I began with a pencil sketch (the above is cropped from the full sketch) of my client, who wished to appear in the painting without an "extreme makeover." Although it's a tradition in portraiture (which this painting is not) to play to the sitter's vanity and alter his or her appearance, it was a pleasure working with someone who had the strength to be depicted as he is.
Here are the initial figures. My client requested that the merman look Hawaiian, which went well with the direction I've been going with my Merman Series. What I do in my work is to focus and share neglected beauty, and men of color are among the most neglected. I don't paint subjects that are stereotypically pretty. There's meaning behind my choice of subjects--I'm inviting you to see more of our world.
I've sketched in some of the background--the sand and rocks--using as my inspiration the beach (Halona Cove) from the movie, From Here to Eternity. Again, based on suggestions from my client, I aged the merman a bit by adding gray to his temples and also (for the first time in my paintings of mermen) added scales to his tail.
I'm on record for saying I think of mermen as mammalian and so they're closer to dolphins than fishes (it's partially my background in science illustration, but it's also in the mythological descriptions), but for my client, mermen are half-men, half-fish.
After adding the scales, though, I have to say I really like the way they look! Here they're light because they're only sketched in, but in the final draft the tail is fabulously evocative.
Please visit my gallery to see the finished painting, The Merman's Kiss.