View Full Version : Bouguereau - Cupid and Psyche

Sarah Edgecumbe
05-05-2013, 05:43 PM
Hey all,

Sorry i know i have a couple of threads in here. I am doing a few at the same time. I like being able to stop messing with one and go to another. Means i don't touch the ones that NEED to dry in between :-)

I am having a go at this one because i want the challenge of the delicate skin tones.

I am very open to suggestion as to how to proceed with this I had been playing around with White, yellow ocher, burnt sienna, alazarin Crimson and cobalt blue. Making some very pretty greys.




I know a few of you have done this one, so very interested in your tips and tricks :-)

Have a great day everyone :-)


05-05-2013, 05:51 PM
Looking good so far!

It'll probably become clearer as you paint, but watch the placement of Psyche's features, she is looking down a little bit, so they are slightly foreshortened and her forehead is bigger than if she was looking straight on. When it comes to painting her forehead, it is quite surprising how dark it is as well.

You will have so much fun when you get to the skin tones!

Sarah Edgecumbe
05-05-2013, 06:07 PM
Nods, thanks Rolina,

Also the side of her face is slimmer... but that could just be room for the shadows. I will watch the eye placement The lower lids need turning down. I think i have the hair line a fraction low rather than the eyes too high?

This time i swear.... i will get the placement of the features correct in THIS layer! (I say it everytime) perhaps this will be the one that i get right!

Thanks for your 'fresh set of eyes'


05-06-2013, 02:54 AM
This looks like a really hard one (to me, so much skin tones!), I'm following!

Nathalie Chavieve
05-06-2013, 04:08 PM
The girl's face looks completly awkward, especially the nose !!! You have to check the overal proportions of the face.

If you are not sure in your drawing skills , it is much better to do a full size drawing on paper and fix any problem with design on paper, before you can transfer it to the canvas or panel. Of course, it is much more work to do, but then you'll not make a mess on the canvas, and the only thing you'll need to do is to transfer the ready drawing to the support you use and start to work in oils without having headache how to fix mistakes.

Sarah Edgecumbe
05-08-2013, 01:00 AM
Hi Nathalie,

thanks for your comments, there is actually an accurate drawing hiding under there :cat: Just as i put in shadow it got a bit covered and the paint went in the wrong spots. :D So it isn't 'quite' as awful as it looks :-)

On close inspection i can see where i needed the paint. It's just not showing in the photo that is posted. :) When i have two colours one to define and one to cover it up it will get fixed to the correct spots. Unfortunately, the colour once on the board decided that not even OMS would get it out again. So i am left with a smudgey "mess" until i can cover it again.

The board seems very" porous," so i think i will have to be careful with how i proceed. :( I hope the paint isn't sinking in too far. I did have several coats of gesso. the same as the other boards with which i have had no problems. Perhaps the drawing on the board (and the constant rubbing out) has caused some damage to the board :confused:

I will post again when i think i have the drawing is complete (as obviously it was not in the post above) and i would love some comments when it is. I understand the importance of getting in as good as i can in the underlayers to help the top layers paint well.

I'm sure i won't get it perfect, but I'll do my best with my small experience. :lol: :lol: :lol:

Anyone have any colour choice suggestions for the skin in this one?

Anyway happy painting everyone :-)


ianos dan
05-08-2013, 06:01 AM
Hi Sarah! if l would paint this copy ,l would definitely go for local color ,transparent in shadows and ticker in lights and highlights,no dead layer here.
i don;t think Bouguereau used dead layer,l think he used only an underpainting ,just to establish the form ,and then go over with final layer.
What i would do;l will use for the underpainting of the flesh color a limited palette ,consisting in 4 or 5 colors,not more :)

Sarah Edgecumbe
05-08-2013, 07:55 AM
Nods, Thanks Ianos dan,

limited palette. I don't want to add too many colours in here. I was playing around with the following White, yellow ocher, burnt sienna, alazarin Crimson and cobalt blue. Perhaps raw umber (my favorite) and ? a black. Although i could easily mix a black here.

happy to look at other suggestions though..

I love your idea of transparent in shadows and light highlights, it's what i was hoping to do.

I was going to use one colour and white and make a tonal underpainting to add thin colour over. I love this method. I have seen this painting done in that way. any further suggestions on the type of underpainting you are suggesting ??

Thanks ianos dan :-)


05-08-2013, 11:30 AM
Those are the colours I used, except the black. It is so high key, I don't think you will need it.

I just painted directly, no underpainting cos that's the way I roll, lol!

05-08-2013, 11:58 AM
Anyone have any colour choice suggestions for the skin in this one?

After seeing your color choices in your last post, I would add cad red light, which really adds a rosy glow to skin. Unlike other cad reds, when you add it to white, you get a lovely coral color, rather than a 'pink' pink. I think alizarin would be way too strong and cold for baby skin. Cad red light also lends the perfect lavender color when mixed with cobalt blue (and a touch of yellow ochre) in the cooler shadow area. And I agree with Rolina, you shouldn't need black at all, C Blue and raw umber will do nicely.

My basic mix for caucasian skin tones is:
yellow ochre, cad red light, and cobalt blue for babies and young children, and very old people,
raw sienna, cad red light, and cobalt blue for adults, with a little mars orange added to males' cheeks, nose and chin, for a ruddier look.

Tread lightly when mixing skin tones, and be especially careful when blending, nothing takes the life out of a human subject faster than 'muddied' colors, and children especially have very fresh looking skin.

For a dead layer/underpainting, I suggest white and raw umber, choosing from your list.

:) True confession:
I too have rubbed through the gesso (on a canvas) trying to get an underpainting just right. The solutions are to get a preliminary drawing done prior to putting anything on canvas, as suggested here earlier, or make corrections in the next layers.

Be warned, the second solution can set you up for constant frustrations down the road, because especially when one is doing the human form, adjusting one thing will almost certainly throw something off some where else.

05-08-2013, 12:00 PM
Courageous to try this. Bouguereau's skintones aren't easy to emulate.

Bouguereau used a dead layer of yellow and brown earths and used this layer for the darkest shadows. He scraped down the following layers until they had the right transparancy. Be careful with very abrupt transitions in your underpainting, because they will need a thick layer of paint to hide, making it impossible to use very thin and delicate layers. Areas in the underpainting that are too dark, will cause (unwanted) temperature shifts in the following layers. I think your chosen colors will suffice.

Good luck!

Sarah Edgecumbe
05-08-2013, 06:19 PM
Thanks guys,

Didn;t think i needed the black. I manage well enough without it most of the time. I will have to acquire some cad red light as for some reason i don't have it??? But it is the next on the list.

I will be playing with the colours a lot before i start the colour layer. to make sure i know their uses really well first. I like thin layers of colour, so hopefully i won't muddy them up too much.

I will be super super careful with the underpainting to ensure the transitions are very smooth. Thank you. No doubt i will have to have a couple of trials of the skin tones before i get anything that even resembles anything suitable. But that is why i have chosen this. I want to play with skin tones.

I might have picked about the hardest i could.... but "be there no challenge.... there be no learning or improvement..." I learn by buggering things up, so hopefully i will learn HEAPS :lol: :lol: :lol:

Thanks again, it's nice to know there is experience and support from you guys :-) I will keep you posted. and no doubt pick your brains again. (and again)



05-11-2013, 01:17 AM
i have found odd nerdrum's portrait palette to be sufficient for copying any work pre 1900 in a classical style. Mars black,cadmium red hue, alizarin crimson.yellow ochre and titanium white. you have to add a blue to it here. add prussian blue, a tiny bit, to pure gray. juxtapose all your slightly pink tones next to a slightly blued mixture of black and white. to see color as tone, get some amber sun glasses, to judge the drawing and tone. then remove to judge the color. ask ianos dan how to draw from imagination.

ianos dan
05-12-2013, 07:30 AM
:) Thanks Derek for your appreciation! basic volume is the big secret of drawing from imagination ,observation ,and 150%practice.(not a secret in fact)
Sarah ,to find some information about Bouguereau painting technique ,please take a look at Artrenewal ,there is some information about how he made his underpaintings.
Don't know exactly ,but from what l saw in his oil sketches,he used a toned canvas ,he never painted on a white canvas,it helps you a lot with your halftones ,because you have already establish the overall tonality :)
Don't know exactly about dead layer or grisaille ,because he made over 800 paintings ,he probably painted very fast and effective ,unlike an early flemish master ,that painted months on a single panel .We are talking about neoclassical painting method ,used in 19th century,big difference.there is a painting made in grisalille ,by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres ,(Odalisque is the name),but my opinion is that it was made as a demonstration for his students ,showing the importance of tone ,not as a technique for all the paintings.
You can put a glaze of an earth color (your choice),all over the painting ,establishing a middle tone,you will see the difference and how the painting will go from there.(trust me)