Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Back in the Saddle
I have not done a new oil painting in more than two years... until now. I decided it was time to get back in the saddle, and I really missed working in my favorite medium. I stopped oil painting when I was pregnant with Judah because of all the toxic chemicals in the paints and in the mixing mediums and switched to watercolor. And then of course it's really hard to find time to paint with a toddler running around getting into EVERYTHING. So I moved my little studio to my office at work and started painting during my lunch breaks. It was perfect - quiet, and I didn't have to worry about a small human getting into toxic chemicals.
The subject is what scared me. I chose to do a portrait of Judah, and I was so worried because I wanted it to look like him. I am mostly happy with the way this turned out, and it looks a lot like the photo I was painting from, but I'll admit, it's rare that his face ever looks that serious. I searched and searched for the perfect image to use, and ultimately went with this one. It's one of the closest I have of his face where he's mostly still and has a lot of dramatic lighting. I'd like to share the process with you if you're interested.
I started my painting with a light pencil drawing straight onto the canvas which you can see a little bit of in this shot. I used only three tubes of paint with this piece because I wanted the finished painting to look cohesive: Cadmium Red - Medium Hue, Cadmium Yellow - Medium Hue, and French Ultramarine Blue. And Titanium White of course. Every color in the finished painting was mixed using only those three primary colors and white. I used very light washes to rough in the dark areas. If you want to know the medium I use to thin my paint this is my formula:
• 5 parts ordorless turpentine
• 2.5 parts linseed oil
• 1 part damar varnish
I work "lean to fat" - the darkest areas actually have the least amount of paint on them and are a bit translucent. The lighter areas have much more paint and go on towards the end.
Here you can see the picture I'm working from clipped to the top of my easel. This stage kind of makes me laugh. It's where I start tweaking it to actually look like the person I'm painting. I make a list of things that need to be adjusted. For example, I don't like in this one how his eyes look too intense and not really like the sweet baby that he is. His chin in a little too pointy and the eyebrows are too dark and sharp. The upper lip is also slightly too pointy. So I go through and make little edits and tweaks. Sometimes moving something a millimeter makes a difference.
And here's the final piece one more time! I have a home for it already in my renovated office at home on the gallery wall. I just need to find a frame.
If you're at all interested in a custom portrait, I do accept commissioned work. You can shoot me an email or contact me through my etsy shop. It feels good to be back to doing what I love!