This post is going to be about the lesson I learned while painting a primate’s eye as well as what I did to make it right.
Last night, I did a younow live stream and I dedicated it to painting the eye right here. After forty minutes of working on this eye, I still wasn’t happy and I admitted that as I ended my broadcast. I said I was going to start over and that’s what I did.
About the biggest mistake we can make as artists is thinking that because we messed up somewhere that the painting is ruined.
It’s tempting to think I wasted my time if I’ve spent time painting and I’m not happy with the results and will have to rework that area.
But it’s not a waste of time because when you don’t get the results you want, those are the best learning experiences
They also give me teaching opportunities like this one. If everything I did in my work went perfectly, I wouldn’t have much to talk about.
This mistake could have been prevented by looking at reference photo a bit more closely instead of going with my preconceived notions of what this animal’s eye should look like.
My problem was I painted what I thought I knew. I thought I knew, from having painted other primates, that a primate’s eye was some shade of yellowy brown. So I tried mixing hansa yellow with purple that I made by mixing quinacridone red and ultramarine blue to tone it down and glazing that over the eye. I could see red in the eye and I thought the way to achieve that was by thinning down quinacridone red with a ton of matte medium, so it would barely show and glazing it over the eye. But because I was working in such a small space, I couldn’t spread the paint out far enough, so it was still very visible.
Because I’d painted an orangutan’s eye in “Orangutan Hanging Out”,
I thought I had a pretty good idea how to paint this guy’s eye. But this is not an orangutan and just like knowing how to paint one breed of dog doesn’t mean you know how to paint every breed of dog, knowing how to paint one primate doesn’t mean you how to paint every primate.
So now, as promised, I’m going to explain what I did to make it right. First of all, I noticed, after studying my reference photo a little more, that the predominant color in the cornea was not brown, but actually gray. So I painted a light gray over the whole cornea right up to the first crease. Then I glazed hansa yellow light over this, except for a small portion in the outer corner, allowing the still visible gray showing through the yellow to mute it. Instead of trying to make the red barely visible and glaze it all over the eye, I took a script liner brush and painted thin lines of it along the bottom of the pupil and above the first rim. I also glazed transparent mixing white over the whole eye. I used titanium white to paint a small in the inner corner of his eye then went over most of that with the hansa yellow light.
Lastly what I want to point out is I started to pay more attention to what was going on around the eye. I extended this dark gray out more and put some transparent burnt sienna from the pupil to this white dot. Later I’ll extend this darkness so it covers more of the dot.
I’m going to have a video up next Wednesday about creating effects in art that will explain all about why I’m doing this.
So what’s an experience you had with messing up on something and then figuring out what you needed to to do to make it right and starting over. Please share in the comments. If you don’t have any experiences to share I hope I’ve made you feel a bit better about those times when you mess up.
Painter of portraits and wildlife