I’m starting by painting the bamboo and branches. This is so that when I add the panda over them, they’ll look like they’re behind him instead of growing out of him, if you know what I mean. I can see that most of the bamboo is very light, so I used a light gray as my base. I look at the shapes I see in my reference photo and mimic them. Painting all these shapes and keeping track of them requires a lot of concentration, but this allows me to almost turn painting into a mindfulness practice. Little by little, the shapes start to become the object I’m painting.
Today I finished the underpainting of the bamboo and transfer the giant panda on. I positioned my transfer paper so that he would be walking into the scene from the right hand edge. Once the major form of the panda was on the canvas, I refined the shapes of his head, back, and right hind leg. After that, since I still had quite a lot of paint on my palette, I started to use block in areas of the panda’s body that were similar in value.
Today I painted more fur texture. I wasn’t worried about painting in every individual strand. I only painted those pieces that really stood out. What I did worry about, was making sure my strokes were going to in the general direction of the fur. Paying attention to the direction of your strokes can give you a fairly realistic, three dimensional look, even without spending a lot of time on individual strands of hair or fur.
I started by glazing grayish brown all over the bamboo stalks. Later on, I brought this same color into the panda’s face and upper back.
I was trying to glaze a grayish blue over the panda’s back, I can’t get the blue to show up now. I’ll have to try again on Monday.
At this, I’ve started to reach the “I know this painting isn’t finished, but I don’t know what else it needs” phase. I pulled the reference photo up on my phone and took a close look at it. I saw that I needed some more pale grey fur strokes where the white meets the black on his back. I sat down to paint with the intention of just painting those strokes and while doing that, I also noticed some grayish brown marks and painted those. Sometimes you can sit down to paint one thing and see other things while you’re at it that can keep you going.
What helps in this case, is, instead of looking at the photo as a whole, closely examine one part of it. In this case, I honed in one the panda’s back, ignoring everything else for the time being. The next time I work in this piece, I’m thinking I’ll do the same thing with his face.
You might notice by now that even though pandas are technically black and white, there’s hardly any white in this guy and there’s less and, barring tiny highlights, the more I work on him. I covered up most of the white I had in his face yesterday. Nothing that’s three dimensional is ever going to be totally black or white, because, by it’s very nature, it’s going to have shadows and highlights.
White fur is also going to reflect the colors around it. You can see that I’ve brought the grayish tan of the bamboo into his fur. If he’d been under a blue sky, I would’ve brought that into his fur, but since I used a green background, I brought that in instead.
On the topic of white highlights, I’ve been using those to add more fur texture.
In my latest painting session, I directed my attention to this,
I noticed that there was lots of texture in both that I hadn’t painted yet. I mixed some light gray paint. The fur looked almost white here, but I didn’t want to jump to white just yet. I used my liner brush, and doing my best to load the paint on evenly and without clumps, touched just the tip of it to the canvas. Even with my best efforts, though, a lot of my lines came out thicker than I wanted, so I came back with my liner brush wet, but devoid of paint, and came back over those lines to thin them. I made similar strokes with both a darker, and a lighter shade of gray than that of my initial layers.
It’s becoming more apparent to me that the texture of the black part of his fur is very coarse, but also shiny near his ankle. To achieve the shine, I started by putting little dots of titanium white with the tip of my liner brush on the ends of the fur texture lines I’d already painted in that area. To achieve the coarse look throughout the fur there is going to be more of a challenge. I don’t want to paint lots of very thing lines because that will just make him look wiry. Also, the shade I used for the strokes had to be very dark, as to almost blend in with the black. I couldn’t have high contrast here. So I mixed a gray using mostly mars black and a little bit of titanium white. Then, using my liner brush again, but pressing harder with it, using more of the body of it, so the lines would be thicker, I painted dark gray texture lines on his leg, all going in the same direction.
I want to point out that when I’m painting all these fur lines, I find that, as much as I like to maintain control, when I make quick strokes, often with a little wrist flick, I’m happier with my results than when I go real slow and try to control everything. Maybe that’s because most things in nature are rough and uncontrolled. I hope that makes sense. I followed this principal of not trying to control things too much to paint extra fur texture around his left ear, his eye, and again, where the black on his fur meets the white.
