View Full Version : My latest - WIP stages to finish (well maybe)

10-19-2013, 11:40 AM
I thought I'd show you this because I've had trouble getting the background how I wanted it. Still not 100% sure so any ideas would be welcome!

The ref photo is courtesy of Rosalind Amorin and I thank her for the opportunity to use it.

16x12" on Fisher 400.

First the block in, a sketch of the girl plus identifying the main BG shapes.


I then went over it with a packing peanut to smooth out the colour a little and started on the BG. At this stage, as usual, I wasn't sure what I was doing, just wanted to get some colour down.


Then I did a little work on the girl, whose shape was destined to be changed several times......


10-19-2013, 11:52 AM
Next I carried on with the BG and got the far cliffs near to a finish....


....but I didn't like them. So I did a bit of brushing off and re-working, then I worked a bit more on the girl.


Hmm, looking back now those far cliffs look OK. But I remember in reality they were too dark, too detailed.

Worked some more on the girl. Still not happy with the cliffs so I did a little blending.


10-19-2013, 11:59 AM
Of course I was still not happy with the cliffs! So I scumbled over lightly with a pale violet, if my memory serves me right. A bit more work here and there too.


Left it alone a bit then and studied it. I didn't like the tram lines down the near cliff and the similarity in shape from near cliff to far, or the corner sky shape (tried it without, it looked awful). Also I didn't like the log, looked as if she would roll off it backwards at any moment!

This is where I'm at now. Finished? Well, who knows!

And that, folks, is the way I so often work. Oh to have the imagination to visualise what I want!!!

10-19-2013, 12:45 PM
I think this is gorgeous. I loved scrolling down through the stages. I kept going back and forth to see how you developed each element. She just glows there in that light which must be exactly how it felt to her.
I personally like the far cliffs at the fourth stage down. But in the end, it doesn't matter because she is so present and full of life, my eye only wants to look at her. Great great painting. Lovely.

water girl
10-19-2013, 12:45 PM
Thank you for the WIP. It is fascinating to watch other artist work. There is a story here, which always adds interest. You've captured the back lighting and her clothes take on the glow of either early morning or late afternoon. I also like the haze at the base of the far cliff.
I have only one suggestion. There is a grouping of rocks to the left of the girl, at the base of the near cliff. They seem to end abruptly. Would adding a few more rocks to the left side, keeping the haziness of the base of the far cliff behind them, add a little more depth? As always, think about any suggestions for a few days before changing anything. Beautiful job!

10-19-2013, 02:44 PM
Ruthie, this is beautiful. Like Matt, I kept scrolling between the images to really see the changes. The light on the girl's clothing is awesome and when I look at the actual marks, the "how" of doing that would not occur to me. I'm hoping that more experience will help me in that regard. I, too, like the cliffs in the 4th image down. Even though it is more detailed/textured, it is far enough back that I don't think it would interfere with the "star" of the painting, the girl. I really enjoyed seeing your step-by-step. Just beautiful!

10-19-2013, 03:34 PM
decent of you to describe your train of thought/pics . :)
- putting together a verbal description can be difficult , but an important aspect of the process !

at this point , the figure is most focused , so ,
for me , everything else should relate to that in terms of focus .

i would set aside the piece at this point so as to get a bearing on where the painting is at
and let the many ideas settle down some ...

something that has happened to me is that the subject is very good
and the surrounding is very good ,
but the two don't work together :eek:
( those are in my ' reminder ' collection :rolleyes: )

in post #2 , to me , the mid and further planes feel most natural/random
and the strength of the outline/texture compliments the more solid/distinctive figure .

the pose has interesting implications with the terrain ;
they are facing out to the sea ,
and what that formidable element does to land , and man ( and women ) ...

just some thoughts .


10-19-2013, 03:37 PM
Love the girl and the glow highlighting her, nicely done also thanks for sharing your steps.


10-19-2013, 04:22 PM
Really like the warm, glowing highlights on her skin, and the contrast with the cooler highlights on her shirt. Like the scene. I think the rocks in the center are the sharpest and therefore become the main poi. Integrate them more with the rest of the background, so she can be the poi. I might also darken the shadows on her back and back of shirt and rock she is sitting on - this will provide even more contrast in this main area.

Really enjoyed looking. Scene is curiosity provoking - is she bored in this lovely place, or is she talking on the phone, or hiding her face from someone, or something...

10-19-2013, 04:26 PM
Matt, thank you! I can't remember exactly why I didn't like the cliffs in pic 4, tho' I remember I thought they were too dark/bright. I rather like them now, but they are gone......

Karen, thanks for your comments and the tip about extending the rocks out a little. It's a good thought, yep, I'll probably do that.

Peg, I'm glad you enjoyed looking! Looking at stuff here has been most invaluable to me so it's great to think I'm doing the same back sometimes!

Ed, What you say is just what was in my mind. I didn't want the BG to impose on the Girl. Even though she is bound to be the star I just wanted the BG to support her without saying much itself. That's why I had so much trouble with the grasses on the near cliff too. They were in the photo you see, and I liked them in that.......Keep airing your thought! Thanks.

Thank you Trudi!

looking at it again (why is it much easier on the computer?) I think I still need to work on the mid distance cliff, maybe split it into two promontories or something. Also the back of the rock she's sitting on should be darker. So, more to do but I've moved onto something else now so will rest it for a while before deciding. Thanks again!

10-19-2013, 04:30 PM
Alison, we cross posted. Thanks for your thoughts! Well, I purposely made that rock a little sharper so there was something else there for the eye to go to. I really don't think it takes centre stage away from the girl though. The rock she's sitting on, yes, will definitely be darkening the back of that. And I like that it gets you thinking and wondering about her demeanour! I bet there's a phone there somewhere.........

10-19-2013, 04:59 PM
The girl is the star in this painting, love the shimmering light on her. I liked the far cliffs in stage 4 too, and your process has given me ideas of how to do the cliffs in the painting I am working on at this time, so thanks for your process here. The finish on the log the girl is sitting on is fabulous, like that heaps better than the previous image of the log.

Donna T
10-19-2013, 05:44 PM
Thanks for showing your WIP stages, Ruthie - it's always helpful to have a peek into someone's working process. For me, this is all about the sunlight on her forehead and legs. It makes such a strong design statement! It turned out beautifully! Do you have a title? I will be curious to know if you will assign a mood to this or leave us guessing as to what this girl is thinking or feeling.

10-19-2013, 06:30 PM
I really like the painting and appreciated the WIP aspects. I enjoyed reading the responses and learned a lot. Pam:wave:

10-19-2013, 08:13 PM
I just love this - the light on her skin and clothes is fantastic! Also think the revision to the log works perfectly :)


10-20-2013, 02:45 AM
Ruth, turn this upside down, walk away from it, and creep up on it from time to time, see what hits you.

for my money.....her thighs are too high key. I want to tone them down, and also to use some of those colours elsewhere in the picture. I know the sand will reflect light back up onto the undersides of her thighs, but that orange is very in your face, and too uniform. Also, her right leg is brighter than her left, and as a result, is not sitting well in place.

I think you did ok with the distant cliff; I would just warn you to be careful of using colours in quite such a blocky way, because they then dictate to you to keep within their own boundaries. To get some pictorial cohesion, it is often a good idea to repeat colours throughout. Even tiny touches can help a lot.

I think you need to look again at the shape of the bunch of rocks at the base of the near cliff, and also at that extending bit of greenery which looks to be floating!

Sorry!!! Try the upside down thing. It often helps.

Good catch on the girls pose, very believable, and nice luminous colouring in general (bar the legs which look to my eye as if she went overboard with the fake tan....and a very orange one at that! Perhaps she is Cheryl Cole......)

10-20-2013, 12:53 PM
Elle, thanks! great that my meandering with cliffs has helped you!

Donna, thanks! Well I do have a name but maybe it's best to leave it open. In realistic art it's nice to give the viewer something to interpret sometimes I think.

Pam, Thank you! WIPs are good learning tools. The poster learns, the viewers learn and, yes, the critiquers can learn also. Win win!

Nicole, thank you!

Jackie, first of all no need to apologise! I am always grateful for your input as I admire your work and your teaching. So there!
I will indeed do as you suggest, upside down it goes. Your other comments are also noted. I like the orange legs! maybe it isn't quite as garish looking IRL. Um, who's Cheryl Cole :evil:

10-21-2013, 03:18 AM
Computer screen colours probably do differ from actual colours. Go with what you like.

Just cast a wary eye, when it is upside down, over those other items I mentioned.

10-21-2013, 04:32 AM
What a beautiful demonstration of evolution of your work, I have been bedazzled: Thank you!

10-21-2013, 01:20 PM
Jackie, it's upside down in the studio. I work on something else and, when it thinks I'm not looking, I creep up on it!
Christiane, thank you!

Charles Perera
10-21-2013, 07:23 PM
I cannot help seeing in the image of the girl, the leg- knee down to feet not proportionate compared to the thigh( knee up to the hip)


10-22-2013, 03:49 AM
Charles, thank you for pointing that out! Would you give me some more info though? Is the knee to foot too long, too short or too thin? I'm thinking too thin. I was going by the photo and none of us is perfect physically. I could fatten out the calves a bit more....have already done so in fact but would be happy to make adjustments if it made her legs look more true to a standard image.

Charles Perera
10-22-2013, 09:43 AM
Well I made a comment on what I observed.

When I look at a painting, I like to look into the whole painting, thus if there is some thing that obstruct a perfect visual enjoyment of the painting , I stare hard and see little oddities. That is how I noticed that the lower part of the leg is not proportionate to the other part of it. It my be a natural physical defect, but yet as a painting that I looked at, it was an oddity in my field of vision.


10-22-2013, 10:29 AM
Hi Charles. I have no problem with your comment, honestly. if it seemed that way I apologise. I will assume you mean the lower legs are too thin and work on that. Thanks!

10-22-2013, 01:56 PM
Hello Ruthie! Beautiful job with this. The only area that looked curious to me was the area that has just been mentioned - the lower legs. I have not seen the reference, so you know the actual appearance better than I possibly could. But it appears that her left leg is out past her left side (given the position of her elbow, on the inside of the leg). If that is the case, it does not look natural that her right leg would be so close to her left leg - meaning pulled over that far to the left - that so much of the right calf would be obscured. I think this is what is making the lower legs look off to me. I don't know that they could be that close together (editing to add that it is also the position of the hips that tells me her right knee shouldn't be too close to her left knee, if her legs are the same length). Forgive the crudeness of these, but I will use a yellow dotted line to show very roughly where I think the leg would be more likely to be, and feel free to disregard this entirely based on what you actually see in your reference photo!

Option A) the right leg really is way over to the left. I think the knee and calf would be about here.

Option B) I see a triangular object when I zoom in, and it could either be the rock behind her, or her upper leg. If it were her upper leg, which would put it in a more comfortable-looking position, then the lower leg might be about here.

Just my 2 cents. Either way, this is a lovely piece, and I always enjoy looking at your work. :)

10-22-2013, 08:03 PM
Agree with the previous critique and also the comment that her leg is too high key, especially her thigh...

...unless you clearly delineated a line at the ankle where her foot is more muted, in which case it would read as if she's wearing bright pinkish-orange pants. Which I'd find completely plausible.

Her thigh is too high key to be bare skin to me. It looks like she's got a murderous sunburn on her legs with nice reflected light coming up off the sand onto it, but she would be in serious pain. Or wearing orange-pinkish salmon tight pants, which would actually work really well with the painting as a whole! So my suggestion for the high key leg is, show a color shift and intensity shift at the ankle and leave her leg that high key. Just make it read as clothing rather than skin. Leggings might even have a strap going down and only show a bare heel behind it, since she has jeans on over them.

It works nicely with how you handled her shirt and the rest of her skin tones read well like skin in golden hour light.

Grinner's right about the leg shape, and if you show her other leg separately, then narrow the ankle on what used to be "both legs" to give it the right proportion for just her left near leg.

This is really the only problem in a devastatingly gorgeous painting. I feel like I'm commenting on something far better than I could produce. But there's my thoughts, hope it helps.

10-23-2013, 02:24 PM
Thank you Grinner and Robert! I feel sometimes the artist gets too close to the work and cannot see glaring "issues" which others pick up right away.

Grinner, in the photo, which I can't show for copyright reasons, the girls legs are obviously together and the elbow we can see is perched in the middle of the leg just above the knee. That's how I want to keep it so I must look at the elbow, the shape of the back leg (as well as the front one) and where the "back" foot finishes. I have to make it read true. Thanks so much for pointing out the fact that it is a bit confusing at present!

Robert, sorry but I'm keeping the orange legs! You must just believe that they are not so garish in the real painting, to me they give it the life, they are the whole point of it, if you get what I mean. I will definitely rework the leg shapes and post again soon! And my work is NOT better than yours Robert, we simply have different styles. I admire yours very much!

10-25-2013, 02:12 PM
OK, this is it before changes
This one is after I made some changes to the background

And this is after I messed the legs up even more!
It's now too overworked and I've lost the heart to do any more to it. So it becomes part of my learning curve. It's not only drawing issues I have but the failure to see them :o Thank you all for your suggestions and interest. It means a lot!!


10-25-2013, 04:30 PM
I think this is looking good! I really like your modifications to the middle distance rock! I have no problems with the position of the legs. The other elbow...well, maybe you could lose it altogether. This is a beautiful painting!


