Monday, January 19, 2009

Self-portrait (WIP)

As I mentioned before, I'm working on a self-portrait. I've wanted to do one each year, but turns out I really didn't like that idea after all. I also haven't really liked many of the self-portraits I have done, so that also probably plays into why it no longer sounds appealing. Who wants to look at themselves that much anyway? I feel better about the approach on this one. It's fairly simple, small, and yet communicates what I want it to.

This photo was taken right after the initial wash in of color. This lets me establish solid boundaries and also gives me a better idea of where I'll be going color wise. It also serves as a base for making layers above it more rich. This is one of the funner and more gratifying stages since it's accomplished in 1-2 sittings and it moves much faster than the underlying drawing did.

The next stage here is closer to the color I eventually want, but it's still more of a supportive layer at this point. Things are exaggerated and uneven. Areas such as around the eyebrows and other hair areas will be scumbled into to make them look more natural. Yet another William Bouguereau inspired technique (for example, his portrait of Gabrielle Cot.) In this stage, I'm also trying to give myself an idea of the background, which will be pretty simple.

This painting also marked the beginning of the use of a new oil painting medium after toying around with some other recipes that came close to what I wanted, but needed much tweaking. The medium I've concocted is basically half stand oil and half safflower oil with a drier added. It's lovely to work with. It's smooth and fluid and gives me much better control over the paint. I'll post the details of this medium in a subsequent post.

I'll try and post more WIP photos of this painting later as well.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Girl (Megan) Against a Wall - WIP

Here's a painting I've been working on off and on since the middle of last year. It's pretty small, considering the composition. It's only 16" x 20" on an MDF panel, gessoed many times. It's also a painting where I took a more serious approach to oil mediums. The medium used in this one is mostly 1/3 stand oil with 2/3 odorless mineral spirits. The initial layers were painted with mostly pure linseed oil which yellowed pretty quickly (which is why I began seeking out a similar, yet better medium.)

With this painting, I decided to do more work in progress photos of what I work on. I've tried to take photos at every significant stage on the piece. Subsequent pieces have had quite a few WIP photos as well (which I will post soon.) I want to show more of these WIPs so people interested can see how I work. The photos here start with the initial base layer of paint over the preliminary drawing. The preliminary drawing takes quite some time and I think the frustrations from that have kept me from taking more photos during or right after that stage. I need to take more photos during that stage since it's the foundation of my pieces. Anyway, after the block in and many measurements, I erase most of that and have an almost paint-by-numbers style drawing so laying in paint is much more solid and planned. I started doing this during my watercolor days, far before my oil days, and have been depending on a solid preliminary drawing more in the past few years.

This painting stars Megan as the model once again. It's in somewhat of a William Bouguereau style. I used similar techniques and composition. I'll say right away that I'm nowhere close to Bouguereau's skill, so don't think I'm trying to claim that. It is, however, the best way to learn from masters that one might admire. I started with a very thin, transparent layer of paint underneath, which establishes color boundaries and also enriches the layers that follow. The next layers become more opaque and give more of an idea of what the painting will look like in the end. Layers are the name of the game here. Even though each looks completely opaque, really, they each show a bit of the underlying layer. I do this in my charcoal and graphite drawings as well (I'll show that later.)

Also, please forgive the crappy photos. They were done quickly, since taking WIP photos haven't been perfected yet in my practice. Some have incorrect color balances, some are skewed a bit, and most have too many reflective imperfections. It's mostly to just give you a good idea of the stages.

I hope that explains enough. If not, please let me know.