Chisel with Wood Shavings
24 x 30 cm, Oil on Canvas Board
A still life doesn’t always have to be fruits or flowers…
I think that one of the best ways to learn portrait painting is to copy old master paintings. I do this once in a while and this time I put up a picture of John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Henry James on the computer screen next to my easel.
A portrait is a picture in which there is something not quite right about the mouth – John singer sargent
The colors that I used are: Burnt Umber, Ivory Black, Cadmium Red Light, Yellow Ochre and Titanium White.
I started with Burnt Umber to define the shadows and after adding the background I let the under-painting dry until the next day.
Then I mixed a basic skin color of Cadmium Red Light, Yellow Ochre and Titanium White. By making warming and colder variations of this color, I started working from the large shapes of the head to the smaller shapes.
Of course, when you copy a master painting the problems with composition, design, light/dark, hard/soft edges are already solved by the artist. I believe that this is the area where there’s most to learn. The preparation of the painting, before even starting to paint, is most important.
In one of the books by Andrew Loomis, he writes that “creativity lies in the conception and the rest is good carpenter work.” I’m starting to see that more and more. Mixing the colors and painting the final picture is the easy part!
I stopped the painting here, after two painting sessions, maybe I’ll continue refining it in the future. I’m pleased with the overall shape of the head, especially the light on the forehead, but -as always-, the mouth needs some more work!
I painted this portrait ‘Alla Prima’ in one session of about 4 hours. The hands and a few touch-ups were painted the next day.
As opposed to painting in layers over a long period of time, I like the directness of an alla prima portrait. There is no time to fuss over details before the paint is dry and it takes a great deal of concentration and focus to complete.
To paint this way you have to be able to ‘draw’ the portrait with a brush, so good drawing skills are important.
There will be some imperfections when painting this way, but that also adds character and life to the painting.
In the book ‘Creative Illustration’ by Andrew Loomis there is an interesting theory about color relations.
In short, he explains that by mixing a little of one color into all the other colors on the palette, the colors become related and a harmonious painting is automatically the result.
Instead of mixing on the palette you can also paint directly into a wet underpainting. I tested out this technique and copied one of the four example portraits from the book.
I covered the whole canvas with a thin layer of blue, into which I painted all the other colors.
15 x 17 cm
In this sketch I tried to pay attention to the structure of the head, while keeping the brushwork as loose as possible. I drew with the brush straight on the canvas, without a detailed underdrawing. I like this spontaneous way of working.
I feel that all the hours of figure drawing and studying anatomy are finally starting to pay off.
I’m now able to make these kind of sketches fairly quick, in about 45 minutes I think, since I always loose my sense of time when I’m painting…
Oil on canvas
20 x 15 cm
This painting is for sale in my new online shop.
Sunday the 31st was the last day of the summer exhibition at Fredholm Hageopplevelser.
I had a great time being in the gallery during the weekends, and it was very nice to meet so many people and talk about art. I sold one painting and I was commissioned to paint a log cabin in the forest and to draw a logo for a local farm.
Many thanks to Helen and Erlend Fredholm for this wonderful opportunity to show my art to everyone that visited the garden this summer!
This summer I wanted to do some more painting outside and ‘on location’, also known as Plein-Air painting.
To learn more about landscapes I decided to paint many smaller (15x20cm) paintings, instead of larger paintings that take much longer to finish.
I set a time limit of maximum one hour for each painting. This way you really have to focus and work fast. There’s no time to fiddle with details and it helps to keep the painting loose.
From a small aluminum suitcase and a camera tripod I made a lightweight painting setup.
In the suitcase there’s enough room for everything I need; paint, brushes, a palette and a pile of canvasses that I cut to size and just tape to the inside lid.
The finished portrait from the book Oil Painting Techniques and materials by Harold Speed.
Click here to read part one of this post with pictures of the work in progress.
This is a portrait I’ve been working on today. I hope to finish the painting tomorrow.
The painting is published in a book by Harold Speed in which he explains the stages of the portrait. I printed a photo of the finished painting and followed the instructions in the book. It was a great exercise, I really learned a lot.
I wanted to take lots of pictures of the work in progress , but I was so busy painting that I forgot to stop and pick up the camera.
Here I painted the clothes in flat colours and did some more work on the nose, mouth and eyes.
Blocking in the background and local color of the hair and the planes of the head.
A loose charcoal drawing, transferred to the canvas with help of a grid.
This is a quick color study. It still amazes me how bright and colourful a ‘dull’ color like yellow ochre can appear against a greyed background.
For this sketch I used two earth colours: Venetian Red and Yellow ochre, together with black and white. Ivory black is a blue black, so mixed with yellow it makes green and mixed with red, purple.
The palette I used: