New year – new challenge!

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“January 1, 2017″ – acrylic on canvas, 6″ x 8”.

I have survived both the Xmas season AND my first few weeks back at a full-time job, so obviously, I’m going to push my luck and attempt another “30 Paintings in 30 Days” challenge!  Nothing to it, amirite?

(In all seriousness, I really doubt I’ll be able to crank out all 30 paintings, but if I can produce maybe half of that, I’ll consider myself successful.)

My choice of theme this time around is a slight variation on the last one: instead of face studies, I’ll be doing hair studies.  Painting or drawing hair has always been a weakness of mine and is usually where I cut corners.  I’m hoping that this self-imposed hair-painting bootcamp will be just the thing to either cure me of my particular aversion or make me avoid it forevermore!

So here’s the first one out the gate!  I had a lot less time to work on it than my face studies from the previous challenge so I went for a more simplified style.  I miss my persnickety ways, but there’s a boldness to it that I like.

What I learned with this painting:

  • Cadmium Orange is a take-no-prisoners colour.  Proceed with caution (unless, y’know, you actually WANT that elusive “Cheez Whiz” tint to your background).  See reference to “boldness” above.

What I’ve learned with this theme so far (yes! already!):

  • finding good images of the back of people’s heads isn’t NEARLY as easy as finding good images of people’s faces.  This could be tricky…

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“30 Paintings in 30 Days” challenge post-mortem

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Just FYI, I am ALL about post-mortems, and I’ve been itching to do this since I started this whole venture!  So without further ado, here are my observations from my first time participating in the “30 in 30” challenge…

Greatest benefit:  Instead of only talking about painting and building up a body of work, I actually DID it!  And, bonus! I learned that I could actually handle the paint pretty well.  Well, most of the time…

Biggest letdown:  A sense of… I don’t know if I’d call it boredom, but rather the nagging feeling that I should have been devoting my energy to making original art and not just studies.  You can see that by the end of the challenge, I started to waffle and take more time with my paintings.  This was less because I had become a fussbudget, and more because I frequently contemplated abandoning them altogether.  I’m still not sure if I took on this challenge just as a way of putting off the more difficult task of coming up with original imagery.

The Mediums are the Message:  I tried more than a few on my acrylic paintings over the last few weeks, but I’ll save that breakdown for a future post.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this: they are NOT created equal.

(F)oil paints:  They took me for a ride, no question!  Remember Poe Dameron in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, when he first flies the Tie-Fighter (“WHOA!  This thing really MOVES!”)?  Well, that was me with oils.  It was a bit of a bumpy ride at first, but I’m proud of myself for giving them a go and getting to know them a little better – one more tool at my disposal!

Painting mistakes I made all the way through:

  1. mixed too many colours together and ended up with mud
  2. painted thoughtlessly and ended up with too many layers (i.e. more mud)
  3. didn’t take the time to establish VALUES

Things I’d like to try with my painting from here on in:

  1. less mud, more vibrant colour
  2. gestural brushwork
  3. non-linear imagery, i.e. don’t rely on the reference images as much

Saving the best for last:  The engagement with other artists who were crazy enough to do the “30 in 30” challenge, and their support, has been one of the best takeaways from this experience – bar none!  It was a welcome opportunity to connect with fellow artists, learn from each other, and see some great art.  You can bet I’ll be back when the next challenge rolls around!

(More or less) One-line summaries of each painting:

  1. Scared and nervous, but rarin’ to go!  Then I chicken out and use acrylics on PAPER.
  2. Convinced I can’t paint accurately so I try some faux 1920’s European look.  Whatever.
  3. Screw it!  Go fussy or go home!  And, miraculously, it works!
  4. Matte Medium almost makes me want to chuck the whole thing but dry brushing saves the day.
  5. First oil painting!  It’s about %300 linseed oil and is STILL not dry.
  6. Brazenly mix (water-soluble) oils with acrylics and nothing explodes.  Yet.
  7. 2nd oil painting!  I try blending and start to understand why people love oils.
  8. Try “Painting Medium” with oils and, well, let’s just forget that ever happened, ok?
  9. By this time, I’m feeling so “oiled”, I’m practically marinated.  Back to acrylics!
  10. And I get fussy-fussy-fussy, AND… run out of time to finish.
  11. Try to keep things loose and rough.  Add blue hair because why not?
  12. Learn that too many layers of acrylic paint is a bad thing.  Love her hair, though.
  13. Oils again!  And sweet perfection!  One of my favourites!!
  14. Oils aren’t so bad after all, at least that’s what I think until I start with the hair.
  15. Starting to miss the crisp detail I can get with acrylics, so this is my last oil for now.
  16. Worked my butt off on this one and I LOVE it!!
  17. I’ve had a few successes in a row and am feeling the pressure so I choke and avoid finishing this one.  Too bad…
  18. Feeling guilty because of my over-reliance on internet images so I cobble together a Franken-picture, but don’t have the guts/drive/self-confidence to finish.
  19. Feel like going out with a bang, and what could be easier than African Albino skin tones, amirite??

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Painting for September 29

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Face Study no. 16 – oil and acrylic on canvas, 6″ x 8″

Here she is, folks: my final (finished) painting for the “30 Paintings in 30 Days” challenge!  I don’t know if I can really call them daily paintings anymore, though, because I’m taking longer and longer to finish them, but I digress…

Some notes about this specific painting:

  • painting albino skin tones is NOT an easy feat.  If you’re up for the challenge, proceed with caution! 😉
  • I finally realized with this painting that it’s in my best interest to add another coat or two of gesso (with some light sanding in between) to my pre-gessoed canvasses.  The basic Omer Deserres canvasses are fine, but these small Apollon ones would pill here and there and leave tiny bits of matter in the paint.

