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Richard's Blog

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  • Fighting the thin paint moving around too much on a smooth surface and showing the background through. The problem of working in alla-prima. :/

    So I've spent some time experimenting with different textures and roughnesses (with sanding and clear gesso) to find the best roughness to grab the paint and stop this happening so much.

    Should now be easier on the next painting.
  • Almost done. Just a few touches to add and then I need to try to take a good photograph! :)
  • I saw it! I am literally dumbstruck.
  • Thank you Bob, I'll take that as a compliment! :)
  • Now it's done I will wait till it's dry and then varnish with Gamsol. I've never used it before so will test first on another painting. Once the varnish is dry I might get the painting framed unless anyone wants to buy it.

    I enjoyed that! :)
  • "enjoyed"? I think you should be thrilled.
  • Yes I am thrilled. It's probably the best painting I've done so far :)
  • post a final photo please!
  • I will once I get one taken. I only have a camera phone, so will ask a professional (gallery) to do it :)

    I'm working on creating a new painting board to fit on my easel to make it easier to paint. Hard to explain as still experimenting with it, but will post if it works out.

    Next I have a painting of a friend's mother that she has asked me to do. She only has a few very old black and white photos to work from unfortunately, so neither are ideal. But that's all she has so well have to make do.
  • I've been putting together my new painting board (I guess drawing board is the more correct term, even though it will be used for painting). I've had a delay in getting some materials delivered though so can't complete and try it out yet. A bit frustrating but I've been getting everything else ready.

    I've also been doing more experimenting with paint brands, gesso, brushes to see what works or not.

    My goal is to find the most effective way to do opaque one layer painting. I've tested a few paints out, but need to do more rigorous tests to find the best ones for me. One issue I have with Geneva paints is that the self-levelling tendency can be a bit too much when working on flat panels, Because there is no canvas weave to push the paint into it can leave ridges around the edge of a brushstroke.

    I'm going to test out paint straight from the tube over white and black printed areas to judge opacity. Also when I have medium mixed into the paint until it's the consistency I like. Currently my favourite is walnut oil with a small amount of clove oil. I love the slippery nature and it's solvent free. Finally I have some swatches when mixed with 50/50 titanium white to judge tinting strength and any difference in tinting hue/saturation.

    Here's an example of the word document I've made. I've printed it off and clear gessoed over it, which I've then sanded with a worn 400 grit sanding block until it has the feel I like best. I want to test the coverage on the actual surface texture that I will use on boards, rather than laminating or painting on the paper directly.



    Once I've painted the swatches I will try to photograph in the best lighting and take colour measurements for my spreadsheet.

    If anyone is interested in the results and/or helping that would be great :)





  • Good luck with your project. Your approach seems very sound and practical.
  • Good luck, @Richard. You've got a good style. 
  • First batch of colours tested for opacity: Whites, Greens, Earth Yellows and Reds


  • I like your scientific approach to this. @Richard. It'll be very interesting to see all the results of your testing.
  • Thanks Tassieguy.

    I'm a bit frustrated. I spent a lot of time and planning to make a large painting board to use with an easel and to attach boards to and it works.. but when I tried it out with the large easel I bought it's just too large for me to feel comfortable with! I only have a small area to paint in here in our house and limited time and I just don't feel comfortable painting on large surfaces. I wish I'd realised that before making it!!

    I envy all of you who have large spaces to work with and like working on large canvases. For me I think I'll stick to 16" x 12" as a maximum for the moment.. :/


  • Richard can you give us a picture of your easel painting board set up, and more info about the frustrating part? I'm trying something similar, still collecting material and trying to make a space. Mine will be temporary but frustration can last a long time.
  • Ugh, sorry Bob, it's dismantled now. What kind of board are you trying to come up with?
  • Got the scan back of my painting - some issues but will post in that thread..
  • Something better for an easel than leaning a piece of plywood against a wall. I've got a floor space of about 10-12sqft cleaned out but it's not enough if I have to have free standing light and drape supports. when I get up I would have to move the whole set-up. light fixtures and drapes attached to ceiling and walls isn't an option right now. I guess I'll just have to accept the fact that frustration is moving back in. Maybe he can help with the rent?
  • Well, what do you want to paint? If you are looking at a shadow box and a still life arrangement then you may need drapes and lights. But if you are painting from photos you don't necessarily need it. I paint at my computer desk which is white, the wall directly to my left is yellow, the ceiling is white. The floor is wood and I have the main room light above and to the right of me which is a clear glass light fitting my wife's parents bought and has 3 white LED Globe lights in it.

