Painting for January 3rd

“January 3, 2017″ – acrylic on wood panel, 6″ x 8”

Dry-brushing appears to be my go-to method for painting hair.  So of course, I’m going to shake things up and try oils for the next one!

Done while listening to an episode of the “Trekabout” podcast, which I’m choosing to name-drop just because I think it’s a podcast that should be on every discerning geek’s podcast playlist.


Painting for September 16 (way overdue!)

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! 😉


Painting for September 19

Face study no.11 – acrylic on panel, 6″ x 8″

I swear to you that I set out to produce something fast, loosey-goosey, and sketchy… and I crumbled and started smoothing things out again (which was actually pretty difficult to do over all that paint).

I also realized that I’m STARVING for colour, so… Barbie Pink backgrounds for everyone!

May have to re-work this piece.  It looks fine large, but as a thumbnail, well, I find that the errors are more apparent.



Painting for September 18

Face study no. 10 – acrylic on panel, 6″ x 8″

Yes, I’m a bit behind in the “30 in 30” challenge, but I have a solid excuse: I came down with the flu on Friday, and haven’t had the energy to paint since then.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I did start a painting on Friday, but I was a) too sick to finish it, and b) so wrapped up in the details that I felt it deserved to be done properly.  I even tried to finish it Saturday night, but there’s still so much work to be done.  You can see a WIP of it on my Instagram feed.

This also highlights a particular problem I’m having with the “30 in 30” challenge: when given the opportunity, I will always hone in on the details.  But of course, a finished portrait has to take more into account than eyelashes or the shine on the lips.  You have to pay attention to the Big Picture.  Also, each painting ends up taking WAY too long!

For today’s painting, I forced myself to keep a more loose and “sketchy” look.  I still haven’t achieved it to my satisfaction, but I’m getting there!

What works for me:

  • the limited colour palette
  • the “patchier”, less refined paint strokes
  • her blue hair, just because

What doesn’t work for me:

  • the brush strokes of the hair, but then, you know how I hate dealing with hair…

What I learned with this painting:

  • Ultra Matte Medium is great, but maybe what I really need is Ultra Matte Gel?


Painting for September 15

Face Study no.9 – acrylic on panel, 6″ x 8″

Aaaannd we’re back!  After a brief dalliance with oils, I went back to acrylics, and man, did I ever miss their optimistic and plastic-y aroma!

And I got all wound up in doing the details of her face and now I’m too tired to do the rest of the painting.  G’night, folks!


Painting for September 11

Face Study no.6 – acrylic and water-soluble oil on panel, 6″ x 8″


You read that right, folks -“acrylic AND water-soluble oils”.  Now, I wouldn’t normally do this, but according to the information pamphlet that came with our set of Holbein Duo Aqua Oils, mixing these paints with acrylics is perfectly fine.  They blended together on the palette just fine, and adhered to the panel just fine, too.  So far, everything is FINE.

But if this painting eventually ends up flaking and sliding right off the canvas, I promise you: the good people at Holbein can look forward to some scathing hate mail from yours truly.  I shall keep you informed.

Just kidding!  I actually really, really wanted to experiment, especially after my disappointment with using oils for September 10th.  I was really keen to find out if adding some water-soluble oils to acrylic would help with extending the “open” time, and thus allow me to get that coveted “wet-in-wet” look that always seems just beyond my grasp… and not give me an “oil paint smell” headache while I’m doing it.

Unfortunately, given the time and opportunity, I just went right back to my detail-oriented, dry brush, nit-picky ways.  So my results are, uh… inconclusive.

What I like about this painting:

  • all those shifting colours in her fleshtones
  • all the “unfinished” bits – her hair, her fuzzy sweater

What I like less:

  • the “lineart”, which for some reason I just keep adding even though it doesn’t often work

What I learned from this painting:

  • I concentrate SO HARD on the eye that’s in the light, and tend to fudge and slur my way through the eye that’s in shadow.  This is becoming a habit.
  • re: mixing water-soluble oils with acrylics – I thought it best not to use linseed oil, so I used only a little water to help extend the paint.  As it dried (and if it was scraped thinly enough across my palette, it most certainly did), as some reviewers have pointed out, it would also become a little sticky
  • speaking of my palette, I have yet to clean it.  I think this is where the [water-soluble oils/acrylics mix] is going to hit the fan, if you catch my meaning.


Painting for September 9

Face Study no.4 – acrylic on panel, 6″ x 8″

Can you ever use too much matte medium?  Apparently YES.

Back in art school, I only ever mixed my acrylic paints with water.  I’m sure the teachers told us about mediums, but I think most of us were too  broke (or too cheap) to actually go out and buy them.  Because my life can always be more complicated, I thought I’d use this 30 in 30 Challenge to experiment with a few.  So far, I’ve tried slow-dri medium, and extra heavy gel.  On the menu tonight: matte medium.

And it was… not easy to work with.  Maybe I added too much medium to my paint, but I found that the colour practically slid off the panel with every brushstroke.  It could also be that I’m just using cheap-y panels, and their “tooth” would be improved by a few extra coats of gesso and some sanding – but, honestly, who has time for that?  I’m pretty disappointed because I was counting on matte medium becoming my all-purpose, go-to, workhorse medium of choice, and thus far, it has under-performed.  Drat.

What I’m happy with:

  • surprisingly, I like her hair on the right side.  I didn’t have time to do anything detailed, but it works well enough.  I’ve noticed that I keep falling back on dry-brushing (which might be the Universe’s way of telling me to chuck the paints and go back to drawing, but there’s never been a good idea yet that I haven’t found the strength to resist, so …)

What I’m less happy with:

  • her dead, dead, dead skin tone.

What I learned with this painting:

  • some mediums are better than others.  Also, read the damn label.

What I’m starting to suspect:

  • the fat, buttery, wet-in-wet look that I’d love to achieve is only possible with oil paints.


Painting for September 8

Face Study no.3 – acrylic on panel, 6″ x 6″.  For Sale: $150 USD

I felt that yesterday’s painting was a bit of a disaster, so I decided to give it a second shot – and make it just as fussy and smooth as I originally wanted it to be.  I definitely like this one a LOT more, but it took wa-a-ay too much time to complete.  If I’m going to keep up the Challenge, I’ll have to develop a faster working method!

What I’m happy with:

  • You want the honest truth?  I’m happy with almost all of it!   I tried really hard not to  stray too far from the reference image, and I think it came out alright!

What I’m less happy with:

  • lack of unified paint texture.  Sometimes I gooped it on and it looks opaque, sometimes it looks watercolour-y.  It’s the mark of an amateur, so… gotta work on that.

What I learned with this painting:

  • too much Titanium White can tip a painting’s flesh tones over into “zombie” territory pretty quickly.  Proceed with caution!
  • as much as I enjoy working with a painting propped up in my lap, all that sitting allows me to forget to take a step back every now and then, and that is dangerous!

My Interior Monologue While Painting – a play in three acts:

me: Ok!  Enough of this stylistic garbage!  I’m going to paint the way I want to paint and prove to myself that I can DO THIS!  [begins painting]

me (halfway through): Oh God!  This is terrible!  I can’t paint AT ALL! [keeps painting]

me (holding my precious new bundle of painting joy):  Hunh.  That wasn’t so bad.  Ok, maybe I *can* do this after all.  In fact, I’m going to do it all again tomorrow!! [promptly forgets all about painting woes until the next day]




Painting for September 7

Face Study no.2 – acrylic on panel

Here is my painting for September 7th – Day 7 (well, for me, it’s Day 2) of the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge.

What I’m happy with:

  • pretty much everything on the right side.  Those pale colours with that thin outline really make me hum with satisfaction.
  • the white highlights.  SO much easier to do on any surface that is NOT paper.

What I’m less happy with:

  • pretty much everything on the left side.  The reference image is very calm, and I somehow made her look like she walked away from a bad fistfight (“you should see the OTHER guy!”).

What I’ve learned so far:

  • because I have practically zero training in painting (and this despite the fact that I have a Fine Arts Degree – chew upon that, alma mater!), I’m a lot less comfortable making paintings that are, I dunno… paint forward?  I forced myself to use the biggest brushes possible for as long as possible on this tiny panel, but I was happiest when I could take out the detail brush, or when I could apply the paint as if I was drawing.
  • Slow-Dri Blending Gel really works.  Bless you, Liquitex.

What was going through my mind practically all the way through:

  • I suck at painting
  • y’know, if I did this with Photoshop, it would come out AMAZING

See you tomorrow!