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My 1st Oil Painting

You might ask why I tried this difficult subject for my first oil painting. Sculpt but never paint. :) I thought it would be a challenge but until I started researching the method of execution didn't realize the size of the challenge. Anyway, I chose grisaille as it was probably the way Vermeer painted the original.  My biggest problem now is that the Vermeer looks "lit from within" and my rendition looks chalky/milky and flat. I painted a "test" and had similar results. Decided to use flake white instead of titanium (used in the test) thinking the pigment in titanium was the culprit. Not the case - obviously. I keep warming the flesh tones up with med cad red or vermillion - which changes the values and flattens out the tones. Then I add back lights which chalks it up again. I keep going back and forth with no success. Can't figure it out. Does someone have a suggestion?  Any comment greatly appreciated! :3


  • It’s possible you’ve just been looking at it for too long. I think it looks great, especially for ur first painting in oil. At some point it’s better to move on to a new one
  • Thank you for looking and responding! That's pretty much what my husband said. You're right... I've been looking and adjusting a lot. :) I guess I'm over working/thinking it. But, I still don't know why she seems so chalky... especially in low light. Lessons are needed. :) Thanks again.
  • I think your doing a fine job on this.  Take a closer look at the lips and eyes to get the expression just right.  I think that’s about all that’s left to work on this one.
  • edited January 7
    For your first painting...this is amazing. 
  • Dibee

    Great work and an outstanding first painting.

    Premix your color groups. Start from a chromatic black and bring progressively to each step of the value string with as little white as possible. White flattens and bleaches the life out of a portrait.

    Mark has free videos on mixing values using the color checker. All available at the top of the page...

  • edited January 8
     If Vermeer used coloured glazes without white (rather than opaque paint) over a grisaille that may account for the lack of chalkiness in the original. 
    For a first painting I think you've done an amazing job here.  :)
  • Don't be discouraged.  You have done great!
  • Thank you all for taking the time to give good advice to a novice! 
    GTO: Thank you! I have been working on eyes and mouth. Unfortunately, when I tried to soften the lips I couldn't do it successfully and although the color is off it didn't matter because I couldn't get the soft effect. And the eyes are out of proportion and I can't bring them into perspective - tried 2X. :( Seems like one the mistake was made (and dried) I couldn't correct. :( You are so right. I really appreciate your critique! 
    dencal: Thank you! I did mix color groups into values - but didn't execute properly. I watched Mark's video, but didn't execute properly. I got mixed up with grisaille and Mark's method. :). Thanks so much for the direction! Much appreciated! :+1: I will view again to see how to incorporated for next try. 
    tassieguy: Thank you too! You may have hit it right on. I was using coloured glazes - but included white, and probably too much later in the process. :( I knew once I over darkened, bringing back to "lighten" was risky... but at the time I didn't understand the consequences and didn't have a good choice.  That's why I thought flake white wouldn't be as harsh as titanium... but I was wrong. Next grisaille I will be more careful from the start... if I use grissaille technique again. It isn't as simple as it seems. :)

    Again, thank everyone who took the time to comment. Thanks for your informative comments and encouragement! I like oil painting and the ability to correct/adjust as you go. I will give it another try - maybe another subject :)  :3
  • It’s a great first effort.  Work on your drawing skills and seeing 2-D shapes.  Marks got a video in using a proportional divider and talks about drawing in that.
    I’ve used a razor blade to scrape dried paint off a canvas before.  
    I’ve wiped lots of paint off and started over on large areas before. For me getting the drawing right is a big effort and I don’t like staring a painting until I feel really good about the drawing.  Even with that I still make further corrections as I paint too.
    Keep at it you already have a great start.
  • Thanks! I will watch Mark's video. I've watched a lot of them, but not that one. :) You are right about the drawing. I think the original sketch was better, but over worked it with the painting - and repainting. Good point - lesson to learn. :) Thanks for the razor blade eraser technique! I will put it in my "adjustment" arsenal. :3 I so appreciate the help! I've decided to keep at it. :)
  • I'm sure no one will be revisiting this - but!! I couldn't leave my issue "undone". Thanks to all for their input. I found the ultimate answer!!! Mark posted a video on "How NOT to use white oil paint - Ep 20" - 3 years ago! I've watched so many of Mark's videos, but somehow I missed this one.  :p He explained exactly why what I did was WRONG. Not to mention how I over worked the painting trying to correct. But! It's not that bad. As the painting dried it has become less chalky and I'm feeling better about it. And I have moved on to my next test. :) Anyway - - for anyone having the same problem - see the aforementioned video on YouTube. Thanks Mark!  :3
  • For a first oil this shows your superlative dextarity!
  • two words; color checker. two more words; great job.
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