10-25-2013, 08:39 PM
What a beautiful painting. There have been many comments on ways to improve it. I agree with Jackie in that you should walk away for awhile and look at it with fresh eyes. Colors often don't appear correct when you download a photo, go with your gut.

10-26-2013, 01:14 AM
Ruthie, I liked this from the beginning. Admittedly I know nothing about painting people. I do know about "losing heart" to work any further on a piece. I (far too often) say, "The painting may not be done, but I am done with it". I'm just not a reworking sort of person. I'd rather toss it and start over fresh on a clean piece of paper. Sorry this wonderful piece reached that stage for you.

10-26-2013, 02:03 AM
Oh, okay, yeah I can see if it's more muted in real life, that wouldn't give that impression. Sorry about that. Sorry that reworking it turned out to be so frustrating too. I hate reworking too, it's often easier to apply critique to the next painting and move on.

10-26-2013, 04:53 AM
Ruthie, I agree, it does look overworked IN PLACES now.the background mostly; the girl still looks good (bar the legs, sorry). BEFORE YOU GIVE UP, tho, I think you could usefully do a few things.

1. Get someone to sit on a stool, legs in same position, and do some drawings of the legs from knee to ankle. Nothing beats direct observation. She may well have thin legs but the unfortunate thing is, they look rather wooden, particularly the back leg. More shape would help. And better tone values too, that back leg is too light, strongly contrasting with what is behind and is coming forwards as a result. Try to get your model to face a window, while you sit in the right place to see what is happening with the light - and study the shape from calf to ankle carefully. You can even use yourself, if you have a full length mirror.

2. You have never been happy with the background, and by changing it again and again, you have lost definition of both shapes, and tones. The background rocks and foliage do not relate to the girl in either shape, or colour. Lots of the areas are very dark and muddy now. Now this is your challenge. Are you brave enough?????? BRUSH OFF around the girl, and begin again. Takes courage. But works well with overworked areas. And can be incredibly satisfying. (I have done it when I have been really p'd off). You can even find some other reference for cliff shapes to use, cliff forms with foliage and light from the left - tho getting proportions right can be difficult. anyway, Here's one, I am sure you can find others:

THEN Completely rework what is behind her, bearing her colouring in mind, Red skin CAN work, but you do need to have some linkage with the rest of the image, the image has to work as a whole.

Look at this Harley Brown. The red in the face and neck does not stick out and shout at you, it works because of the red used elsewhere in the image. The echoing colours help to create overall unity.


Again, if all else fails, you can definitely resort to a crop. The image is all about the light, and the girl on the rock, after all....so why not just let it be so? I have brought some red into the background which hints at warm evening light and echoes the reds in her skin.......and I've grown the rock to hide the ankles...!!!....(sneaky but it works).


Take a look at the work of Alicia Sotherland. She paints figures as well as portraits, and her backgrounds are left hinted at and are often wonderfully subtle, but they provide unity. Her edges often melt into each other. You still know if the figure is indoors, outdoors, in a garden, or whatever - but she makes the background secondary, it is just a backdrop:

Just because your girl was on a beach, with cliffs behind, in the photo, does not mean you have to stick with that. You didn't much like it from the get go, so why be a slave to the photo? Paint the bit you love, rather than allow the photo to dictate to you what you should do, and making stuff up often gets you into trouble. Not just you...all of us.

10-26-2013, 10:45 AM
Interesting conversation you got here, Ruth. Helps us all learn and be better painters. I like Jackies last crop suggestion. The painting is about the girl, and you have painted her very well. Great light, and neat pose

10-26-2013, 11:42 AM
Don, thanks! I'll consider the back elbow suggestion. Glad you like the changes to the background, so do I!

Dobber, thank you! yes, I will walk away from this for a while, put it away in fact.

Peg, thanks! Well, I'm done with it for now but I certainly won't toss it. Even if it never goes in a frame it will have helped me grow....somehow :cat:

Robert. No need for sorry! I am grateful for your thoughts, always. Have you noticed the legs are a little less vibrant now? That's because of the changes I had to make to them. I even did some blending, a rare occurrence these days. Re-working is OK, I do it all the time, but there comes a point where the frustration exceeds the enjoyment. Then it's time to call a halt!

Jackie, thanks once again for your thoughts. As I've said this is coming off the easel now. When I get back to it I will definitely look again at that back leg, there's too much of a line down it and it looks flat. As for your other comments, well, it isn't muddy as far as I can see. I DO brush off, have learned not to be afraid to do so. I like the landscape now and, although it may not show in the photo, every colour I have used on the girl (except the highlights) is somewhere in there! A crop may be an idea if I just wanted a figure painting. I think yours has her front too close to the edge though.

