have been documenting the progress.  I sat looking at my photos of my painting. I talked about this earlier that you can sometimes see interesting things when you look at your own work from another perspective. There are several ways of doing this. If you are painting from a photo then you can turn both the photo and your painting or drawing upside down. You can look at your work through a mirror.

Now I was here again in a portrait project sitting with the ultimate questions ”Is this good enough?” and if not “What should I improve?”. I have spent loads of energy on getting answers on these questions already. I have attended portrait and model courses at de Kunstlinie. I have practiced on my own. I have practiced with others at Aquarelmere. I have read books. I have painted at de Stoker. Now I was sitting here again with the conclusion that it is not enough that others can see what I need to improve in my portrait paintings because I need to be able to see it myself. If a teacher can see what I should improve then she needs to be able to convey this to me and I need to be able to pick up the information very well and learn from what she says and then I need to understand what I can improve and carry out the improvements. It actually sounds like one challenge turned into seven equally complex challenges.

Last year I started with photography and image processing and editing. This has given me a new view into understanding how imagery works. I have found that contrast is important in images and I have found how to test the availability of contrast in a painting by making a photo of it with any digital camera and then comparing the photo with the real image.

Photographic technology is an integrated part of modern life and scary to many painting artists but it is also making it possible to use as a tool when painting. With my newly acquired knowledge of photo editing I got the idea of comparing my portrait with the portrait in the magazine. I use GIMP to do this. You could also use PhotoShop but why would you? GIMP is free and PhotoShop costs right now more than nine hundred euro! Don’t understand me wrong, PhotoShop is worth that money but GIMP has almost the same feature set as PhotoShop. There are a couple of things you cannot do with GIMP but you will probably not notice these anyway. Chances are that PhotoShop miss some features that GIMP has!

I loaded my portrait in GIMP into one layer and I loaded the image from the magazine in another layer. Then I set the top layer to about 50% transparency until I could see both layers. I had to resize and turn the magazine layer so that I came as close as possible to my painting. Now I had the two images aligned and I could start evaluating my painting.

My portrait was wider than the portrait of the magazine and when that happen then all landmarks will be displaced. It is important that the contour of the face is having the right proportions because I use this contour as a starting point for all internal parts of the portrait. I also found that the eyebrows and hairline was far from correct. Now when I could see these differences I got a better understanding of what I am doing wrong. I think I will be more patient to get the proportions of the silhouette right from now on. Before I thought that it was really small things making a difference. Now I learned that it can be also really big differences that I had not noticed before. It is much easier to look for big problems in the paintings. This was a really helpful exercise!

I painted white lines to mark the difference compared to the photo. These white lines are not exact but they help me remember what things I should correct to achieve a better likeliness.

Now I am done with this portrait. I think I had enough of staring at Ingrid for a while. I am still not happy with the result but this was how good it got this time. I learned a lot, that is the good.

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If you need to send me a link or something personal you can do that on jens at malmgren dot nl.

I was born 1967 in Stockholm, Sweden. I grew up in the small village Vågdalen in north Sweden. 1989 I moved to Umeå to study Computer Science at University of Umeå. 1995 I moved to the Netherlands where I live in Almere not far from Amsterdam.

Here on this site I let you see my creations.

I create, that is my hobby.