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DMP 5 - Gorilla help

Help - I started my true 5th DMP ( last one failed) and I can not work out why I am losing the likeness, I can plot out my drawing very well, and I can lay down my dark values first but as soon as I go to the next stage of value I lose the likeness, is it just "ugliness" creeping in and I need to trust myself ?
I snap shot in my current WIP onto the reference photo and traced the area in question with the pen tool, and it does show where I went off track - any help would be much appreciated.
Geneva oils on Canvas board 11 x 17  - using a small 0 brush -



  • Hi @alsart.  My suggestion is, again, slow down, and pay close attention to detail.

    You won't get a likeness unless the drawing is accurate, the color mixing is accurate, the color is placed in the right location, you cover the canvas, and then you tweak it all.  Those are separate points to discuss.

    Drawing: Are you using a proportional divider?  The drawing looks like the major pieces are in the right place, but the mouth curl is not the same, the dark brow line is different. The left shoulder is missing, and the line you have painted from the chin down is one I can't see in the image at all.  But you said this yourself - the shapes are off.

    Color mixing: You have the subject's right cheek painted way lighter than the photo.  I think your grays are warmer than the photo.  You're not going from dark to light across the whole painting, because you are applying white already, and there are many darker patches uncovered.

    Placement: I think you painted the wrong shape for the subject's right nostril.  I think you put black in the shape above it, and painted a lighter strip through the center of the nostril.

    Cover the canvas: You won't get a true likeness until the end, after the canvas is covered, and after you have tweaked the painting and played "spot the difference".
  • First of all that's a difficult image to paint!

    But your drawing isn't right in that there is no space above the eyes for the dark of the brow. 
    To the left of his nose (as we look at it) is a very dark shadow but you've painted it much lighter.
    The underside of the nose has a light highlight that curves around either nostril, but you've omitted that entirely.

    I'd try a simpler image first to get used to the DMP method and getting all the shapes and values right.
  • @PaulB and @Richard_P - both correct, and many thanks for the honesty, I think am am running before I can walk  - I plan to wipe down tonight re-stain and start again,...
  • Oh boy, I don't know of a harder image to paint.  I agree with the others here.
    I think you will feel much better starting over as you said.  I would suggest working one section at a time.  Like the eyes and brow first.  Then work your way down.  You may feel you have more control that way.
  • Maybe paint all the darks first and hold off on the highlights til your more established in the whole mass(?)
  • Yep - its a roll over, no shame in it - the next attempt will take the advice on board and will surely produce a better effort in the end - thanks  - DMP 5 on hold.....

  • A good rule is step back and look at it. If you start thinking good enough or that's fine it really means wipe it out. Every time it is done again consider it practice and you will improve. Very difficult image but you can do it if you are patient and use your tools. Looking forward to the finished picture. You are off to a good start....
  • @werby ; - wise words, I will have another attempt its a lifetime WIP for me anyways
  • Hi @alsart, thanks for posting this as it has given some insight into your process- you seem to be introducing highlights into your painting way too soon and this is, as Mark would say, “milking up your blacks” which really deadens the painting. It’s really tempting to do this but try to refrain and be patient, you will really notice the difference.
  • @Boudicca
    i need to discipline myself that it for sure - the feedback and guidance is fantastic - I am grateful for that 

  • edited October 2017
    @alsart    forgive me, but I think this would be an absolutely FANTASTIC charcoal study.  But, for oil paints, this is really probably the most difficult medium to accomplish anything that would be successful. I would hate for you to lose interest in oil paints and all of their glory because you chose a very grey subject matter reference that would be difficult (probably) for even Mark Carder to accomplish successfully.

  • So I edited the reference photo a little and reduced the pan to just the head detail and then laid it out on a smaller canvas, albeit a heavy mixed media paper stained with the usual DMP tone magic.
    i have laid down the background and as much "dark" value as I feel comfortable with.
    i will have to let this lie for a few days as I am on another island for the weekend

    thoughts - perseverance ?

  • Hi @alsart, what do you mean by “as dark value as I feel comfortable with” ?
  • Yes, I wondered about that, too, @Boudicca. I would have thought "as dark value as indicated by my colour checking", no? :)
  • @Boudicca
    i sometimes lay too much black and I can not retrace my steps - I don't see anymore dark in the photo so I guess I am saying I am ready for the next step  - sorry to disappoint but nothing more in depth than that 

  • @tassieguy - question if I may, if my darkest value is black - and the darkest value I can get to with my paint is black, what do I need to color check too / against?

  • In that case you would, of course, use black. But it pays to check that what looks black is actually black. There can be a lot of subtlety in shadows.

    It's just that I didn't understand what you meant by  “as dark value as I feel comfortable with”. 
  • @tassieguy my choice of words could have been better, sorry 
    more to follow next week 
  • I had time to add some small dark values and I lightened up the right side background I needed a contrast and I can relate to the shadows more if that makes sense - feedback very much welcome 

  • what are you painting upon?  It looks like a piece of heavy drawing paper... Am I correct about this?  What do others think about this choice if I'm correct?  
  • @alsart, there are important, unanswered questions here:

    Are you using a proportional divider?
    Are you using a color checker?

  • @Bancroft414  - the paper is heaven mixed media with 2 coats of burnt umber acrylic - I am not too concerned about the longevity of this surviving as I consider it a learning curve for DMP method

    if you recall from my apples DMP I work from a reference photo that I slip into one of my hard plastic holders - I them color match direct on top of that and wipe clean afterwards - I sum only color matching the darkest value for now witch is black I will post when I work on my next step
    i usually layout from the full size photo with a compass - like for like for this gorilla I cheated and traced the lines / values with a white carbon artist paper - when I say "cheated" I mean cheated time that's all
    once I have the rough lined layout I use pencil and chalk liner to tweak the layout before I start on the paint phase
    this is my process and approach for this project - feedback most welcome
  • @PaulB - this is the plastic folder I will post once I mix my steps foe the gorilla 
  • Thanks @alsart.  I remember your clear plastic setup for color checking for the apple painting, which went rather well.  Now you need to use the same color checker for the gorilla.  The reason I'm saying you aren't color checking everything is because the photo has a black background, and you painted a graduated gray background, and you didn't hit all the black spots.  Once you've located and mixed a color, find all the places on your picture (using a color checker) where you can apply that color.

    You use a compass, that's good.  If you're drawing at 1:1 scale, that's no different from a proportional divider.  Now measure the vertical distance between the gorilla's left pupil and the extent of the lower lip.  Compare that to the vertical distance between the left pupil and the top of the head.  In the photo that's almost exactly the same.  Now look at the drawing.  See the difference?

    Thank you for answering.  I feel like I'm giving you a hard time, and I don't want to do that, and you don't deserve that.  I want you to succeed.
  • @PaulB
    I think i see the issue and it's my fault and my process is misleading - so my photo is 1for 1 hence direct use of compass and direct transfer of measurements, this for me is an every day exercise as an engineer - yippee one step ahead - but when I print out my photo I blow it up to see the detail and this is from what I color check with, in my plastic folder - maybe at my basic level I see no issue with this, but could I be on the wrong path  
    cut a long story short - and a question that I feel is a good one- do the proportions of the subject matter need to remain in proportion to color check?


  • That's a very hard subject to paint. There are many good comments already. I hope you will success with this one.
  • @Jack2015
    i arrive to fail - but enjoy the lessons learnt and journey along the way 
  • @PaulB
    just got it set up for my gorilla - I see the nose and eyes as big challenges to tackle this coming week 

  • @alsart Good.  Now start with black, mix a few shades and put them on the drawing in the right place.  Don't worry about how it looks (it will look awful), just trust your compass to tell you it's the right size and place.  Don't worry about likeness (you won't have one), and won't until the very end.  Just make a black blob of paint the exact same shape and placement as on the photo.  Do all the black patches before moving to the next step, which will be almost-black.  Go slowly and repeat.
  • And stay away from white until you get the darks in, far far away. Lock it in a cupboard.
  • This is going to be a fantastic lesson in colour mixing. If you can get this right , you’ll be getting your PHD in mixing darks. 
    Good luck. You’re in the right place to get expert advice. 
    What a gorgeous subject , such an expressive and intelligent face. 
    I hope it goes really well for you. 
  • @Hilary @PaulB ; @Boudicca ; - I will start tonight, too much Maui sun and "coconut in da lime"  to even sit at the easel last night,...thanks for pointers, I thought this gorilla would be easy, its just black and brown,...
  • So I just got back from being away from home foe a few days and I checked my WIP and the small black value shapes have dried I don't get it they are dry to the touch any one got any notion as to why it dried so fast?
    i plan to paint over with a fresh mix of paint. 