    It sounds a terrible setup, yet I can still match from photos and colour charts well enough to do my paintings.


  • Less is More! thanks, I think that's exactly what I'll have to do. But I still have to make a board that will hold my painting vertical. I shouldn't have a problem with that.
  • One of my wife's friends has asked if I can paint a portrait of her mother. As is often the case though the couple of photos she has that she likes are not particularly great to work from. I've altered the contrast to bring out more values and toned down the background from a light value which merged into the skin (Ignore the part on the right that's still light) But this is my source image for the painting:


    I've done the first 3 values (of 9) so far.. :)
  • The photo looks like a pretty good source to me - you should be able to paint from that no problem. I suspect the hardest part will be the background, and in finding the right texture/values that will make sense. E.g. the LHS of her face is illuminated, which might suggest a slightly lighter background on that side to give the illusion of a light source. Might have to be a bit of trial and error to get it looking natural. 
  • The photo look good with the darkened background, @Richard. There are some good value gradations in the face, hair and clothes. Will this be monochrome or will you try for colour?
  • Yes the modified version is much better - the original had a flatter value range (especially over the skin). It still has that old photo look, but not much I can do about that.

    I'll be doing this in monochrome, not quite up for trying to colourise a black and white photo yet!
  • The pattern of the texture on her coat is a real pain in the bottom! :p
  • I'm sure she also had a searsucker suit. That has a smooth finish.
  • About half way through this painting, still a lot to do.

    I've also finished the second version of a painting board. I'll test it out on the next painting and see if it works better than the first attempt!  =) If it does I'll post the details in case people want to do something similar.
  • Apart from a few touch ups (mainly on those tiny little holes where you miss painting over the board) it's finally done! Hopefully tomorrow I can finish and post a photo :)
  • So my next painting will be a copy of Vermeer's 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' (One of my favourite paintings). :)

    I didn't know until reading about it in depth that the background was originally a deep green but that has faded due to the fugitive pigments used at the time:

    "The background of the Girl with a Pearl Earring does not appear as it does when it came off the Vermeer's easel some 340 years ago. Recent analysis demonstrates that the artist had painted a transparent glaze of green paint over the dark underpainting. Originally, the background must have appeared as a smooth, glossy, hard and deep translucent green. This tone set against the warm flesh tone probably produced a more vibrant optical effect than the one which can be observed today. The green glaze was composed of three pigments (see left): indigo (a natural dye from the indigo plant) and weld (a natural dye from the yellow flowers of the woud plant widely used to dye clothes in Vermeer's day)." (From the Essential Vermeer website)

    So first dilemma.. Do I paint the background as a dark green as it was originally (but having to guess the value, colour, etc..), paint it as it appears now which is a dark mottled colour.. OR paint it as people expect it to be from various images, as a black colour.

    I think I'm leaning towards the last option.
  • edited September 2017
    Good choice, @Richard. In respect of the background, you would probably be best to paint it as it appears in the reproduction you are copying from. (Unless you have the opportunity to go to Holland to look at the original closely) However, you could do an experiment with a small sketch to see if other backgrounds would work.

    I look forward to seeing your progress with this. :) 

    Rob
  • Some examples..

