Glazing Portrait

So as I mentioned in the previous post, we did a number of painted portraits this semester. That last one was all about direct observation of color. This assignment was about observing value. We painted several studies of the portrait in monochrome and then added color through glazes later.

I got the original picture from a very interesting collection of mug shot photos taken by the New South Wales Police Dept. around the turn of the century.

Isn’t this picture fantastic!!! The Historic House Trust has a collection of hundreds of photos like these up on their website. The caption of this image reads:

Dorothy Mort, criminal record number 518LB, 18 April 1921. State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay, NSW

Convicted of murder. Mrs Dorothy Mort was having an affair with dashing young doctor Claude Tozer. On 21 December 1920 Tozer visited her home with the intention of breaking off the relationship. Mort shot him dead before attempting to commit suicide. Aged 32. Part of an archive of forensic photography created by the NSW Police between 1912 and 1964.

The photos are all haunting and amazingly detailed.

So anyway, here’s how my underpainting went. I took a photo part way through and then again at the end. I was trying very hard to map out the planes of the face and make her features more angular with the intention of rounding things over when I got to the color stages later.

Because the original photo is in black and white I was going to need to make up the colors for her face so I decided to do a digital paint over to play with a few things. Honestly it didn’t go that well. This was the best of the lot.

When the time came to add the color I decided to take a different tact. This same week in figure class we were working on master copies and were discussing the idea of using another artist’s images a touchstones. I’ve always liked this portrait by Edward Kensella:

In fact, I’ve got a really bad laser printer copy of it on my wall. The color laser printer amps up all the colors and really saturates everything and it gave this picture this angry red glow that is totally absent in the picture above. It seemed like an interesting place to start from. Here’s what I came up with:

Originally the idea was for the color to be a transparent glaze over the underpainting, and it was at first, I swear. But as things moved on and I kept adjusting it turned unto a rather opaque paint over. The glaze still comes through in the eyes. You can see where the black is now a deep red. I’m pretty happy with it.

Oil on board, about 8 in x 10 in

Direct Painting Portrait

My painting semester is over and I’ve got a bunch of paintings to share.

I got a little behind in posting things. This piece is from way back in October in the first half of the semester when we were still working in traditional paints. The goal for this assignment was to directly mix colors from observation. This was in contrast to the previous assignment where we did monochromatic under paintings and then applied color later.

Because this assignment was an exercise in color matching I decided limit myself from doing any blending or mixing on the canvas. Only splotches of flat color ala Lucian Freud. It came out a little flatter than I was hoping but it was interesting to realize how much variation in color there is in areas that look solid at first glance.

Portraits are kind of a new area for me, so I’ve had a lot of fun practicing.

Oh! Before I forget. I found woman’s picture on the photo stream of photographer Debabrata Ray. Go check out his work, he is very talented. I’m afraid I didn’t give the original photo justice.

Oil on Board, about 8 in x 10 in

Hector The Ivy Plant in Broad Strokes

Back to oil paint this time.

I’ve been leafing though the archives on Nathan Fowkes’ blog looking for ways to improve. He has a few posts with progress shots of his gouache landscapes that were very revealing. It looks like many of the paintings start with a bright wash over everything and then builds dark values on top. This painting of morning glories from March 2007 is a good example.

Fowkes is working in Watercolor with white gouache, but I decided to try with oils. Bright yellow wash, big strokes, oversized brush, and careful planning. Here’s Hector again:

You can see the yellow wash peaking around the edges. I wish I had left more of it. It’s all on the masking tape, so if I pull it off it will be gone. I kind of like it there.

Oil, about 7 in square.

Four Little Tea Cups

Still life number 2 for painting class. Our assignment was to paint the same subjects from 2 different lighting conditions so I thought this would be a good opertunity to expiriement a bit.

This is my little white tea cup and one of my patchwork juggling balls.

Tentacle Cat Monster Enjoys a Spot of Tea in the East Library

This was kind of a warm up / try oil paints again / get to know people in class painting for my painting class. It’s a still life I set up with one of my plush critters and some books (that Practical C++, Cascading Style Sheets, a modern art history textbook that weighs a ton and 3 illustration annuals) .

I have very poor ventilation where I work which makes working with oils very unpleasant. I forgo the solvents and medium and try to work with just the paints and linseed oil, and I keep a big houspainter’s fan going while I work, but the fumes still start to make me woozy after a short time. I think on the next one I’m going to give the water-oils another try.

The Salad Days of Evil

Why don’t super villains ever have photos of their childhoods hanging in their evil lairs? I know it kind of clashes with the antiseptic quasi-futuristic decor, and it just provides fodder for the hero’s witty retorts, but come on. It’s important to remember where you came from.

For this project I’m looking in to the childhoods of famous super villains. Here are a few of the early concept sketches (remember to click through for bigger images).

villain sketch 9

I was toying with a few different villains at this point. The Penguin from Batman in the upper left, Lizzy Borden, and that Ernst Blowfeld from the James Bond movies on the bottom.

Eventually I settled on the Penguin. I think he’s one of my favorite villains of all time. And not just because he has a top hat, umbrella, and monocle (though that defiantly helps).

villain sketch 10

villain sketch 11
villain sketch 12

A lot of fun ideas bounced around on this one, but I think it’s important to stick to the basics of supervillainy, and there’s nothing more basic to the supervillain’s kit than his minions.

penguin comp

Here’s the final illustration in oils.

The Penguin

[re]frigerator (now in color)

Starting from last week’s sketches I made a few attempts at the refrigerator composition in paint.  


For a first attempt I decided to go with acrylics.  As you can probably tell I didn’t get very far.  For whatever reason I find acrylic paint to be endlessly frustrating: it dries too quickly; it looks like flat plastic once it does so; it’s uneven if applied too wet; and lower layers disintegrate if you overwork new layers on top.  


For my next try I went with oils.  I had my first real experience with oil painting this last semester and found it to be enjoyable, but I’ve been reluctant to use it at home because of the fumes.  Here I used a small set of water mixable oils that avoid the need for turpentine, but the paints themselves still have strong fumes.

In any case, this piece turned out much better than the last.  However, because the oils take so long to dry I had to make this composition in a single pass, rather than the layers I worked with in previous oil paintings.  Working in this way is not as enjoyable because I end up fighting with the wet layers of paint.  


My last attempt was made in gouache.  I bought a small set of gouache colors some time last year but never really made much use of them other than to thinly mix with watercolors.  You can see here however that I’ve kept the paint thick and opaque.  I really like the results.  The colors don’t have that rich depth that the oils give you (in fact they’re a little chalky looking), but the layers were easy to work, and the the final piece scans really well.