I started this painting by squirting paint straight onto the canvas and loosely spreading it around with a palette knife. Working from a black and white photo, I initially just focused on getting the values (lightness and darkness) right in the flesh tones. Then I mixed up some various desaturated colors and worked them into the face until an interesting balance was achieved.
I’m very happy with the final result, but the truth is that I didn’t like the way it looked until the very last brush stroke. This one took about 9 hours.
Notes for the next painting:
1) Keep resisting the urge to blend paint… Let the brush strokes show.
2) Consider using even less saturated colors and maybe a more limited palette.
3) Use smaller brushes (and brush strokes) for the detail areas.
4) Use glazing liquid to add more layers of brush strokes for more depth.
5) Lower the lighting in the studio. This painting came out a little darker than I would have wanted possibly because the canvas was too brightly lit during the painting process.
This one didn’t go as smoothly as my Tom Waits portrait, but I’m still very happy with the result. The colorful skin tones I started out with didn’t seem to fit the subject, so I pulled them back. I tried lots of different techniques on the skin including palette knife and glazing which added to the complexity of the skin (see detail). This one took about 13 hours to complete.
This is my second self portrait and it was a challenging one. I made a lot of mistakes and learned some good lessons:
Use a smaller canvas when you’re painting something that is new or challenging for you. I chose a rather large (for me) 16″x20″ canvas for this project.. As a result, all of my mistakes took so much longer to fix which was frustrating. Also, having to fill so much canvas real estate meant that the painting took me four days to complete. By the end of the painting, I was at the end of my patience and didn’t have the drive to fix some of the remaining defects.
Take the time to mix your skin colors correctly. It’s better to spend an extra 20 minutes getting it right than to spend an extra 1-2 hours fixing it later.
When roughing in the dark colors for the underpainting, make your edges soft. Also, be careful not to make areas too dark as you can end up fighting to lighten them later. Water down your burnt umber (or whatever paint your using) to make areas lighter.
My hope is that, as I practice more and gain more skill, I can start moving from realistic depictions to more painterly representations. In the future, I would like to produce the above image as an underpainting on which I can build from to create a bolder finished product. However, at my current skill level, I’m ecstatic to be able to produce this.
Here’s a short video showing the different stages of the painting: