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AllisonR
04-27-2013, 05:47 PM
Oil on canvas, about 22 x 30 inches
I wanted to paint a colorful portrait. I have spent a ton of time and feel I should be painting better than this by now. Am frustrated at this point. Please give hard, constructive criticism. (ignore glare, paint is still wet)

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/27-Apr-2013/133314-Breastfeeding_Christine_og_Ester.jpg
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/27-Apr-2013/133314-Breastfeeding_Christine_og_Ester_crop.jpg

Here are samples of the style I was aiming for:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/27-Apr-2013/133314-Daniel_Ludwig4.jpg
http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/27-Apr-2013/133314-Dan_Thompson_Bird_of_Victory.jpg

Avena Cash
04-27-2013, 06:53 PM
I love your painting, and I've commented already in Oil Painting a few times. It has so much zing, and the color approach reminds me of colors I have sometimes seen in Scandinavian design.

Now that you show these other two paintings though, I can see you aren't getting what you want. I don't quite understand the grisaille technique and the complete covering of the underpainting with pure colors. (I doubt that is the approach used in those.) I think you are really needing lots of middle tones with plenty of black/complementary neutralization happening AND/OR a single color undertone that is being used throughout, respectively, to get these two effects. Both of them seem to be more about light and light quality with lots of gradual but decisive transitions between light and dark than your original image or scene is set up to be.

In the first painting, the artist has chosen dull and brightened areas very consciously. There are large zones of deep grayish color and middle tones, with a careful layout of brights.

In the second, the same thing happens. There are many dull and gentle tones with mottled colors creating gentle graying modeling. The blue-green seems like a linking color picked up throughout, though with less green in the background. There is a lot of modeling and middle tone.

Your painting works very well with a completely different approach. Almost no black or gray or weak tones, everything high contrast and brights spread over everything like a mosaic. To do otherwise, I'd think you'd select those gray areas in the underpainting and slowly bring out a handful of gradual brights, keeping lots of things close to the original grays. I don't use the grisaille technique at all but I do use an underpainting to start with values and work the colors out from that. So in ways I am unfamiliar with the possibilities of that technique. Whatever your process, I think you need some way of setting up shadows as part of the composition from the beginning if you prefer not to have a pattern of bright color be the result.

I still like the results a lot. I don't know if you could change it without losing some real strengths. Do you plan to make major changes? Or do you mainly want to consider how to approach other paintings in the future?

I am trying to remember the underpainting but I am thinking that it had already set the sharp patterned appearance in place at the beginning.

Nathalie Chavieve
04-28-2013, 12:04 PM
The picture is very big in size and it take a lot of time to open, so I went to the Oil paintings forum and saw there that you have done a grisaille for this painting. The grisaille works like a middle tone ( as Avena Cash mentioned already ). In the finished painting I do not see any of grisaille coming through . When you work in grisaille technique in your painting you do not have to cover it all with a paint as it makes the usage of grisaille useless. For example , you should apply a paint in very thin glazes to the left cheek to let grisaille come through and define a form of the face. If you are interested in grisaille painting techniques for portraits I highly recomend you to purchase a book by Joseph Sheppard " How to paint like the Old Masters". It is inexpensive book and you can find it in Amazon.co.uk. It has explanations of the techniques of old masters like Vermeer, Caravaggio, Rubens and etc. with step by step demonstrations. It will be excellent help for you.

One other thing about grisaille: in this technique the use of the opaque colors is minimum: mostly you have to use transparent, semi-transparent and semi-opaque colors in order to apply them in glazing techniques to create an optical color mixing. Titanium white is not good color for grisaille as it has highly opaque qualities. I use for grisaille and color layering Flake white (hue). I use mostly titanium white only in the last color layers for highlights or some other needs.

Nathalie Chavieve
04-28-2013, 12:42 PM
In this post you have said : "1st rough sketch over a neutral grey ground. This is in open acrylics. Not sure why I picked magenta color. Normally I use earth colors. But this painting will be full of color, so maybe it doesn't matter. "
In the matter of fact it is very much matter what color you choose for you first underpainting or Imprimatura when you work in grisaille technique as it will affect the final result. This color is the color of the lights of your painting.

I do not like also the very bright color of the shelf book in the background. It is take all attention from the mother and child and make them dissapear in it. If you could use grisaille techinque properly you could reduce the brightness of the color by applying very thin glazes of color over grisaille leaving some areas even untouched.

The advantage of grisaille technique is that sometimes you need only a few brush strokes of color to create a visual effect of colorful palette.


One more thought: there is no shadows and no contrast at all. Lack of shadows and flat colors create an overall flatness in this art work.

AllisonR
04-28-2013, 05:00 PM
I think you are really needing lots of middle tones with plenty of black/complementary neutralization happening AND/OR a single color undertone that is being used throughout, respectively, to get these two effects. Both of them seem to be more about light and light quality with lots of gradual but decisive transitions between light and dark than your original image or scene is set up to be.

In the first painting, the artist has chosen dull and brightened areas very consciously. There are large zones of deep grayish color and middle tones, with a careful layout of brights.

In the second, the same thing happens. There are many dull and gentle tones with mottled colors creating gentle graying modeling. The blue-green seems like a linking color picked up throughout, though with less green in the background. There is a lot of modeling and middle tone.



Bolding mine. Yes, I see it now! I was thinking color, color, everywhere. But what you say makes sense. Both these paintings have strong highlights and shadows and areas of dull or neutral; they are not bright everywhere. I also see now, especially in the 2nd example, that the skintones on the girl are every color of blue and yellow and red. They are not neutral skin tones. I think I originally painted her with much bolder lines and more contrast. She looked ugly, but she fit into the scene much better. Now I have made her skin all soft and blemish free and gentle - so she looks like she belongs in a subtle, old painting. But because she is subtle and the background is so bold, it does not work. She looks like a cut out, placed in a modern scene. I think what I should do is actually add real color to her skin - real cadmium yellow blobs on her forehead, some blue or purple or green to her chin. I have now done this a bit more, but it is still not bold enough, and I am afraid I may be too cautious to really go for it.

I do not like also the very bright color of the shelf book in the background. It is take all attention from the mother and child and make them dissapear in it. If you could use grisaille techinque properly you could reduce the brightness of the color by applying very thin glazes of color over grisaille leaving some areas even untouched.

The advantage of grisaille technique is that sometimes you need only a few brush strokes of color to create a visual effect of colorful palette.


One more thought: there is no shadows and no contrast at all. Lack of shadows and flat colors create an overall flatness in this art work.


Bolding mine. Totally agree. The painting is all about color, and very little about shadows and highlights - lack of contrast. And I can see now that this is probably the main reason the whole painting looks flat. And the double-light source I have, light from both the left and right, are also making everything very flat. I also agree the bookshelf is taking all the attention. Could have made it much darker, duller.

Regarding grisaille - I have found I can only use glazing over the grisaille in the mediums and very dark areas. Here only a layer or two of dark color applied, and often rubbed back off again, work fine and the grisaille shows through. But on medium and light tones, glazing doesn't work. If I try to use thin glazes, it looks all stained-like. Because the color goes into the tooth of the painting, and the parts that stick up get no color. So I paint more heavily in these areas, using regualr painting techniques, or do more dry brush. I would love to not have to cover the complete grisaille, but I can't get it to work in the light areas. Not sure if it is me or the technique.

Not sure yet how daring I am going to be to fix it all.

La_
04-30-2013, 02:02 AM
i certainly wouldn't try to turn your piece into the style you're going for.
now that you understand it more, do another and leave this one in the style you've made it - super bright and cheery everywhere (except her expression, which i think adds an interesting tension to all the bright).
use this one as an example of what to do differently on the next and keep a close eye on edges - sharp, crisp edges vs soft, blended edges.

next!

la

vac911
05-01-2013, 04:52 AM
Because the color goes into the tooth of the painting,

Try using a canvas that has been prepped very smooth with an eggshell finish on your next grisaille painting.

Nathalie Chavieve
05-01-2013, 11:22 AM
vac911 is right. Very often I do buy ready gessoed canvas, but still I do apply 3 or 4 additional coats of acrylic gesso over it and than sand it with fine sandpaper to eggshell smooth effect.

Nathalie Chavieve
05-01-2013, 11:40 AM
I don't know how familiar you are with grisaille technique. In this technique usually you do apply colors in a few layers (glazing), allowing some drying time between them.

Please, take a look at the process of my painting "Madonna with child" in which I used grisaille ( dead layer) technique.

Before applying grisaille ( dead layer), careful underpainting in Burnt umber was made.

1. Skin tone grisaille.


http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-May-2013/189689-Madonna_with_child_16.JPG

Nathalie Chavieve
05-01-2013, 11:49 AM
2. First color layer.
Please, note, how thin I tried to apply colors in some areas of the face, eyes, cheeks, shadows in the neck. And how thick I applied light colors under the eyes, forehead, nose, chin.


http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-May-2013/189689-Madonna_with_child_17.JPG

Nathalie Chavieve
05-01-2013, 11:57 AM
3. Finished painting .

There was more color layers between 1 color layer and finished one. But you can see I left some areas of the face and neck almost untouched ( or covered with very thin layers of color ) that grisaille shows through.



http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-May-2013/189689-Madonna_with_child_27.JPG

AllisonR
05-01-2013, 01:08 PM
Nathalie, thanks for your explanations and examples. If you apply very thin layers of color, how do the next layers stick? I am having problems here because if I do a warm or cool dark glaze over an area, sometimes it is too much, so I then wipe most off with a cloth. It looks ok, but then if I try to paint over that it does not work, the previous layer starts falling off, and I get an ugly blotchy effect.

AllisonR
05-01-2013, 01:10 PM
I got a lot of advice here and in open critique, so I have added contrast and more colors to her face. Hopefully her face now blends a bit better with the rest of the painting, instead of looking like a renaissance head in modern painting. I touched up eyes and nose, added another fuzzier layer to the quilt and most important darkened the background so the perspective isn't quite so flat. I would like to darken it more but am getting in trouble. I darkened it by adding some cool and warm dark shades in a sort of dry-brush and then rubbing most of the color off with a cloth diaper. Worked well, was subtle, but if I try to do another layer of dark, the previous falls off and looks blotchy and yucky. I think the pigment is so thin that it isn't sticking strongly to the previous layers. So I am not sure how I can darken it more?

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/01-May-2013/133314-Christine_og_Ester_Christine_og_Ester_Final.jpg

Nathalie Chavieve
05-01-2013, 04:14 PM
When you apply glazes of color, you have to allow to dry thoroughly previous color layer, which is for oils could be up to a few weeks. I do allow to dry canvas or panels up to 3 weeks or sometimes more. Then, when it dry, I do apply next color layer. It is not a same technique as wet-on-wet technique.

I do agree with La, that it is better if you will leave this painting as it is and start a new one. If you are going to make more changes to this painting, it is going to be a big mess.

Billycourty
05-02-2013, 01:50 PM
Please forgive me AllisonR I have not read the critiques above me.

I love your colorful work and I think you have captured breastfeeding wonderfully! I think you captured everything wonderfully and you shouldn't doubt yourself. Regarding the breastfeeding, i breastfed all of my three children and two of them are twins. My son who is a twin had a dummy and would often nurse as you have depicted.

You are making very joyous art and I would be happy to hang any of your paintings on my wall.

I am sorry that I have nothing to critique but i find the style beautiful and balanced thus not in need of editing.

kindest regards
Jay