"I Am You" - Process

Starting the Portraits

I Met women from different countries and explained the project to them.  I asked if they wanted to be a part of this peace project. Each woman spoke about what peace meant to her.  I took photos of each woman. I worked from my photos or from the women sitting for me.



Photo by Doug Coulson



graphite drawing


I started with choosing one side of each woman's face.  I usually saw more love in one side of her face than the other.  I wanted to show one eye, her nose and her mouth.  That was enough to show her ethnicity, uniqueness and essence. It also was the right amount to suggest that she would be completed by the portrait adjoining her. I then drew the woman's face on my canvas. 

I tested out the composition and the strength of the contrasting tones.


this is a drawing of Katrina

Tonal underpainting

one color of oil paint mixed with mineral spirits painted over the graphite drawing of Emily.


Emily came four times to sit for me for multiple hours each time.


While painting Shukria,

I worked from home while she sat for me. 

Painting in the Studio

working on the portrait of Adjua

Three steps of the process

from left to right : 

graphite drawing, underpainting and painting in progress. The forth one is another underpainting.

I worked on more than one canvas sometimes if I had the time.

Final painting

IIf I could I liked to show the woman her portrait when it was done and talk to her about what she felt about being part of this project.

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© 2017 Ahni Sallaway