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Mike Derby Portrait Blog



  • edited July 2017
    @MikeDerby ;  this made me chuckle about the eyelashes as I just watched a movie with Julia Roberts taking a safety pin to her clumped eyelashes while delivering her lines in a movie - it was genius!  I told my husband - good Lord!  I do that all the time but cannot imagine doing that memorizing lines with a movie crew around me - I would have poked out my eye!  That is how important un-clumped eyelashes are to us women who wear (too much perhaps) make-up.  I have watched Richard Schmid's dvd when he paints Michelle Dunaway about 10 times now and he is genius with the eyes and eyelashes of a woman - he brushes as you did the lashes and then, while the paint is wet, he dabs it with a very dry and soft somewhat larger brush to soften it.  He unclumps it with his brush technique!  Just FYI if you are interested.

    Your work is lovely and I am so enjoying your portraits.  I just wish it was posted in the painting section with the other WIPs as I keep missing your updates!

  • @MikeDerby RE Amanda. She is SPECTACULAR as I said. @Bancroft414 has a point. Women will notice those things about themselves. I hope you can still make changes without risking the painting up till now. I hope you have a tiny brush. I wouldn't try it with a mascara brush though.

    RE: Double. The Drawing is pretty amazing.
  • Wonderful work @MikeDerby.  Your drawing is really well done.  Excited to see this.
  • MikeDerby said:
    I think I may have finally convinced myself there is no better way for me personally than Carder Method.

    Me too!  The others are too time-consuming for my personality as well.  But I do respect and admire the others.  Can you even imagine the time involved painting 16 layers of glazes?    Summer
  • Summer said:
    MikeDerby said:
    I think I may have finally convinced myself there is no better way for me personally than Carder Method.

    Me too!  The others are too time-consuming for my personality as well.  But I do respect and admire the others.  Can you even imagine the time involved painting 16 layers of glazes?    Summer
    I'm trying not to imagine how long it would take!!
  • edited July 2017
    @MikeDerby, that is such a beautiful photograph! And the quality would make it a dream to paint. Hope you do this one.
  • That photo is perfection! Just begging to be painted! 
  • I'm sure that you will be forgiven for changing your priorities.  Is there a story that goes with it?  :)
  • That's a beautiful photograph! It would make a wonderful painting..
  • I cannot wait to see it turn into a Painting... :)
  • Amazing portrait above! :)
  • BOB73BOB73 -
    edited July 2017
    JOY? more joy than 2 baskets full of puppies!  The real beauty here (as a subject) is that it doesn't look posed or contrived. Pretty lucky to capture that moment in time. YOU MUST PAINT IT!
  • That boy kissing his dad's head- heart melting.
  • What a wonderful composition. Perfect source material in every way.
  • This is my nephews family and i assume i will get permission to paint it.  he has offered permission for other things before.  but i don't have permission yet and so i will not start.  as you can see it is a tremendous undertaking.  Its actually way over my head.  So there is no reason to start preparing to do something if i cannot finish it.  He is pastor of a church and very busy, what with 4 kids and all, so getting a response is a little challenging sometimes.  @summer, you asked about the back story and there is only so much i can say.  I don't want to invade their privacy.  But i will tell you that he was called to the ministry as a teen and followed that course to the present day.  He met the love of his life in seminary and she said yes.  They have had two churches and he is now where they think they will stay.  As you can see from the photo, it appears to have worked out for them both.  I can attest to the fact that their children are a blessing to humankind, as are they.

    In the interim, thank God for Wiken.  I have begun work on two of his photos which i hope to show you here in the near future.  The ballerina in Venice, and the fish pond, which i will attempt to paint in the impressionist style, are the subjects.
  • @MikeDerby ; A great story.  I'm glad that I asked if there was one.  Hope you get permission to paint this particular family because I think it will serve as an example down through history of what is possible within some families.  I've never seen anything like it myself.  Your workshop with Mark Carder wasn't wasted and you've been blessed with boundless energy and focus from my view.  Looking forward to watching all of this unfold.  Thanks for sharing.  Summer   :)  
  • Thank you @summer it's a blessing to have you on the team.  Since I wrote @ 4:30 I have received permission and will now set all other projects aside to concentrate on this painting.  I am debating with myself over the surface to use.  Panel is good and very cheap but linen is my favorite and expensive.  The money actually means nothing in this case so it boils down to what I want under my brush.  I have sized it at 48x40, so it will be epic.  I already have the stretchers and some very good canvas, but canvas won't do.
    is 48x40 big enough?  What do you think about the surface?
  • SummerSummer -
    edited July 2017
    @MikeDerby ; I first like the size 48x40 that you have chosen and your desire to use linen.  I've been using Claessens Belgian #13.  Any Belgian linen triple primed would be good.  I'm thinking that canvas would be easier to transport than panel later on, and easier to hang.  The panel is okay too, but you have to go with what inspires you.  I'm sure you will figure it out.  I'm confused when you say that canvas won't do?  Not the right size canvas?  Will you have to special order?  I splurge and do that sometimes.  My vote is for you to choose what you want, as you say, under your brush.  Summer
  • @summer what I mean is that I have become a linen snob.  I have since processed the photo and I think 40 x 32 is going to work well.  The larger size includes feet at the bottom which are indistinct and don't help the composition, and the pine needles off to the right.  When I laid it out full size those areas just looked extraneous.  I am having trouble finding claessens #13.  They call it series 20 or 66 etc .  Is it 13 oz that is the key?  Also, has anyone used Caravaggio linen?

