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Old 11-08-2003, 05:11 PM
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Zarathustra Zarathustra is offline
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Oil portrait study... Flemish technique at speed

I'd promised to paint my little sister, but before commencing on a large canvas, I thought I might try a small study of her first. Two days ago I had read about the flemish technique to painting, and thought I might kill birds with one stone.
Of course, Flemish technique at speed is a contradiction, it's a long winded procedure, but as I am using alkyds and am budgeting by painting on paper, there's nothing to lose.
In way of a disclaimer I have very little technical knowledge in painting.

I primed the paper with Lascaux gesso, and lightly drew the portrait outline. When I felt fairly confident the proportions were correct I went over the lines using a pen nib and water resistant drawing ink. (graphite will disappear and/or smudge when the oil paint is applied).
I produced a mix of titanium white, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue and lamp black for the imprimatura stage. Rubbing linseed oil onto the paper using my finger, I rubbed off any excess with a tissue. The paint mix for the imprimatura should have been an olive hue, but I'd mixed a very nuetral gray, so I added a small touch of windsor lemon and then applied the imprimatura. It was too dark! The next day I made a lighter mix and applied it again - the ink drawing was just about visible through the paint.

The next stage is the umber underlayer. This afternoon I painted the umber onto the paper using my pen lines as a guideline, the idea being that each stage of the painting stands up on its own before the next stage is followed through.
The toning stage was much quicker than I was expecting, but I now need to leave it to dry before I touch up areas where the shading is incorrect.
Note, I've not made the dark's too dark, as when colour is added later it will naturally deepen in contrast. I also need to fix one of the eyes and tweak a few things. The dress has a very intricate design, but I figure it would be wise to tone the dress first before attempting to add it. Ordinarily I should probably wait a week before I work on it again, but as this is Flemish at speed, I'll work on it again tomorrow.

Once the umber underlayer is correct, I will need to add a "dead layer" before contemplating colour.
I've no idea how this going to turn out, as I've done very few portraits in oil, but I'll post the progress as I go along, even if it's disastrous.
Please feel free to criticise or correct me as I go along, I'm sure it will help me a great deal.

Last edited by Zarathustra : 11-08-2003 at 05:31 PM.
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Old 11-08-2003, 06:23 PM
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Classical Vince Classical Vince is offline
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Hi Gavin. This is going to be great to watch you work through this technique. I have read a little on the 7layer process, is this the one you are working with? I was floored when I read that they would wait 7weeks between layers!

The first stage looks great. It probably was a good idea for you to do a small study first to get familiar with the process. Lookin forward to seeing your progress.
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Old 11-08-2003, 06:30 PM
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Hi Vince.

Seven weeks between layers?! Wow. (by my surprise you can tell I've not heard of it ).
Needless to say this is only a small study, and I don't want to spend a great deal of time on it, but even if I was going the full hog, I wouldn't have the patience for seven weeks between layers. One thing is almost certain - you wouldn't have to worry about the fat over lean principle.
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Old 11-08-2003, 08:05 PM
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It's very exciting to be watching this in progress as I am just learning this technique as well. Looking great so far!!! I am just starting a large dog painting and I have tentatively blocked in the background with umbers, etc, but it's scarin' me LOL!
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Old 11-09-2003, 06:30 AM
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this is going to be a success for sure, perfect start ...
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Old 11-09-2003, 06:53 AM
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Hi Gia and Halo. Thanks for commenting.

I touched up the umber stage this morning and it's looking a lot better. I'm still having problems with the eye, but can't do too much to correct it at the moment because of the ink layer beneath. If I play with it too much it will just get darker and darker (as I'm not using any white at present), and as it stands there are a few too many hard lines. I'm fairly confident the dead layer will fix it.

I'll scan it this evening; it's a little too wet for my scanner right now.
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Old 11-09-2003, 09:40 AM
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Gorgeous sister, wonderful start, and I love what she's wearing! What is the size of the study, Gavin?

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Old 11-09-2003, 09:47 AM
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Hi Jamie. She's just started at University in Oxford, but is home this weekend - she's very small and young looking for her age.
The dress she's wearing will be a real challenge because it is a silky blue one from China (parent's brought it back from their travels) with a very elaborate design!
The study is 30cm by 40cm.
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Old 11-09-2003, 11:14 AM
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Okay, it isn't dry, but I risked scanning it, and quickly wiped my scanner glass with a cloth in case there was any residue left behind... I have a funny sense of 'patience'.

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Old 11-09-2003, 11:22 AM
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It looks good. I'm impatient to see the blue silk, so I'm happy you won't wait for 7 weeks before applying the next layer, LOL!

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Old 11-10-2003, 12:22 AM
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That looks great!! I'm looking forward to seeing this develop, just glad we don't have to wait 7 weeks to see the next step!

What did they do back then with this 7 layer process?? Did they start a new painting every couple of days, and just work on some kind of a rotation schedule, every few days a different painting's "7 week" deadline is reached, they'd complete the next step?! At least then they'd come out with more than one painting a year!

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Old 11-10-2003, 01:37 AM
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I share your sense of 'patience,' and I'm looking forward to the next post. This is fantastic. I'll be spending some time this evening mining for information on the 7 layer process.

Great work!!

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Old 11-10-2003, 04:04 AM
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Gavin, your progress is perfect!
I can see you will beat me with time totally. Your painting will be framed and hanging before I get to dead underlayer .
Yes it takes long to dry if done how Antonov says, but 7 weeks seems to be only superstitious number to me. Consider: 7 layers, 7 weeks... I would not be afraid much about that. But 2 weeks sound more reasonable for me.

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Old 11-10-2003, 04:26 AM
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Carol, I think Pavol probably answered your question, but yes, between drying times, I've no doubt they alternated between working on lots of different paintings.

I'll probably give this a week to dry, given it's done with alkyds, and I'll knock up the dead layer this next weekend.

Pavlov... In 40 years time my painting will probably be cracked, or the paper will find a way to disintegrate, I'm sure yours will stand the test of time.
I find the underlayer easy enough, and I don't think I will struggle too much with the dead layer, but I'm a little anxious about the colour element - I believe that is the stage where I could completely destroy this.
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Old 11-10-2003, 09:20 AM
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Z, I believe this kind of Chinese dress is called a cheongsam. They're so glamorous ... a nice idea to have your sister wear it for the portrait.

Brave of you, too, to attempt the demo when you haven't yet done many portraits in oil. I hope you don't mind me coming along for the ride! I promise I'll sit quietly in the corner and won't say a word. I won't be offering crits or corrections as my own experience with oils is about five sketches short of non-existent, but as someone who's used to painting rather more speedily (I use pastels) I'm already finding this procedure fascinating.
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