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‘Spring In Fall’ Painting Instruction by master portrait painter

By October 20, 2009June 1st, 2016Portrait Painting Instruction, Portraits

On The Easel – Ballerina In The Park –   I am really appreciating the subtle greyed green tones in the background which are contrasted by the saturated pinks in her dress.

Below was the status of the painting yesterday morning. I have the basic background laid in, as well as a strong under-painting of the figure. There have been several thin layers applied and dried.  I want to depict the dress as spilling over the ledge (and over her thigh)  as a compositional lead-in, and I wanted to paint the leg and the ledge first before the dress. The next picture on the bottom shows the painting late last night and more comments.



Below is what the painting looks like today. I worked on both shoes, her bent leg, arm, hand and dress.  I can’t believe how much time I spent on her shoes.  I think my ADD kicked in.  I had to pull myself away and move on.

By painting the ledge under the dress first and letting it dry,  I now have better control over the dress.  This will be helpful in getting a see-thru look  (so it appears you can see the ledge through the dress).  I still have much to do on the dress, but first, I will let dry what I have done so far.

During this session, as I tweaked values and added light to the shoes and surrounding areas (notice the detail in the laces), I found myself adding quite a bit of light to the arm, bent knee, neck and hand. I always try to lay a foundation that is a little darker than it will eventually be.    As a general rule, oil paint should be laid in dark to light, and lean to fat.  So the under painting will not only be a little darker, but the paint layers will be thin. This not only means physically thin,  but low in oil content as well.  We would not want to use a thick oil medium in the initial layers.

I find that after the initial thin layers have been absorbed into my linen canvas and dried, when I add subsequent thicker additional layers on top, the real beauty of the paint begins to appear.  Of course, I’ll save the bold brush strokes for the end of the work and the painting should eventually radiate and luminese.    In the meantime, I will try not to be in a hurry.  Great paintings take time to develope.  As Morgan Weistling says, I like to sneak up on it.  Bold thick incorrect brush strokes can wreak havoc on the work.

Back to the painting.

I needed some paint on that arm. I could see some of the canvas poking through the paint layers, so I added another layer rather quickly knowing that I would be painting over it again later anyway. I am trying to decide how much light I want on the skin. Darkening the shadows is always an option, and has a similar effect as adding more light. It’s hard to see in the photo, but I am using alot of subtle greyed greens and reds in the skin tone.

Choosing the values and color temperatures that work well together and relate accurately to the painting as a whole is the challenge. It is closely related to putting a puzzle together. The paint looks different on the palette than it does on the canvas, so often a brush stroke is placed on the canvas that must be adjusted. I either wipe it off and try again, or I leave it and lay another correcting stroke on top. In either case, often I have to see what doesnt work first, then experiment till I find the right piece of the puzzle. Eventually, if I keep focused, and keep my eye on the big picture as well as the detail, it comes together.

Taking this painting to the level that I want to take it is turning out to be a larger project and taking more time that I had anticipated.  There is alot of skin, a complex weave of arms, hands, and legs, as well as a face pressed on a knee looking directly at the viewer. This work is a huge challenge!

Mark  Lovett