    @PaulB I darkened the background you was correct thanks 
  • I got more black laid down - these are the darkest value I see if I lay anymore paint down I will not have room for the steps.

  • I salute your perseverance. It's the only way to great success in my opinion. You will learn a lot along the way.I can see that your new drawing is a lot better than the previous one. However, in some areas that you've painted with black has more values than just black I think. Color checker is just like god for this task I think.
  • So far I have 6 steps mixed plus raw Geneva black

  • Keep going, and no cheating with whites yet! ;)
  • @alsart, it always looks fugly before it starts to come good.
  • Yup. will look much  better once you have the canvas covered, @alsart. If you are aiming for a high degree of realism it would be a good idea if there were no thick obvious brushstrokes in your background. Keep it very smooth and save any impasto for the lighter areas on the face. This will give a more 3D feel. 
  • @alsart You're doing it right.  Resist the temptation to speed up.
  • So I resit,... while others happily blend away & add highlights & smooth brush strokes on WIP  and call it DMP, some just post a final product that has had many many hours of fine blending, am I missing something?

    @PaulB @Richard_P @tassieguy @Boudicca @Summer @dencal ; - you have all helped me along the way and I appreciate all that help but so far its been a bumpy ride, with not many good results to be honest - I am going to reevaluate where I am going wrong, I am going to stick my engineers head on and take a step back and look at my set up & approach.
    Final frustrated gorilla attached, after almost a full night shift of adding steps and tweaks so please excuse the final bad fan brush work - I just needs to get this one behind me.
  • SummerSummer -
    edited October 2017
    Sometimes, art is just about feelings.  I love it!  You probably don't realize yet how much you have learned about painting realism.  It gets better from here and each future time you have an experience like this one.  Step by step.   :)  
  • @alsart: How would you like to proceed?  Would you like a breakdown of the gorilla process?  Simply move on?  Move on with a new picture that we suggest?

    I'd like to help, but I'm sensitive to your frustration level.
  • I sense your frustration and I can totally empathise.  but I think giving up now and leaving it as is a mistake. I think you’ll regret it. 
    Why not take some really expert advice and you’ll end up with a fantastic painting. 
  • Yes move on - any suggestions for my next attempt will be most welcome @PaulB
    @Hilary ; - not giving up, just moving on.

    One main issue - I find it very hard to paint fine detail with Oil - I actually think it is the tooth of my canvas, I have painted many fine works with Acrylics and have never had this issue before.

  • Yes , I see exactly what you’re saying. I know you’re moving on. 
    Onwards and upwards!  :)
    you’ve probably learned a lot from this exercise anyway. 
    I was following your progress with great interest. 
    It’s a very difficult subject to tackle. 
    Would Paul consider giving his thoughts on how he would  proceed with this painting now were he to finish it ? 
    I find all this help invaluable, and I’m pretty sure others must do as well. 

  • SummerSummer -
    edited October 2017
    I don't think that we should be painting with the majority our feelings when doing commissions where a level of realism is expected.  There has to be a level of skill when painting realism, and when painting skillfully, emotion is still there, but to a lesser degree.  We can't get away from our emotions entirely.    
  • Hi @alsart I sense your frustration too. 
    A few questions for you and observations. Like @PaulB I’m not here to give you a hard time but would like to help.
    Have you gone through the entire course on the DMP website and watched all the videos?
    Are you using the limited palette and mixing black from that?
    My observation is that you are still going too fast- your last post and the one previous to that are separated by a matter of hours, yet you have the whole canvas covered. 
    There is no great mystery to painting realism- correct drawing, mixing the correct colours and values and then putting them in the right place- simple but difficult. For me patience has been the key.
    I would encourage you to keep trying , keep posting, 

  • Hi @Boudicca ; - yeah I posted both over a 11 hour period, Maui time zone here, and I welcome the help really I do - that's why I am here and I open up with my pain.
    I have watched the videos, some more then twice  -I have the brakes on while I reevaluate myself.

    I will keep posting, I do not give up easily   -thanks
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