Things I’ve learned about oil painting in general thanks to this painting:

  • I really should use more paint.

Next time: A complete rundown of the pros and cons of doing this daily painting challenge – what I learned, where I stumbled, how often I asked myself “why the frig am I doing this?”, etc!  Stay tuned…

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Painting for September 27

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The Star’s Daughter – acrylic on panel, 6″ x 8″

I have… mixed feeling about this one.

First of all, you really should see it live and in person.  Trust me – the colours of her hair have a nice depth, and her skin tones are far more delicate than what you see here.  For some reason, WordPress just makes this one seem garish.

But wonky colours aside, I’m not sure about proceeding this way.  I can look at this painting and know exactly where I stitched stuff together (and I will always see that!), and don’t get me started on how long it took to find all the right elements!  Even when I got the right shoulder and head pose (and the hair!), it didn’t always follow that the shadows matched.  In fact, finding all the reference images ended up taking much longer than the actual painting!

What I like about this painting:

  • the fact that it’s an ORIGINAL work.  I promise: there ain’t nobody nowhere walking around looking like this!

What I like less about the painting:

  • I couldn’t find very hi-res references, so it feels a little “fudged and slurred through the difficult passages”.  But more than that, I started the painting with a sense of “why bother?”, and that’s just not the way to do it…
  • I will always and forever look at this painting and wonder “Do all the elements coalesce?  Can anyone tell it’s a Franken-painting?”

What I learned through this process:

  • coming up with original ideas is HARD.  And SCARY.
  • and ultimately, that is why some artists are strictly representational.  If it’s not directly in front of them, they won’t paint it.
  • I miss the zen factor of painting from internet images.

What I MIGHT change…

  • Her hair.  I liked my initial colour layout and just kept it that way, but now I wonder: does it look too unfinished?

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Painting for September 16 (way overdue!)

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Face Study no.15 – acrylic on panel, 6″ x 8″

I seriously considered uploading this one to today’s (or yesterday’s) “30 in 30” page, but I thought that would be dishonest of me.  This painting was started way back on September 16, but I’ve worked on it here and there since then, so technically, it can no longer qualify as “a painting a day”.  It’s too bad because I’m actually quite proud of it and would love to show it to a wider audience.

I’m particularly happy with the blue highlight on her nose! 😉

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Painting for September 23 WIP

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Face Study no. 17 – acrylic and oil on wood panel, 6″ x 8″

I always lose steam by the end of the week, so today’s painting for the 30 in 30 challenge might be a little late…

On the plus side, I might have figured out the best working method for me:

  1. Apply acrylics for the base “flats”, smooth where possible
  2. Paint the eyes and other fine details in acrylics ONLY
  3. Paint over only certain areas in water-soluble oils as needed.

And that way, I’ll get my nice, smooth surfaces, and my fine detail, and not want to tear my hair out! 😉

In case you were wondering, this painting is 90% acrylic.  I only painted over in oils parts of her nose, lips, ear, and the lower part of her cheek.

 

 

Painting for September 22

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Face study no.14 – oil on canvas, 6″ x 8″

I must be moving up in the world because I’ve graduated from canvas boards/panels to actual stretched canvases!

This one looks better as a .jpeg than it does as a painting, for some reason.  I can’t say I’m incredibly happy with it, and that’s mostly because I think I started to treat the oil paint like watercolour*.  I was so focused on keeping the skin pale – knowing that if I made it too dark I wouldn’t be able to fix it later, because, y’know, OILS – that I may have made this painting a little linseed-heavy.  Consequently, I had tremendous trouble  painting her eyes, eyelids, and eyelashes.  Her hair is the only part of her which is actual meaty PAINT.

And ok, I may have exaggerated her wall-eyes.

Tomorrow: back to acrylics!

*Speaking of watercolours, I keep wondering if I should give them a go.  I’m at the halfway point in the “30 in 30” challenge, and quite frankly, I’m getting a little bored**, and may need to change things up a bit.

**But honestly, how much novelty was I expecting when I decided to paint women’s faces for 30 days?  Three eyes?  A nose growing out the top of her forehead??

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Painting for September 21

september21
Face study no.13 – oil on panel, 6″ x 8″

This one kicked my butt.  But GOOD.

I was feeling confident (read: cocky) after my painting yesterday, and seeing as how we’re enjoying the very last of the warm weather here in Montreal, I thought that I might as well take advantage of being able to open the windows and crank out another oil painting.

And I worked, and slaved, and struggled, and cursed the day I ever decided to paint a portrait with hair (my nemesis!!!).  And after great effort… it turned a corner, and it came out alright.  Oh sure, there are parts that look too much like a “painting” (very obvious large brushstrokes where the unfriendly reality of oil paints reared its ugly head – i.e. you can’t paint pale over dark and get the highlight effect you’re looking for, at least not in one sitting .  I swear, oil paints should simply be renamed “Can’t Undo” paints), but I’m pretty happy with it.

(Oh, who am I kidding?  I’m RELIEVED, and that’s the truth of it!  Daily Painting may be all about the journey and not the destination, but… at the end of the day, I really, really, REALLY wanted a pretty picture!)

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