Thursday, June 14, 2012

Iron Maiden Part VI

Posted by: Kate

House is clean, bookkeeping done, garden weeded...I guess I'm fresh out of excuses for not updating.

In my last post I left off with the background complete and the start of a lion's head.  Here is how I went back and finished up that completely fictional wood carving:

To reiterate, I used a mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Transparent Red Oxide with Titanium White, with cameos from Ivory Black and Raw Umber.  A note about Painting Things to Look Like the Things They Are Supposed to Look Like: this isn't limited to painting what you see, of course.  More and more I'm painting things to look what they're supposed to look like, whether or not they look like my reference and whether or not I even have a reference.  This lion's head is based on a drawing I mocked up using about half a dozen lion's head Google images.  I picked what I liked best about each of them, hashed out the drawing several times, and then started painting.  As an aside, I've noticed that when people "discover" the realism of the 19th century (or the realism of any prior time), the big revelation is, "Whoah!  Those artists could really paint what they saw!"  This is missing the point.  With the right education, it's not that difficult to paint or draw what you see.  What is really hard, and what the great artists of the past all challenged themselves to do, is to paint what you can't see.  The illustrators and CGI artists and Pixar animators of the world all run circles around us fine artists.

Now with the lion's head done, the only thing left is to go back and repaint all the flesh.  This is the final pass, and my last chance to tweak everything.  Values have to be perfected, shapes refined, and slick gooey highlights need to be re-gooed in all the right places.  I won't share photos because the before and after differences aren't really that noticeable.  In real life the painting has a bit more of a glow, like maybe she started washing her face with Neutrogena or something.  The actual paint application is just about the same, except that I oil in lightly with a bit of Linseed Oil cut with Gamsol (maybe a one to one ratio).  This helps the paint go on more smoothly and enables fine blending.  The second difference is that for the final pass, I switch from Titanium White to Lead White #2 by Natural Pigments.  As I said in a previous blog post, Titanium White changes value slightly when it dries.  This makes it just about impossible to paint seamlessly from one day to the next.

One thing I really love is before and after pictures.  I love them so much that I actually google weight loss photos in my spare time.  That, and celebs without their make up.  Here is a series of before an after pictures, illustrating the evolution of my sitter's face through the different stages of painting.  The photo on the far right was taken after the final pass on the face was completed.  It really doesn't look that different from the stage immediately before it, but there are slight improvements, and that extra layer of paint will improve the opacity of the face.  Oil paint thins with time, and mistakes from earlier stages of the painting can start to show through.

Now let's look at this thing all greased up with essential oil of petroleum:

The glare's pretty bad, so I'm sharing a couple of photos so you can get the idea.

This picture shows the background nicely.  It ended up being more transparent than I thought it would be.

The face.

The hands.

Now that the painting is done, my husband gave me a brutal critique.  I need to soften the hairline, darken the lion's face a bit, get rid of those dumb wrinkles on the underside of her left hand.  He also said I should have painted with more colour, and that the jump between her highly rendered face and the abstract background was too much.  I told him he's stupid and ugly and I never liked him anyways.


  1. What a beautiful painting!! And I like the wrinkles in her hand!

  2. Ha! You tell him! I'm with Raoul... The hands are beautiful, as is the rest. So picky! ~ laughs ~

  3. I love this painting. No whimpy girl portraits for me. This one has strength! I love the abstract background contrasting with the beautifully rendered face, she looks like she is emerging from the heart of the wood. Alas, you a probably right about the illustrators, CGI artists, and Pixar animators running circles around fine artists. In my experience (28 years of marriage) husbands like to give brutal critiques to their wives. They usually forget about it after a while and will claim they never said that. : )

  4. Isn't it breaking the fat over lean principle to put lead white over titanium ?

  5. I have to be tough on her to learn her good. Not sure about the titanium thing, I know lead needs less oil to become fluid, bu technically Kate is adding more oil to the lead for the final layer. I'll go yell at her again regardless.