Sunday, October 19, 2008

Plein Air: Eucalyptus Tree

Oil on Canvas 6 x 8 I went to the Olivas Adobe again and painted this eucalyptus tree. When I was looking for a suitable subject, I walked past it, and it just smelled so good, I had to stop and paint it. I think now the lines on the trunk could be sharper, and the sky a little more brilliant, but this is how it came out.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Second Portrait Attempt: Emmy

Oil on Canvas Board
11 x 14

This is my second attempt at a portrait. It is from a photo that I snapped of a friend. I tried really hard to get the drawing correct, but I was not able to do it. I thought it was right when I started painting, but by the time it was done, it just didn’t look right. Next time I might try to get the drawing done on paper first and then transfer it, like the old masters did.

The first day took 3 hours to draw, and then 5 hours to do the skin. I also quickly blocked in some colors for the other parts. I blocked in ultramarine blue for the shirt, and random dark greens and blues for the background.

For the skin: yellow ochre + cad red light + white.
For the lips: skin color + alizarin crimson.

The next Saturday, I worked on the rest of the picture. The hair was extra tricky because she was growing her blond out.

For the dark hair: raw umber + burnt umber (+ white where needed)
For the light hair: raw umber + yellow ochre (+ white)

I put straight black on the shirt, then scumbled some Payne’s gray on it.

I learned so much from this attempt: skin color, modeling the skin, doing hair, eyes, etc. I know the drawing is off, but the next one will be better yet!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Portrait Exercise “Victoria”

Oil on Canvas Board
12 x 16

I rented a SmartFlix instructional video by Johnnie Liliedahl on how to paint a portrait. Here is the link to her website:

I watched it, and took lots of notes. This is the picture that she demos and expects you to follow along. I thought I grabbed an 11 x 14 canvas, but I got a bigger one instead. I think larger canvases are more difficult.

Johnnie recommended sketching the head in freehand, but mine was coming out all wrong. She says things like, "Mark the top and the bottom of the head, then the width. Now mark where the pupils will go." She did hers effortlessly. Mine was coming out like Picasso. Finally, I wiped it down and gridded it off like I normally do. That helped a lot, but it still looks skewed to me. Honestly, it’s “okay” for a generic portrait, but I didn’t even capture the likeness accurately. Johnnie might be able to freehand it, but I can’t.

Johnnie recommends certain colors and an alkyd medium, but my colors just didn’t look right. It was starting to look like a young girl with too much pancake make-up on. I used the same palette, but I mixed up some lighter colors.

All my notes did not help me to get it to look right, so I just abandoned them and started copying. Even copying her picture seemed too hard, so I copied her little wallet sized picture of the reference photo. Alan’s motto is “just keep working on it until it looks right”, so I just kept plugging away, fussing and fussing.

When it came to the hair, Johnnie did not say how to do highlights. I thought that my subject looked like she had a Halloween wig on, so I used the fan brush and put some yellow ocher in it. It helped.

Though it is not perfect, I think it is a good first attempt at a portrait.

Plein Air: Adobe Courtyard with Roses

Oil on Canvas Board
6 x 8

I went back to the Olivas Park Adobe, and found this rose garden. The sun was going down, the shadows were moving fast, and the light was golden. I know this looks like it’s a house with no windows, but it is really a wall with a storage room on the end. It took about 11/2 hours. I am feeling more confident about doing plein airs and I am getting my system down.