My character Cherry Tucker would love National Craft Month. Although she’s a classically trained portrait artist, she also DIYs her clothes into works of art and likes to paint furniture (and anything else she can paint, embellish, or bedazzle).
Unfortunately, in her mysteries, she’s often too busy chasing down murderers and thieves to paint much. At least on the page. Off the page, when you’re not reading, she’s always painting, embellishing, and bedazzling. However, one of my favorite on-the-page painting scenes takes place in her third mystery, Hijack in Abstract. She’s been hired by a wealthy, Atlanta immigration lawyer to paint his portrait. She doesn’t think much of Rupert, but that never stops her from doing her job.
As she always says, “Always make the art patron happy. Even when you’ve found a dead man earlier that day.”
Hijack in Abstract, A Cherry Tucker Mystery #3
I returned to Rupert’s office. He had finished his phone call and paced before the Christmas tree.
“Where have you been, darling?” he asked. “I have some free time now. Let’s begin.”
“I’m going to start with some quick sketches,” I said, hurrying to the Christmas tree. “I’ll work at my easel. Feel free to talk and try different positions. Would you like to be seated or standing?”
Rupert turned to examine the Christmas tree. “Sitting will be more comfortable, but I will have better lines if I stand. Don’t you agree? And sitting might appear aggrandizing. Like I’m a king on a throne.”
I looked up at him from my squat before my tackle box. Rupert put a lot more thought into posing than anyone I ever met. “Whatever you want to do is fine with me. We can try both and you can look at my sketches before you decide.”
He strode to his desk and picked up his phone. “Miss David? Can you get the full length mirror from my dressing room and bring it in here?”
This was probably why Miss David hated me. My appearance caused her more work. A butler’s job is never done.
Grabbing a good piece of charcoal and my sketch pad, I placed both on my easel and set to work sketching Rupert as he fretted about his pose. I concentrated on getting his relative proportions before worrying about detail and composition. The head is amazingly symmetrical. Pupils are your center. You can actually draw a line from pupil to pupil and use that line to make a perfect square to help find the lines for the mouth and nose.
I find that aspect of the human face amazing. And I don’t even like geometry.
Once you understand the shape of a face, drawing becomes much simpler. However, everyone but super models have quirks to their symmetry. Those small faults had to be noted, too, without drawing too much attention to them. People with a crooked nose don’t want to see a crooked nose in their portrait. But the painting still has to honestly reflect their face. Tricky.
As I told Miss David, in order for a portrait to look realistic, it needs the personality of the sitter. Portraits are all about nuance, not geometry. A tilt to the head, an uplift at the corner of the mouth, or a slant in an eye’s gaze makes all the difference. Otherwise you end up with a robot face.
Or a paint by number project by Shawna Branson.
Miss David returned with the mirror. We set it up next to my easel so Rupert could pose himself as Father Businessman Christmas or whatever look he was going for. He tried standing, leaning, and sitting, then settled on standing.
“So how long has Miss David worked for you?” I waited to ask that question until she had left the room. The less Miss David talked, the more I wanted to know.
“A few years,” he picked a piece of lint off his suit jacket. “Do you think I should wear a black or blue suit?”
“Blue. It’ll pull out some of the colors from the tree decorations and work better with the undertones in your skin.”
I flipped a page in my sketchbook and worked on a close up of his small, bushy mustache. It would not do to have him looking like Hitler.
A 2015 Georgia Author of the Year Best Mystery finalist, Larissa writes the Cherry Tucker Mystery series. The first in the series, PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY (2012), is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist, 2012 The Emily finalist, and 2011 Dixie Kane Memorial winner. The sixth mystery, A COMPOSITION IN MURDER, is expected to release in 2016. Her family and Cairn Terrier, Biscuit, now live in Nagoya, Japan, but still call Georgia home. Visit her website, LarissaReinhart.com, find her chatting on Facebook, Instagram, and Goodreads or join her Facebook street team, The Mystery Minions.