Progress continued 3


The work of the past two weeks has been developing the depth of the setting, and establishing the finished values of the work. By values I mean the darks and lights of all the hues in the painting. The image has many shades of white but when it comes to paint none of it is painted with just white at all. To help me do this I use a paper value finder and Photoshop’s grayscale slider. I sample a spot on the computer image I am working on, see its value and adjust the paint to match the same value on the paper scale. It seems complicated but it is a method I came to because it is impossible to judge the paint on my brush next to the source image when using a computer screen. I think those that paint will understand what I mean. There is further balancing to do because I am not always copying the source image value for value, often I am measuring value ranges instead. If you have any questions I can elaborate in another post.Untitled-1

In these pictures you can see how the space has been developed so that there is depth behind the figure going into a back room and window.

I have also mixed the final colours for the flesh and clothing and so this is the focus from here on in. Once the figure is done there will be a final few hours glazing shadows, light in shadows and highlights on the furniture and shoes. This all should be done within a week or two from now.

Here are a couple of images showing the progress of particular spots.
The wall behind was darkened and the shadows and reflections on the floor added.

The bannisters and window behind are all complete.

These final hours of the painting are the most satisfying because after all of this building up most of the magic of illusion happens with the final touches. Hopefully this will show in the final photos I’ll post over the next while.

Portrait Progress Continued #2

So, the note on the last post said I thought I would be finished this next stage in a week-oh my! Three weeks since I posted and the under painting is pretty much complete, all the board is covered in paint and the drawing is no longer visible. may173
I have made some adjustments along the way, changing some of the scale and measurements but it seems perfect now to begin the final layers of paint. It still appears pretty “flat” because there aren’t yet any glazed shadows and highlights added. The structure is set and now the illusion will really start to take shape. The transitions and edges between colours and values are still clumsy looking and so this is a major focus from here on in.


















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In these two above you can see that I am still re-measuring and correcting the drawing as I paint.
And here you can see where I have begun to add more colour to the bottom paint layer. For instance, the hands are richer than the knee which is still the first layer with limited colour.

may17  may179


It has been very valuable to show my progress to you as it is making me aware of things I am doing that are habit but not necessary(I think). I’m taking notes and look forward to refining my technique on the next pieces.



I’ll post a little more frequently through this next stage as the work gets closer to being finished.

For now though, enjoy if you are interested!

Progress continued

IPGOver the past few weeks I’ve been sharing my process of developing a major portrait. I’ve composed a reference to work from, drawn out a study and finished the preliminary drawing on the board the painting is done on. After all of this work  I finally began to apply the oil paint this week. This stage is always a little different for me. Sometimes I will do washes over the entire image with thin colour to paint into, sometimes I will do an entire rough painting in black, white and greys. I can only say that it depends on my mood and the mood of the painting because each method gives a different feeling to the act of painting. This time I am making a thickly painted and very developed first layer. Because this composition has a very architectural setting I want a gestural method of brushwork and a rich visual texture to the final work.  The challenge will be to keep the freshness of this first paint through subsequent layers of refinement that is needed to develop the portrait.




I began with the architectural details and the space behind the figure so that I can have a physical sense of place and setting established while I am painting on the figure. I enjoy very much the sense of illusion in the work while I paint and use its development as a guide to measure when the piece is finished.


I am using only cold wax medium in the paint or sometimes brushed onto the board first as a layer to paint into.


By next Friday I should have the entire board covered in this first layer of paint.


Thanks for reading and see you next week!



This week on my easel

Among other things, I finished the drawing on the current portrait. Last week I showed the beginning and a little bit of how I do it. I think every artist has a different way of working and I know for me all of this preliminary work, the drawing and under painting is never seen as it is hidden beneath the finished product. I am very interested in seeing the process of other painters so who knows, maybe it will be of interest to show mine.
The drawing is of course on white acrylic gesso on board. Once it is finished I cover it all with another coat of clear acrylic gesso. I don’t fix the graphite at all so yes, it does smudge, but I like this stage to be smudgy, and brushy (gesso-wise). The lines all remain but there is an uneven grey stain that gives some life to the work and makes it more interesting to paint on than a clear outline and pristine white spaces. Also the grid and numbers are still clear because I’ll be using them quite a bit in painting before they get covered.

