Tuesday, September 25, 2012

carrying on with "john"

the first order of business today is to correct a mistake i made regarding the subject's eyes. the photographer and good friend of the subject disabused me of the notion that his eyes were blue....they were brown. so i put a wash of burnt umber over the irises, careful to maintain the highlight, and will have to darken the pupil somewhat before all is said and done.  thank you, barbara.

i then moved on to the face and felt that the values of the warm colors were about right and it was time to push them back and cool them off a bit. this was accomplished by a light glaze of ultramarine blue over those areas. this was a technique that i picked up from ted nuttall at the workshop and has rather quickly become a favorite staple. i really think more work on the face will not improve anything so i will let it rest and give it a final careful look nearer the end.

the next work involved the hands which were modeled with the usual "flesh" colors along with the arm, all painted with the #16 round cosmotop.  i then decided to further add and darken the shadows on his shirt. this was accomplished with cerulean blue, alizarin crimson permanent, and raw sienna. i usually made this up into a neutral gray (incompletely mixed) on the palette and then charged in one or two of the colors after the basic shape is laid down. this last for interest and to break up the monotone. i played around a little more with the pattern on his shirt and i like the way it darkens the value around his face and hands and gives some texture. how far down i will carry it remains to be seen, but i doubt it will from shoulders to the tail. at this point i am going quite slowly as this is where i can make some rash decisions and the painting could start going south. the whole thing is just a bit insipid at this point but some color in the background and darks in the shirt will help bring it together. i am going to put a "string" of small darks up from the bottom near the midline in the form of some dark buttons (such as the one just below his *left* hand) and the crevices on his watchband.

the last task accomplished today was to get a couple of washes on his cane. i wanted to leave the highlight so i painted on eithr side of it with burnt and raw sienna and a touch of burnt umber. the rings were pretty much pure burnt umber and give another trail of darks into the center of the painting and toward his hands and, ultimately, face.

after this was done i took a look at the painting from about 25 feet away and decided that his hair was too dark and made him look younger than he really was. to try to mitigate this i lifted off some lighter strands here and there using a thirsty flat, 3/4", flat synthetic brush. this is the only change from the above photo and the final one. i may have gotten too carried away but, again, i will take stock nearer the end and see how values align then. not to panic; all is fixable at this point and i don't think any fatal mistakes have been made.

the background is lagging a little  far behind the figure so next time i will start to bring it back up to "speed." cheers for now.


  1. Hi Bob, I regret that I have not been able to follow along as closely as I had hoped due to being in school vacation mode, with my three teenage grandchildren staying with me through the week. When I surprised them with your step-by-step painting to this second stage, they were very impressed, and all said, what a 'great likeness' you had achieved. Although they had met John, albeit briefly, they were 'more familiar' with the photo. So, their approval is definitely 'another three notches on your favourite watercolour brush'!
    The wash of burnt umber over the irises is perfect; it re-kindles an instant! Thank you, Bob, and most certainly, the ultramarine blue lightly glazed over his features is a priceless tip, well-worth noting for the future.
    I particularly like the way you've described John's right hand, resting in tiredness, on the crook of his time-worn, trusty cane and the way you've cropped the composition so that his elbow, arm and cane make a fine, resting triangle for the obvious frailty-of-age.
    I feel enormously honoured by your decision to use my photo. Thank you again, Bob.

    1. i am glad that you like the end result, barbara. this was my first foray into painting someone else's photo and i was a bit nervous that i could do it justice. through your comments and my study i almost feel like i know john and will not soon forget the experience. thanks for the photo.