11 April 2015

Self-Portrait Painted in Oil

Finally getting around to a self portrait.  I painted this from my website profile photo.

Regarding the brushwork, I tried very hard to leave well enough alone.  I'm beginning to understand how this relates to individual style.  What each artist considers "well-enough" supports their aesthetic.  When we overwork (eg. not leaving well enough alone) the uniqueness disappears.  The work becomes generic. 

Self-portrait, 9x12 oil on board

Some comments and the progression...

I start with a charcoal drawing on toned, gessoed MDF.  I seal the drawing with workable fixative. It's not a good likeness at this point.  Big shapes are fairly accurate, though.

Next comes a loose underpainting in raw umber to set the values.

On the first color pass, big shapes are laid on quickly with flat bristles, using the largest brushes I can handle.  I'm thinking about the underlying forms and facial symmetry. Looking for "happy accidents" and trying to get a fair amount of paint on the board.  I want a nice wet surface to paint into on the second round.  This is an important stage, even though it's hard to look at.

 I refine the smaller shapes on a second pass.  This is the "leave well enough alone" stage.

Finally I add highlights to round out the forms, trying not to overdo them.  I like the contrast of the unfinished background against the face, so I consider it done at this point.

Recently I changed to a low chroma palette.  At Watts, students started out with a modified Zorn palette.  Cad red light, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue, ivory black.  I now realize this was the wrong palette for me, way too chromatic.  My skin tones were always too hot.  It's better now.

Self-portrait, detail

20 March 2015

Panel 3 of the Amanda Triptych

I'm finally finishing this little series with the 3rd panel of the Amanda Triptych.  This panel took a while to finish because of those downcast eyes...very challenging.  The perspective is complicated.  For guidance, I looked to works by Michael Borremans and Jordan Sokol.  They both seem to favor downcast eyes.

Amanda Triptych (panel 3) 11x14", oil on board

For context, here are all 3 panels together, as they will eventually hang.

Amanda (triptych) 14" x 33" oil on board

...and a brief progression.  As you can see, a fair amount of adjusting was required to reach that final likeness.


As I painted the 3rd panel, I was thinking about this portrait of Rembrandt from the National Gallery of Art, attributed to an artist in his workshop.  I did a master copy of this several years back and that experience came back when I needed it.  Beautiful image.

Portrait of Rembrandt, Rembrandt workshop artist, 1650

13 March 2015

Panel 2 of the Amanda Triptych

Here is the second panel of the triptych portrait of my daughter, Amanda.  First panel was posted last week.  I'm trying not to screw things up by getting too tight here. So sad to have a beautiful expressive passage ruined by that last unnecessary brushstroke.  It's about knowing when to leave well-enough alone, which I am gradually learning to do.

Amanda Triptych (panel 2) 11x14", oil on board

Here is a progression.  I struggled to get a good likeness, as you can see by comparing the first and third panels.  The challenge of portrait art...it needs to look like a particular person. This painting still needs work, but I need to move on to other things.  I'm finishing up the third panel which I will post soon.


And on a related topic, I love this video about Slomo, a San Diego resident who gave up conventional success to follow his passion.  Something most artists can relate to.  I found the video over on Bryce Liston's blog.  Worth a few minutes of your time.  It's uplifting with some serious good advice.