I’d known for a while that there needed to be a blue highlight on the lower part of his left foreleg. I couldn’t just paint it straight blue, though. It would have to be mixed with orange of course to tone it down. I had been frustrated with trying to tone down blue with orange because my blue would always turn purple.
I was watching a video on YouTube from my friend Shana Rowe Jackson in which she was painting some blueberries and she was mixing all her colors from cyan, magenta, and yellow. I wrote to her in the comments about the same struggle I just described here and she encouraged me to try using magenta, instead of red, to mix my orange. I did just that with this painting and was thrilled with the results. I now realize that the red I was using was too warm. I was adding yellow to my blue without realizing it. The magenta has a blue undertone, so it doesn’t give me that issue.
I took my liner brush and gave him some shaggy fur on his right foreleg.
Here's the finished piece. To touch it up, I added some more intensity to the green shadow on his back. I made this decision after playing with the painting in my phone. When I turned up the color saturation, I realized I liked it. His neck had been way too transparent for a long time and I fixed that also.
I couldn’t find any information online about how using a blue underpainting for a portrait was done, but I’m basing this off of what I saw Leo Stevens do while recreating Raphael’s “La Fornarina”. Leo used a green underpainting, and while I’m using blue, I copied his method of only putting it on the contours of the face. I did this over a grisaille.
In the later stages of painting this, I noticed that some of the darker parts of her skin had taken on a violet tone. I was puzzled as to what could have caused this, but I should have known that would be the result of glazing color with red mixed into it over something that was blue. Maybe next time, if I want to give someone a rosy glow, I'll add some yellow into the skin, or yellow ochre, if I'm glazing it over blue, to prevent the violetization of the skin. Yes, I just made up a word there.
If I was going to try this method again, I would not mix red directly with the flesh color, at least not for the parts I intended to paint over the blue. That’s how I got the violet. In doing this, I accidentally mixed a color by glazing. Mixing color intentionally by glazing can look beautiful, but it's kind of annoying when it happens against your wishes.
So, does using a blue underpainting give a more realistic result? I don’t think I can say conclusively yes or no. First off, it may depend on the subject’s skin tone. I have a feeling this technique works better on subject’s with lighter complexions. This was a renaissance technique apparently, and most subjects of paintings back then were Caucasian as was the subject I chose for my piece. In fact, the reason I specifically chose the subject I did is because she reminded me of someone who might have been in a renaissance portrait. The skin of Caucasian people is thinner than those of people of other ethnicity and so the veins tend to show more through the skin, which is where the blueness comes from. Extremely dark skin also tends to have a bluish cast to it, so this technique might also work if your subject has that type of skin tone.
Regardless of your subject’s skin tone, I believe glazing, ie, applying color in light layers, in this of the flesh tone over the blue, is the key to making this work. Surprise, surprise, glazing was also a major technique of the Old Masters.
So that is my experience doing a portrait with a blue underpainting. Here are some pics of the process.
In this post, I'm comparing Liquitex Basics Cadmium Red Deep with Amsterdam Standard Series Carmine.
My goals were to
For my comparison, I chose to paint this rose. My conclusion is that both are excellent paints and I would recommend both. Both paints are very transparent, so they glaze beautifully. They also won't life when other layers are applied on top. Find out more in the video below.
Id' like to give you a little back story on this painting. In the Spring and Summer of 2018, my parents and I went on a road trip across the United States. We saw twenty-five states in all, including Texas. While we were there, we saw the Alamo, and after that, we went on a river walk around the San Antonio River, which is where I took the photo that I'm making the painting you're seeing from.
I’m really going to enjoy working on Ampersand boards. I could tell that from the first stroke. I thought, why is the feel of my brush so pleasant on this? Is this really what Ampersand boards are like?
This is what the painting looked like before I added the duck and leaves. I started by blocking in most of the canvas with a medium dark gray, making a small sliver in the bottom left hand corner a much darker gray, closer to black. The large blocked out section will be the river. I took a charcoal pencil and drew the shapes of the ripples in the water and set about painting them different shades.
Going back to what I was saying about some of these ripples being lighter and some being darker, trying to paint every ripple exactly like the reference photo is another one of those things that can stress you out. Unless that’s really what you want to do, I don’t recommend putting that kind of pressure on yourself. As for me, I’m not worried about making every ripple the exact right shade. I’m just trying to get some variety in here.
Then I drew the duck and leaves on using tracing and transfer paper.
Back to the topic of these boards, the cool thing about Ampersand boards is that they’re wooden boards that are pre-gessoed. That’s a big deal because a lot of wooden boards are not pre-gessoed. So if you wanna try working on wood, but don’t want to have to gesso your surface, Ampersand is the way to go.
Today I decided to fill in the extra dark, almost black shadows of the leaves and duck. After painting a few of these, which included the duck’s head, I noticed there was a shadow on the duck’s stomach, which I’d painted a very light gray. The shadow was a good bit darker than the base of shade of the stomach but much lighter than what I’d been using.
I went on and used the same shade on one of the leaves. At this point, the light values in his wings started to catch my eye and I decided they needed to be painted. I painted them using my liner brush. I thought the color was too light to start with, so I went over it with a slightly darker shade.
I painted some more of the ridges in this big leaf, using a much lighter, but still dark gray. ‘Painting more shadows on the leaves.
Then I painted highlights on the duck. What I painted on his chest is meant to depict the fluffiness of his feathers.
I reach a point twice, at least, in the process of every painting where I know I'm not done, but I don't know what else needs to be added. I was at this point with this painting until I realized I hadn't painted those big stalk things. How could I forget that?!
All in all, the gessoboard from Ampersand, which is what I'm using for this painting was a great buy and one I would recommend. I'm including an affiliate link if you're interested. If you buy from this link, I get a small percentage of the purchase price.
This is the second half of my attempt at doing a painting mixing all the colors from just the three primaries, plus black and white. 'A couple of things I learned:
1.Sometimes mixing via glazing on the canvas yields better results than mixing on the palette.
2.This is something I already knew, but needed to be reminded of, and that's not all colors are equal in strength. Blue is much stronger than red or yellow and will over power these other colors when all three are used in equal amounts.
To find out how I came to these conclusions and what it was like for me to do this painting this way, watch the video below.
In this video, I'm walking you through how I used a combination of bright and pale and transparent and opaque colors to achieve an iridescent look on the water in my latest painting, using acrylic paint.
I'm working on another 11x14 acrylic on Belgian Linen,which I'm titling "Monkey Eating Leaf" for now. I started with an underpainting for my background.
At this point, I've been glazing gray blue made by mixing transparent mixing white and ivory black with ultramarine blue over the rocks on the right hand side. I then added quinacridone red to this mixture to make it purple and used it on the rock on the far left. Tonight, I mixed gray blue and white and titanium white and mars black with violet and, using a small round brush, painted little bits of these colors over the sheer blue and purple. After putting down my gray violet color, I realized it was too strong, so I mixed transparent mixing white and ivory black and glazed that over it to tone it down. I tried to use my gray blue straight out of the tube, but saw that it was way too dark for some areas and decided to mix titanium white into it
Tonight I mixed a transparent purple, similarly to how I described above and glazed it over the upside down triangle at the top. I mixed transparent grayish brown using transparent burnt umber and glazed that right under where the purple was. I glazed ivory black over that to make it even darker. I mixed transparent gray blue the same way I did last time and, using a small round brush, painted little bits of that over where I'd painted the purple. Using that same brush, I repainted the titanium white streaks that were lost when I glazed the purple.
I added more sheer grayish white and purple to different areas of the painting.
In the lower right hand corner, I used prussian blue to make a sheer grayish blue.
I'd previously used this color to make little blue marks in the dark brown at the top of the painting.
I mixed a transparent pink for the area around the white of the rock on the left hand side.
Finally, I put titanium white and transparent mixing white patches on the blue at the bottom.
I added more transparent blue and purple here and some transparent gray to the gray spot where the ground meets the rock.
Last night, in addition to adding yet more transparent blue and purple to the painting, I went over the lightest parts of the floor with titanium white. I rimmed the dark shadowy area on the far right with transparent pink, layered over with green made by mixing hansa yellow light and ultramarine blue, to tone it down. In the aforementioned dark patch, I've started to put bits of pale blue, made by mixing a touch of ultramarine blue into titanium white.
Here's my drawing of the monkey transferred onto my canvas.
Here's my underpainting for the monkey done.
Tonight, I started to add color to the monkey. I used grayish shades of blue and brown using a large filbert brush. Using a small round brush, I painted small lines of grayish blue made by mixing titanium white, ivory black and ultramarine blue in where I'd put the the transparent gray-blue.
To paint his left eye, I first painted pale gray from the lid to the first crease. Then I glazed hansa yellow light over this part accept for a liner part at the outer corner. Using a liner brush, I painted thin lines of quinacridone red along his pupil and along the first rim. I painted a dot of titanium white on his inner corner and went over most of that with the hansa yellow light. Finally, I filled in the space between his pupil and that dot with transparent burnt sienna. I think I'm going to bring the dark gray at the inner corner in a little further.
I've added a lot of titanium white and transparent mixing white strokes with a liner brush and I think it's made a big difference.
Tonight, I used the color I described in my last post to fill in the leaf, doing a glaze. I mixed some more of every color I'd used to mix it, except white, and painted the ridge in the middle.
Tonight, I went over the monkey's torso with Mars black to make the color more uniform and then glazed ultramarine blue mixed with ivory black over it to give it some depth.
Finished! To paint the leaves, I mixed equal parts ultramarine blue and hansa yellow to make a transparent green and glazed that all over most of the leaves. I adjusted this with either ivory black or transparent mixing white as needed. I also used touches of cadmium yellow, gray made by mixing titanium white and mars black, and grayish brown made by mixing burnt umber into those colors in various parts of the leaves and branches. For most of the branches, I glazed a mixture of transparent mixing white and transparent burnt umber over them, adding more burnt umber to darken the color for shading.
I'm taking a different approach with this painting. I've learned from Lisa Clough that, when working in acrylics, the background should always be painted first and the subject painted over it. This is because, if the subject were painted first, it would be almost impossible to blend around it before the paint dried.
To that end, I'm only worrying about the background right now. I'm pretending that the woman and the kid don't exist at this point.
My plan is to paint the underpainting for the background, then glaze my color over that. Then I will draw the mother and child, paint the underpainting on them and finally glaze color over that.
I'm creating texture through the use of different size brushes, including a liner brush, to paint lines and shapes, and various shades of gray.
Today is the first day of adding color. After studying my reference photo, I could see that the dominant color of the building was a very pale brownish pink. To make that color, I mixed zinc white, with a little bit of cadmium red deep and burnt umber. I've been glazing this color in light layers over my underpainting.
I added many layers of this color to the painting until it was more or less solid. When I was done, the color was a little uneven, so I went over some of the darker shades with zinc white to even it out a bit.
I added some of my premixed pinkish brown color, to the zinc white that was already on my palette along with some azo orange. I went back and forth mixing both of these until I was satisfied. When I put this color on the canvas, I thought it was still too brown, so I glazed some azo orange over it.
I preceded to glaze more azo orange and my premixed brownish pink mixed with zinc white over these areas. making back and forth strokes with my brush.
I mixed some of my brownish pink color into some titanium white this time to make it opaque and applied it to one of the orangey brown spots using a small round and a small filbert brush.
I mixed zinc white and ivory black to make a transparent gray and painted streaks of this color over one of the orangey brown spots. I also mixed a very light gray from titanium white and mars black,and painted patches of this color around the piece. Then I mixed some of my brownish pink color into this color and continued painting patches to increase the stucco effect.
I mixed a darker version of my sheer brownish pink color and glazed it over the last third of the piece going horizontally. Then,I mixed gray from zinc white and ivory black, so it would be transparent, and painted streaks and squiggles of this over the white patches using a small round brush and a liner brush.
I took some transparent burnt sienna, this time from Liquitex's soft body line, mixed it with a lot more mixing medium than paint, and glazed it over some parts of the last third of the piece, going horizontally. I mixed ivory black, which is a transparent black, with a good amount of matte medium, and glazed it over some parts of the burnt sienna to darken it, while other parts as is.
I'm learning that it's important to use a large enough brush for the area you're working on when trying to glaze. Otherwise, you get an unsightly ring around the area.
For the bottom portion of the lower third, I started by glazing a light transparent gray made by mixing zinc white and ivory black all over. I then mixed a bit more black into my gray, and, using, a small round brush and a liner brush, applied subtle streaks of this color over my glazed light gray. In the middle of doing this, I decided my gray needed to be darker, so I mixed more ivory black into it. I painted subtle streakes of burnt sienna, glazed over with ivory black, and titanium white, finally glazing some light pink over some of the titanium white to blend it into the background.
I glazed more layers of transparent gray and burnt sienna over other parts of the painting, and put in more spots of titanium white using a small round brush.
I added yet more white spots to the wall and glazed over them with a mix of zinc white and ultramarine blue. I took some of my premixed brownish pink color, mixed into some zinc white, along with transparent burnt sienna and a lot of matte medium, and glazed this color over the bottom third of the wall. Finally I took a liner brush and some transparent burnt sienna and painted subtle lines of this color where it was needed.
I noticed that part of the wall in the back need to be darker, so I mixed some transparent gray from zinc white and ivory black and glazed it along part of the area. I mixed more ivory black into this color and used it to strengthen the cracks in the wall. Whenever, I use a liner brush, by the way, I always make sure to roll in around a bit on my palette so there's an even strip of paint going throughout the brush and not a big blob at the end. I also took a liner brush and some trasparent burnt sienna and made some ridges, which I went over with my premixed gray color. I used my liner brush to paint bits of titanium white, the opaque white over the floor area. Finally, I took some zinc white, mixed with matte medium and went over the front of the ridge.
Tonight, I drew my subjects onto the canvas using transfer paper (I have another post explaining how I did that) and started the underpainting. The goal of any underpainting that I do is to bring out texture and provide depth using value.
After finishing the underpainting on the subjects I mixed a combination of transparent raw sienna, zinc white, dioxazine purple, quinacridone red and hansa yellow light to make a flesh color. I also mixed quinacridone red and hansa yellow light together to make a transparent orange and mixed that into the paint as well as mixing the quinacridone red and hansa yellow light in individually. I mixed this combination into some matte medium and glazed it all over the mother's face, chest and arm.
I intend to glaze some quinacridone red over her skin because I can see it looks a bit reddish in the photo.
As promised, I glazed over the womans entire face and body with quinacridone red. My goal was not to create any obvious redness but to subtly warm up her skin. I alternatively mixed zinc white and ivory black into my base color to make shadows and highlights. After I was done painting the shadow around her eye, though, I didn't like how it looked. I'd faithfully copied my reference photo, in which the woman's eyes are in deep shadow, but in the painting, it looked wrong somehow. I decided to glaze some transparent raw sienna and some quinacridone red over tne shadows around the woman's eyes and as a result, while the shadow is still very dark, it now looks like a part of her face, as opposed to something that was cut out and stuck on.
I could see in the photo that there was some gray in her skin, so I decided to add it by mixing zinc white and ivory black and glazing it around her jawline and chin.
I didn't put much detail in her eyes, since I can't see much in the photo. I just filled in her cornea with a dark grey, that I had leftover from doing the underpainting. I used gray and not white because her eyes are in deep shadow and white would have looked wrong here. I used van dyke brown for her irises and used a liner brush to paint a dot of mars black in each eye for a pupil and a strip of black above each eye to represent eyelashes.
I glazed over her entire mouth with quinacridone red. I alternatively glazed transparent burnt sienna and quinacridone red over the lower half of her bottom lip and upper lip. I also put a highlight, using zinc white, on the last third of her upper lip.
I mixed yellow light hansa and quinacridone red to make a transparent orange and applied it in three or four layers on her tunic.
