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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Portraiture, Checks and Balances, Toys You must Have

 My bog became a bit more of a bog today. A little darker, a little more wooded. It's my relief painting from oils and portraiture.

I'm discovering that portraiture is a lot like architectural drawing. Exacting measurement and  the constant checking of relationship  points  takes up a lot of time. Being the exacting gal I am, it's a tiring procedure requiring regular time outs. I used the grid system for the two small boys. It has inherent shortcomings requiring constant backing up and a critical eye.

Victoria Lisi, author of one of the portraiture books I'm reading, suggests tracing the reference photograph on vellum or mylar  and transferring that  to the canvas for an accurate drawing. She likes that method because you can always check your accuracy by frequently laying the traced drawing on the painting to see how you're doing. Tracing  my reference photo never occurred to me. If it did, I do think I would trace it directly onto the canvas using a projector, which would also have the advantage of enlarging it and/or cropping it. Projectors have always struck me as a way to paint my the numbers, which is okay when you're eight, not forty eight.

 The grid system is my preference. But you only have to use that system once to learn it gives you a drawing that's close to accurate, but not right-on.  Having discovered in sculpture that the thickness of the saw blade had to be calculated into my measurements, I suspect the shortcoming of the grid system is due to the width of the pencil line  Sounds silly I know, but a pencil line, just like a saw blade has dimension--and a number of them measured out will throw things off a bit, a tad, an increment of an inch. A measurable amount off  makes  your subject's features, someone else's. I am currently adjusting strategic points and refining skin tones. The punch hole system for matching values works very well.

What also works very well are the new angular flat brushes I bought. They have become my brush of choice. They do fine lines. They will make circular strokes. They will make flat strokes. They will blend. They will not scrubble. I also have brought all of my paint specifiers down to the studio. They have every color and value you can image including a full line of grays for value checks. I used these all the time for specifying paint colors for clients' remodel projects. My favorite is Pittsburgh Paint. They give you larger sheets that I used to cut to give the clients a sample. Full size though, they really show the lightness, the darkness, the grayness of the color sample and can be easily used to check the color values in a painting  Excellent item to have around the studio.  --As are disposable oil paint palette pads. I dickered about getting a wood one, but looking at them in the store, all sorts of memories flashed back of first  having to varnish the thing then having to clean and oil it all the time. With all the checking and observing that I'm doing, a disposable palette is for me.

I'd like to welcome and thank Matteo Grilli for becoming a follower. His drawings  of birds from the Australian bush are absolutely spectacular. He is an amazing draughtsman and a top-notch birder, for you know his photographs must be of the highest caliber. Take a look. You'll like what you see,

And what did I see as I was pulling  into the garage with a carload of oil supplies? Dandelions. Dandelions in March.  The Spring flowering trees are dropping their blooms--they used to drop them on May 15th.  How do I know? We owned a pool and set the opening day for May 16th, the day after we swept up. Then the dandelions bloomed and turned to seed which flew into the pool threatening to clog the skimmer. As fifty is the new forty, March is the new June. Do you believe this malarkey? The oils must still have brain numbing fumes. Have a lovely weekend.


  1. Beautiful work Linda! I love your bog and your portrait is stunning.
    I remember using the grid in a drawing class- it's a great tool to use.
    I'm not one for accuracy in drawings however but I definitely appreciate those of you who are. The effort shows in the work!

    1. The portrait is coming slowly. The bog will be the bog one more session. Thank you Pamo. Accuracy isn't important with bogs, but it definitely is with other people's children. They like them to look like they look.

  2. Good paintings, LW. I used to work with a bunch of illustrators. They used projectors all the time. They were wonderful artists, so they had fabulous drawing skills. They used the projector, but they did that only for accuracy and speed. The projector was certainly faster than the grid. I guess because I saw so much of their amazing work I have never thought of the projector as a bad thing. I don't use them, but I don't see the problem, unless someone doesn't know how to draw, then it would be a big problem. Your bog is looking good...and your portrait is looking amazing too. It's always fun to see what you are doing.

    1. I agree Celeste. Projectors are fine for hastening the process if the user is accomplished in drawing and painting without one. I like to keep my eye sharp and the only way I know how to do that is by drawing, drawing, drawing. 'm drawing even when I'm painting. Plus I'm not in a hurry. I have no deadlines to meet. I'm not on the job. Speed is important on the job, not so much in my studio. The more I practice my eye/hand coordination, the faster things will move along. Just starting in oils with portraiture, I have to pay my dues without the aid of a machine.

  3. Interesting, what you say about the grid and the line thickness... I think I'll learn a lot from this blog.