So here are a few photos of before and after the last gesso coat.




and after:




Next week I should be able to show the underpainting done.

curves…and Instagram

No work finished this week but I have lots in progress. I’ve got pictures here of the what is on the easel. These show very well my process of getting work from a preliminary study to a support for painting. I draw my images from both a drawn study and one on computer using a grid. It is a long process but I find that the more engaged and familiar I am with the lines and the shape of an image the easier the painting goes so it is worth the time. I measure everything very carefully and also use curves, angles and straight edges constantly. I have been using these tools for what seems like ages- I can barely trust mind let alone my drawing hand to get things right on their own. The tools also aid me in capturing a flow and design that otherwise I lose working so slow and particularly.





In the drawing I do some very rough shading to keep things organized. These initial drawings can get pretty complicated. Once the drawing is done I will brush a coat of clear gesso over it and then it will be ready for the oil paint.
Here is one with the first layer of paint…


So this week I went onto Instagram for the first time. There is a whole new world of images there- old news I’m sure for most of you but new to me. Easy to take and post the odd studio picture there that won’t end up here! Only for my art though…no garden photos-I’ll save those for Facebook.

Happy New Year!

Hello and happy new year.  I hope that 2014 is going very well for you so far.  Here the kids are all back at school and I have gotten back to work in the studio.

First of all I have made a couple of changes here to make it easier for those interested to follow my creative work. I have published a page specifically for following my professional activities on Facebook so you won’t have to suffer personal posts there if you don’t wish. It is separate from my personal FB profile. I have also included to the right here on the blog links for those who aren’t on Facebook to know when I post via email and Twitter as you wish.

I have a few creative projects on the go but on the easel today is work continuing my fascination with still life. In the last portrait I did there were roses and I became painfully aware of how difficult it is to capture a rose in paint.  I have always intended to develop this skill and so now it seems appropriate to take the time while it is top of mind.  I am using fabric roses and working to refine a limited palette I will put to use in one of my other current projects.  With a few boards ready to work on I will do some variations of this still life. I may set up a “real” rose to paint from too because I’m sure there are a few very important differences in painting a fabric rose and a real rose- first being that with one you are painting fabric and with the other you are painting a living plant.

One of the necessary processes in my painting is drawing the image before any of the painting begins. Painting from photo or drawn reference, I use a grid to copy and draw the image and this means transferring one 2D image to a 2D surface pretty much mathematically- one square=one square and I copy the lines accordingly. When working from a still life though, I am transferring a 3D image to 2D and it takes a different kind of process to work this way. A primary element for composition is an image’s boundaries and on a 2 dimensional reference, say a photograph, I am able to crop the image very particularly and transfer these boundaries specifically to the board I am working on.   From still life however it is more challenging to “crop” the image and create specific boundaries to reproduce on the board.  1

Once a still life was set I used a “cut out” the same proportions as my working surface to design a composition. Marks on the cut out let me line up the image precisely every time I looked at the still life.


With the image designed the next issue was drawing to the correct proportions.  On the other work (with a 2D reference) this is a simple process of measuring like for like on little gridded squares. Here though, I don’t have a grid so  I used a tool called a proportional divider to measure like for like.  In these pictures you can see that I took a measurement with one side of the divider and then as I turn the tool around it gives an exact measurement proportioned larger for my drawing.  The divider then guides me to make an copy of the still life as exactly right as my eye and hands will allow.  56fabricrose IP4Once I had a detailed enough drawing to work from and then I put a coat of clear gessoe over the drawing before I began to paint.



8Here is the under painting.

I will post again once the piece is complete in a week.

Thanks for reading!