I mixed transparent burnt sienna into the orange I'd mixed for the woman's tunic and used a small round brush, and then a liner brush to create shadows in the folds. For her scarf and cape, I glazed several layers of ultramarine blue. I glazed a touch of magenta over her tunic to brighten the orange and painted zinc white over part of her scarf to lighten it and emphasize the folds.
I mixed cobalt blue and ultramarine to make the color that I used to paint her rings.
I glazed magenta over the her scarf and cape to brighten it.
For the gauzy bit on her cape, I mixed zinc white and ivory black to make a transparent gray, then using a round brush, painted streaks of grayish purple and blue. I mixed more purple into my grayish purple color, and using a liner brush this time, painted streaks of this color onto the gauze. I mixed a darker gray from zinc white and ivory black, and again using a liner brush, painted a steak of this along the bottom.
For the bottom portion of her cape, I let my underpainting show for the gray in the background. I used a liner brush and painted blue violet on the diamond like pattern. I used deep green permanent, ultramarine blue, and carmine, mixed with titanium white for the three stripes, going from top to bottom. I painted them with a little brush that came in a watercolor kit, but that works for acrylic paint too.
I glazed zinc white and then hansa yellow light all over her skin to brighten it.
I mixed transparent raw sienna, quinacridone red, hansa yellow, and zinc white to paint the baby's skin. After it was all mixed, I thought it was too dark, so I mixed some purple into it. Purple is the complement to orange, so it tones it down.
I mixed some more of my fleshtone that I'd used for the baby and mixed that into some gray that I made by mixing zinc white and ivory black. I used this color to block in the baby's scalp. Then I mixed some more gray and mixed some van dyke brown that I'd saved into that, and, using a liner brush, I painted on strands of hair. Lastly, I painted on zinc white with a filbert brush.
For the sleeves and hood baby's sweatshirt, I mixed a color that was mostly zinc white with some ultramarine blue, and, using a filbert brush, blocked in where this color went. I added varying degrees of ultramarine to this original color to make the shading for the folds, starting with the lightest shade, other than the base of course, and going darker.
I decided the woman's skin needed some adjustments, so I glazed purple to town down the yellow, quinacridone red mixed with green, and transparent raw sienna all over her face and neck. Then I mixed some of my green-red shade into the transparent raw sienna and painted a sideways v on her forehead and a vertical curved line under her left cheekbone.
For the patches on the baby's sweatshirt, I used cadmium yellow medium mixed with titanium white, cadmium red medium, and prussian blue.
After making some adjustments to the baby's leg, here's the finished piece.
While working on my latest painting, it I learned that, while, as an artist, I use photos as reference, sometimes I have to judge a piece independently of the photo.
In the photo I'm working, from the shadows around this woman's eyes are very dark, so of course I made them that way in the painting. But, as much as I tried to justify it, telling myself it looks that way in the photo, so it must be right, somehow I couldn't shake the feeling that something was off.
Here is a a close up of her eyes as I'd first painted them. I decided to glaze over my shadows with transparent raw sienna and quinacridone red The result is this:
The result, as you can see, is that, while the shading is still extremely dark, now it looks like it's part of the rest of her face instead having like she's wearing eye masks.
So while a reference photo is pretty much an indispensible tool for me in order to create the pieces I do, I ultimately have to judge a piece on it's own merits. Just because something looks a certain way in the photo doesn't mean it's going to look right in my painting.
That's all for now. I'll talk to you again next week.
The following is a repost from my wordpress blog.
Above is a photo showing the finished background of my latest painting. In this post, I'm going to tell you all about how I painted it.
I didn't make things like the fence in the upper left hand corner or the leaves on the other side very detailed. You'll see that I painted the foliage as random shapes. That's because I wanted to create depth and if every part of the painting has the same amount of detail, it looks very flat. I used dots of white in the leaves, also, to create the look of the sun reflecting on them.
There's also use of the glazing technique, which is applying sheer washes of color over another, in this painting. I glazed burnt umber over the grey to the right of the tree branch and purple over the building behind the couple.
I was very happy with how the overhang came out. I used a combination of cureulean blue plus ultramarine for the shadows and I could see that my underpainting was causing the different tones to show through even before I added the shadows.
That's it for now. I'll see you guys next time.
Painter of portraits and wildlife