Harley Brown and Alicia Sotherland are both artists I admire very much. I love their style and wish I could work in a similar way. But I guess it's not my style. What they do takes way more skill (even if it now comes naturally to them) than I have.....yet!

Thanks Ron! This is what I like about WC, we can all learn from seeing comments on either our own or other people's work. It is the best learning tool for me, wouldn't be without it!

10-26-2013, 02:23 PM
I did not realise you were happy with the background...if so, so be it.

Also..........I showed you two pics to make a teaching point, not to suggest you work in the same way as either of them! Last thing in my mind. The Harley Brown was used to show colour unity, the Alicia S used to show a more suggested background.

I am inclined to agree with you about the girl feeling too close to the left edge...to my eye, it is because she is facing left. We "read" paintings from left to right, in the same way that we read books. If this had been my image, I would have turned the reference photo around right from the beginning.

You are quite right about every image being a learning experience. Put away, and brought to light at a later date, it is absolutely amazing how things jump out at you that you simply were unable to see at the time. I always talked to my students about how there is a filter between our mind, and our hand. Stuff gradually filters down from our brain, and links with our fingers at a later date. We can understand things intellectually far sooner than our ability to use the information - it is weird but true.

I think you will enjoy this when you see it again later on, perhaps in a few months' time ...and will know just what you want to do with it. There is much to commend it as it stands - the girl is so well positioned, her clothing works so well, the light is beautiful, the atmosphere pleasing, there is a lovely "story" in the image....just a few niggles to put right is all. Such a frustration I know - been there myself, many a time. But you will get there, you have the patience and perseverance.


10-26-2013, 03:42 PM
Thanks Jackie! yes, I'll get there eventually.
Interesting comments about the way the girl is facing. I think of it as looking back, whereas people facing to the right are looking forward (have to admit I got that from Charlie, Colorix, initially). In fact, it's something I think about every time I do a portrait or figure. I decide what mood I want to convey and often flip the photo, unless it is a "real" person....a person I know, when their face would look completely wrong flipped.
I use a left facing image to try and project thoughtfulness, serenity, melancholy even, or I will face an older person that way. For a young person or where I want to portray vitality, excitement, joy, I face them to the right.
it's a conscious decision. Maybe I am weird!!

10-27-2013, 03:24 AM
You could be right about the psychological aspect, not weird at all. It would be interesting to get comments from others about how it affects them emotionally. Interesting.

10-27-2013, 09:10 AM
My, you've got quite a conversation going, Ruthie, around your lovely painting.

The camera do play tricks, so I believe you when you say the fleshtones are not that red IRL. I'd like to see some more reflected light on her legs, that'd round them out nicely. Maybe crop slightly, or the radical one that'd be lovely too. (I too think that the cliff you erased/worked over looked really good in the photo, but if it was too dark in reality, then I understand.)

The direction: She's well placed in the picture, in the right third division, and not reaching the middle point. I learned about the direction creating a mood when I took the iconography/iconology class at uni. One of the examples they used was Whistler's Mother. (I've always have the sense that she's not the easiest mother to have...) Right placement looking left is said to give the sense of looking back at life, at whence one came from, or going down memory lane. Left placement looking right is towards the future, looking slighly up is towards a bright future, or prospects, or immediate happiness. Stuff like that. Always with the disclaimer that different cultures read in different things, and read in different directions. Right to left, or up to down.

10-27-2013, 09:50 AM
Please, no crop. The crop almost entirely removes the mood and atmosphere.

While a painting is non-verbal, sometimes we can determine how much of the surroundings to show in a painting by its verbal description. So, to me, the question is: Should this be a painting of a girl sitting on a rock, or a painting of a girl gazing out to sea?

Again, my opinion, but it is the fact that she is gazing out to sea that gives the atmosphere gives the painting far more feeling, atmosphere and mood. Not all paintings need to be reduced to "dominant subject and less background" as in the other examples shown.


10-27-2013, 11:28 AM
Thanks guys!
Charlie, I wish I could get that cliff back! But it's gone for ever.....
Don, that is what drew me to the ref photo, that sense of atmosphere and it evoked good feelings in me. That's why I think it best to leave it for now, get those feelings back before I work any more on it.
I'd better make this thread a favourite for when I come back to this one. I'm really glad I posted the WIP! Not something I often do.