Finally, I've put away my last painting, 'Reflections From the Past' until I have to enter it in the OC far in a few weeks, and got busy on a new painting. I plan on giving as much technical info on the creation of it as I can, as I get many requests from people wanting the inside scoop on how I paint (quick answer: slow and methodical
First off, I had to build a lightbox out of foam board, fabric for the background, and then had to buy a bunch of stuff from various locations (Salvation army, Toys R' Us, grocery store, etc.) after I finally got an idea and finalized my composition (the sketch was comical, to say the least).
Then I snapped about, oh, 200 pictures. I'm not a photographer, so I tried many exposure settings, F-stops, etc. and got some good pix, edited them, had them professionally developed in both color (multiple exposures) and sepia-tone for the underpainting. I try to give myself every advantage and tool at my fingertips, so I have no excuses to produce an underwhelming painting
Now comes the actual support: an 18"x24" Ampersand hardboard, to which I glued a Claessens oil-primed linen swatch. It was a single-primed, all I could buy without breaking the bank for a full, several-hundered-dollar roll (what if I didn't like it?). I do think it to be of very high quality, although I'm not a fan of the dozen or so big bumpy knots in the surface of it in various places. Next time I'll buy a double or triple primed roll, and use it until I die
I printed out my ref. photo at the right size, cut them up and taped them together (that's 6 pieces of paper to cut perfectly and taped together so that it looks like 1 big poster). Taped Saral transfer paper over the support, then taped my big, Frankenstein-poster-reference photo over that. All the while going for ultimate precision, making sure the horizontal surfaces are truly horizontal, etc. Then took a good 2-3 days of tracing over the photo. Did I mention that the photo had a completely photoshopped element added into it? I saw a big empty spot in the still life set up, and got creative with a fun element of the background. You'll see what I mean, eventually.
So, the support's ready, I mixed up a combo of lead white, titanium white, and a little bit of neutral gray (burnt umber/ultramarine blue) - all Michael Harding, a great paint made by a a good guy who actually answers my emails and sent me paint caps, many, many paint caps - when I needed them. My favorite paint and great service!
I mix that light gray with a medium of Winsor-Newton turp and stand oil at a 5-1 ratio, until the paint is much thinner but not runny like house paint. I applied that with a 2" synthetic brush, all the while making sure it's thick enough and covers evenly but thin enough to see the drawing/tracing underneath. Almost forgot to mention, had to correct the tracing in a few spots because of camera distortion; it's almost a crime to erase a big chunk of tracing to perfect the ellipses and curves of a glass vase and the reflections in and behind it.
So after about a week of drying, I get to the underpainting. What I do with the underpainting is (using the Munsell value scale as a guide) to paint with 1 color, Burnt Umber, in various tones to create the mid-light to dark sections, much as you would paint a monochrome watercolor. Anything too light, I leave alone for the gray underpainting to show, and anything really bright I add in white at the end - not just for the 'white at the end' sections, but for the brightest and lightest sections of the finished painting. For example, there's a lemon in the composition, and much of it is a bright yellow. I paint much of that section white in the underpainting because the yellow at the end will show much brighter and cleaner over white. If you're confused, you'll eventually see what I mean
So I apply the underpainting in burnt umber only, using a combination of thinning it with my medium (50% oil of spike lavender, 50% linseed oil) and scrubbing it into the canvas thinly. This is kind of a 'feel' thing, you don't want to use too much medium and leave the paint under bound (you can see it if it is, with practice), and you don't want to spread 1 atom worth of paint over a foot of canvas surface. Kinda hard to explain, but I just get the paint thinned, put it over the section of painting I'm working on, and if it's too dark, I spread it around as much as I can, and if it's too thinned, I stop and wipe my brush and put a little more paint on it. It's not as hard as it sounds.
I tend to work back-to-front, although it doesn't really matter in the underpainting stage. So just today I finished the fabric-background area, the farthest 'back' of the painting. Everything in this stage now is just judging darker-lighter, darker-lighter.
My brushes for this stage are the same for all stages, really: 2 synthetic Escoda Prado rounds for application, and WN Eclipse filberts for a 'tapping' form of blending I do….
The tapping blend, as I call it, is after the various tones of brown have been applied. I take the brush and, holding it almost parallel to the canvas, tap the brush tips around the area to soften it, going from light to dark. This gives a somewhat stippled look, evening out the various tonal shifts. After the tapping stage, I just take a fluffy mop brush and lightly brush over the area, evening it out a little more.
Enough of all this talk, here's a pic of the whole thing at the current stage (only the very back of the background finished):
Please forgive the poor quality photo, it's right off the easel. To show the detail of the drawing, here's another photo, a closeup of the crystal dish, some fruit, and a Stormtrooper or two:
You can see the gray paint over the drawing better in this one, So you can see how I can reference the drawing through the first layer of paint.
OH, by the way, the painting is a still life with fruit, crystal dish, vase, flower, a completely made-up background picture, and my own personal 'Minions', a buch of toy Lego Stormtroopers who 'helped' me with my still life setup, and as you'll see some of them got into trouble, here and there.
Stay tuned every month or so for updates, I'll try my best to explain as much as possible instead of just posting photos. As always, any comments or questions are welcome.