New Painting and a Reset

This is a bit of a one-step-forward, two-steps-back post:

I’ve got two new paintings that I started recently, one is a bit larger and that’s still in the wipeout phase. But this second one I started with the first chromatic underpainting layer or imprimatura.

Tayrou (imprimatura)
Tayrou (imprimatura)

I’ve also been hard at work on the portrait of Sarah. Things were moving along and I was getting lost in the details… too lost really. Sometimes you can’t really see an error in your work. I knew there was something a bit off about this portrait. I suspected it had to do with the eyes but as I spent so much time working on the right eye I had become blind to it (no pun intended). I assumed that the left eye was the one that needed to be corrected and I used some of the typical techniques to try to see what needed to be corrected with it (e.g. covering the area in the painting for a bit while looking at the source material then trying to get fresh eyes on the work).

Finally I turned the image upside-down and looked at it in a mirror. It became obvious immediately that the right eye was way out of place. It’s odd that you can’t see the error at all when working hours on it, but once you discover it – that’s all you can see.

So I decided not to take half-measures and to get back to a blank canvas.

Sarah (in progress)
Sarah (in progress)

That’s right, lead white over the offending area. I selected lead white for two main reasons. First it dries quickly so I can get back to it in a couple of days. Secondly it’s very opaque. A lot of people don’t realize this but oil paints are more or less translucent. What’s more is that they become more translucent over time. There are many paintings hanging in museums where you can see the ghost image of a correction showing through. Of course those weren’t visible when the artist first corrected them but over time the mistakes have been revealed by the natural aging process of the oil layers. Lead White should remain opaque enough that this won’t happen to this particular portrait. Would be terrible for her to end up with three eyes in the next century.

This is why you don’t worry about the details until you’ve nailed the larger forms. It’s a hierarchy, you have to get the proportions right first then the symmetry then you have the opportunity to get temperatures, colors and smaller details. If you don’t nail the proportions or symmetry though, won’t matter how beautiful the details are.

Weekend Update

Getting closer on this portrait of Todd. Worked on the clothing and the hair some more. The darks in the hair really “sunk in” after they started to dry (hence the flat, matt appearance of the hair). I’ll have to try to bring them back out with some stand oil in the next pass or just wait for varnishing to really get the full effect. The clothing is close but looks a bit more orange than I had intended. I was going for some warm browns to compliment the blue background but I think I took it a bit too far. Might glaze that down and restate it a bit less warm on the next pass.

Todd (in progress)
Todd (in progress)

Put in another pass on the face of Sarah as well. It’s looking much more volumetric now. Should be a good foundation for the upper layers. Excited to keep working on this one but still a very long way to go.

Sarah (in progress)
Sarah (in progress)

Weekend Update

Worked on a couple of paintings this weekend.

Here’s an early shot of the portrait of Sarah. Still a long way to go but I think you get a good sense of where this one is going to end up.

Sarah (in progress)
Sarah (in progress)

And I spent a little more time working on this painting of Todd. Going to need another pass on the hair and the clothing is still just blocked in. Once those things are in place I should have just one more pass on the face to push the rendering as far as I can. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a decent photo once that’s all done. Really happy with how it’s coming along.

Todd (in progress)
Todd (in progress)

Long Weekend Update

Had a day off this Monday and that means an extra studio day. It was supposed to mean taking the family to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, but mother nature decided that it needed to snow at the zoo on this particular day — so studio day it is then. Hopefully we’ll get to the zoo again soon though.

I still haven’t managed of finish off the other paintings sitting around my studio staring at me like so many puppies in the store window. But I really wanted to get started on this one. I’m not sure why, but these smaller format paintings really appeal to me. Going from 12″x16″ (192 square inches) to 18″x24″ (432 square inches) feels like much more than twice the work for some reason.

Here’s the first chromatic layer for this portrait of Todd; really just a thin wash or color. There’s still a very long way to go obviously but I’m really pleased with the start – this is going to be a great foundation to build the next paint layers upon.

Todd (in progress)
Todd (in progress)

I also worked this weekend on the painting of Nelson and Theo. I actually worked on it a bit more after I took this photo but the light is poor for photography in the studio today so I’ll have to post another image later on.

Nelson and Theo (in progress)
Nelson and Theo (in progress)

Now I need to restate the clothing and maybe glaze the leathery bits a bit warmer. Once that’s done I think it’ll just be one more finishing pass to get everything to the level it needs to be. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish it off this coming weekend.

Odds and Ends

I’ve mentioned in passing that I have a couple more paintings started that I haven’t posted here yet. I’ve really wanted to finish off some of the ones that are close before starting more but the paintings of Kayti and Nelson are pretty involved and are taking much longer to finish off than I had hoped.

This is one that I’m really looking forward to. Just the linear placement and a quick wipe-out to serve as a foundation but I’m looking forward to diving into this one.

Todd (in progress)
Todd (in progress)

I also have the next in my shushing series started. I’m just starting to block in the colors and separate the light masses. Hopefully it’ll move along quickly once I get into the next layers.

Shh (Linda, in progress)
Shh (Linda, in progress)

More Indirect Painting

I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve got four paintings in progress at the moment. This is the one that I’ve been working on the longest, which is not necessarily to say that it’s the closest one to being finished. I knew going into it that this was going to be an endeavor; that’s half the reason that I asked Kayti to sit for me. There’s still a long way to go.

You may not be able to see a lot of change since the last update but a good portion of the time was spend determining how best to shift the background. I knew that I wanted it darker but that I also wanted to keep the reddish hue. When I started out it seemed obvious that I’d just glaze an alizarine crimson over the cadmium red that was serving as the base color. Thankfully I decided to try that with a small study first to ensure that it was going to end up the way that I wanted. Needless to say, it did not… but if I ever decide to do a still life featuring candied apples I’ll know how to proceed.

I was so positive that the alizarine was going to work that I hadn’t really considered any alternatives. So at this point I decided to punt. I painted a bunch of small squares on a page using the cadmium red and then when those were dry I glazed all different types of transparent colors over them to see what was going to work best for what I wanted. It was a good exercise and the clear winner was a transparent mauve color which yields a nice wine-red color when glazed over the cadmium red.

Heres’ the before…. (a bit blown out, sorry about that)

Kayti (in progress)
Kayti (in progress)

And the after… (much better photo)

Kayti (in progress)
Kayti (in progress)

Now I just need to keep plugging away. Just about everything is going to need at least one more pass to get things really dialed-in the way that I would like.

Paul – Update

Got a chance to put in a little more time on this painting this weekend. Trying something a little different with the background this time. Usually I start with a gradient to lend a bit of atmospheric perspective to the composition and lately I’ve been working more with texture so I tried mashing the techniques together this time.

I’m pretty happy with the result.

Paul (in progress)
Paul (in progress)

Obviously still a long way to go with the actual portrait but it’s coming along nicely. I really like working on this smaller 12×16 size as they progress so quickly. I should probably try to keep one of these smaller portraits going all the time.