    As most people think of it:


    Very high resolution scan of the paintings, showing how unfortunately it's cracked, but also the mottled background:
    https://www.mauritshuis.nl/en/explore/the-collection/artworks/girl-with-a-pearl-earring-670/#

    The second high resolution scan is my intended source as it has more detail, shows much information in the darkest values and has a warmer palette than which I prefer.
  • Hi Richard, great choice.
    I’m  not sure if you know about this site, here’s a link, lots of very in-depth info

    http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catalogue/girl_with_a_pearl_earring.html#.WchK7Hrmif0
  • Hi Boudicca, thanks! I've been reading a lot on that great site :)
  • Great idea @Richard_P. You could paint that cracks as well. Now that would be an interesting challenge :)

  • There’s some YouTube vids on how to achieve craquelure-careful though, you don’t want to end up in jail ha ha. 
  • Thanks all. But I'm not going to try to paint the cracks!  =)

    It's such a tragedy that oil paintings crack :(
  • Remind to pick subjects that come without dilemmas once I start painting. I agree with Rob.
  • edited September 2017
    All subjects have dilemmas, you just need to look hard enough..  :p

    I haven't started the painting yet, we have relatives coming from tomorrow onwards and my painting time will be interrupted otherwise.
  • The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • Do you mean a photograph of an existing painting (such as Vermeer's), or a photograph of a scene, person, etc...?


  • edited October 2017
    A busy time here with family visiting and birthdays for me, my wife and daughter all in a two week period.. phew!

    Finally, finally.. been able to start my painting of the Girl with the Pearl Earring. I'm keeping a spreadsheet to log the time for each session so I know how long it takes to paint this picture. I only have rough guesses normally so wanted to be a bit more accurate.

    I've blocked in the first step today - pure black (which took 51 minutes). Most of this black will be blended with the second step once that is blocked in:

    Girl with a Pearl Earring Total Time 00:52:00
    Date Start Time End Time Process Step Duration Notes
    09/10/2017 20:34:00 20:35:00 Mixing 1 00:01:00 Pure Black
    09/10/2017 20:35:00 21:26:00 Painting 1 00:51:00
  •  Oh, a time and motion study. You'll know how long you spent on it, @Richard_P,  so you'll be able to calculate a price based on an hourly rate if someone wants to buy it. Don't forget the cost of materials. Paints ain't cheap.  :)
  • It's not black, it's mottled. I'm painting it as per the photograph the Mauritshuis have taken:

    https://www.mauritshuis.nl/en/explore/the-collection/artworks/girl-with-a-pearl-earring-670/

    You could try adding some water to the gesso, it should thin it and make it level more. 

  • Ok, I tried to work too detailed on the mottled background, could have done it much quicker with using a larger brush from the start. All a learning experience as I've not tried to do this effect before..

    Girl with a Pearl Earring Total Time 03:07:00
    Date Start Time End Time Process Step Duration Notes
    09/10/2017 20:34:00 20:35:00 Mixing 1 00:01:00 Pure Black
    09/10/2017 20:35:00 21:26:00 Painting 1 00:51:00
    10/10/2017 21:00:00 21:08:00 Mixing 2 00:08:00
    10/10/2017 21:09:00 22:23:00 Painting 2 01:14:00
    10/10/2017 22:37:00 23:30:00 Painting 2 00:53:00
  • Ugh, hardly any time to do anything yesterday due to an overtired 3 year old who wouldn't sleep till late..

    Girl with a Pearl Earring Total Time 03:42:00
    Date Start Time End Time Process Step Duration Notes
    09/10/2017 20:34:00 20:35:00 Mixing 1 00:01:00 Pure Black
    09/10/2017 20:35:00 21:26:00 Painting 1 00:51:00
    10/10/2017 21:00:00 21:08:00 Mixing 2 00:08:00 Very dark grey-orange
    10/10/2017 21:09:00 22:23:00 Painting 2 01:14:00
    10/10/2017 22:37:00 23:30:00 Painting 2 00:53:00
    11/10/2017 15:57:00 16:01:00 Mixing 2 00:04:00 Very dark grey-blue
    11/10/2017 16:05:00 16:36:00 Mixing 3 00:31:00 Dark blue, Dark grey-blue, Dark green, Dark grey-green, Dark grey-orange, Dark orange
  • For anyone who is interested I discovered wet sanding. Use normal sand paper dipped in water to sand dried gesso. Makes it super smooth. I believe that has solved my problem mentioned above.
    Ahh, that's interesting. Thanks for letting us know. :)
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