Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lucie and the Wind, Step by Step

Posted by: Kate

I started this painting over Christmas and blew through it until it was about 70% finished, and then set it aside and forgot about it until now. I experimented with a different approach to my cartoon: instead of just eyeballing it and using a needle to double check my measurements, I CHEATED by using guidelines in Photoshop to grid up the photo and then worked directly from my laptop screen onto gridded paper. It doesn’t really feel like drawing, but it’s a great method if you’ve got a tight deadline for a portrait commission and want to shave off a few hours. I transferred the drawing to the canvas and filled it in with some washy colour, not aiming to create something visually appealing, but a surface that is easier to paint on than pure white. At this point in the painting I hadn’t decided what colour or even what sort of garment she would be wearing, so I laid in some umber hoping it would be a good underpainting to whatever I eventually chose. That brings us to the stage you see here:
Once the washy stage had dried, I dove into the first painting of the face. Normally if I had to paint something really light and/or bright, I wouldn’t lay in any neighbouring dark tones first because then the entire day is spent managing contamination, but in this case I needed to have the value of the hair to judge my skin tones by. When painting faces I like to start by laying down some exaggerated colour in the cheeks, lips, nose and forehead. Now I have the “bounds” of my colours—the darkest note, the lightest note, the reddest note, and the yellowest note (the forehead, although in this case it is very grey). The bluest note in the face is soon to come. It’s easy to now work within these boundaries.
And here starts the ugly stage, which usually lasts a couple of hours:
I lay the eyebrows and irises in quite flatly. They don’t need a lot of detail right now, and I do a lot of softening with the surrounding flesh colour.

More exaggerated colour:

And quite suddenly, there you are:

Here’s an angled view without the glare:

This was half a day's work. I did some more once the face was laid in, but that's for the next post. As usual her features got a little smooshed in this stage, but there’s a couple more passes of paint to come. All the work so far was done with regular old store-brand bristle brushes. The wash was done with Gamsol, but the first-painting of the face was all pure paint. I’ll talk about my palette some other time.

Since our move Dave and I have been enjoying the country life. Did you know that you can set out beer traps in your strawberry patch to catch garden slugs?


  1. Unfortunately I have been drinking out of the traps as not to waste precious beer.

  2. Great! Thanks for share it!

  3. Christopher DaltonJuly 8, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    You blended that with bristle brushes???

  4. I wouldn't say it's blended, just modeled. If you look close there are brushstrokes. There shouldn't be any blending at this stage. Blending with a dry fan brush or badger brush just lifts paint off the surface and leaves you with a thinner paint layer.

  5. Drunken slugs and a killer start to a painting.