  • SummerSummer -
    edited July 2017


    This site will give more detailed information about Claessens.  I've had more time to think about your question, so I'm editing this post.  I only concern myself with the dimensions of the roll, sizing and priming of the Claessens #13, if any of those apply at the time I'm making a purchase for a specific project--not the series, warp, or weft, and so on.  Weight is given as primed or unprimed stretched canvasses on the package label.  The label would read "Primed 18 Unprimed 16" for example, and that would mean weight in ounces.    So, I can't answer all your question specifically.  I probably should learn those things.  Maybe eventually as time goes on.

    Claessens #13 has become very popular in the last few years and therefore good price deals for us are scarce.  Something you might be interested in is how I solved the problem for 24" x 24" and smaller substrates.  I special order Claessens #13 art boards with linen attached from this site in custom sizes.  Simply love them but they are heavy and therefore plan to only show and sell these locally.  I buy the ones with the hanging slots carved into the back of the boards.  I'd stretch my own canvas for larger sizes because they are easier to handle and ship.  But buying in rolls isn't without risk.  There could be slubs in the fabric and wasted sections at the beginning and ends of the rolls which could mean not enough fabric for a planned project.         


  • Hmm.. I quite like the added space to the right and bottom. It leads the eye into the collection of figures in the painting. It might look a little confined if it's cropped too close to them?
  • SummerSummer -
    edited July 2017
    Can't remember the details, but I learned some time back that there is some kind of rule of balance in graphic arts, photography, etc., that the space at the top should be smaller than the space at the bottom?  So, I always consider that when I'm putting an image on a substrate.  I was able to find this quote:

    “We suggest leaving more space at the bottom. It doesn’t have to be drastically larger…but even a slight increase will make the painting look visually balanced...when...hung on a wall.”

    I'm sure you'll get the balance of top to bottom, left and right to come out perfectly with your innate sense of design.  Summer  :)

  • @MikeDerby this is going to  be a labor of love so I'm lobbying for the linen. I hope you find the right kind. Good Luck.
  • Very nice work. If you're intimidated by ears and fingers (I know You're not) paint them in parkas and mittens.
  • Yep, I am sure this will be absolutely fabulous @MikeDerby.

    I hope you don't mind, but I was so taken with this image that I took it upon myself to analyse it some more (compositional rules have been exercising my brain lately, as I have been tidying up my grid overlay software that I wrote as an aid to composition - see I was therefore curious to see how this image compared.

    Below is an overlay with a frame with an aspect ratio equal to one of the classical dimensions that are supposedly easy on the eye (a quadrigon, with an aspect ratio 1: 1 + sqrt(2)/2). Within that there are six lines that make up the ''dynamic symmetry''. There are the two diagonals, and then from each corner a line that crosses the opposite diagonal at a right angle.This arrangement has some special mathematical qualities, and has been implicated in defining compositions that are again ''easy on the eye''. 

    What struck me was that the three main focal points in the photo (the interactions amongst your three groups of family members) all fall neatly between a main diagonal and one of the 'reciprocal' diagonals:

    And there are also some diagonal elements in the composition that line up nicely with with the diagonals in the frame:

    This stuff can be a bit flakey, I admit, but I did find this interesting enough to warrant sharing. Maybe there is something in all that dry mathematical stuff after all!
  • Excellent analysis.  I had already decided to leave the areas right and bottom in as Richard suggested but this convinces me that it is the right thing to do.  Without them the proportions would not work.  Have you tried the nautilus?  Also, I think your formula is the universally accepted definition of beauty, 1:1.618, also known as the golden ratio.
    Thank you so much for doing this.  I begin the drawing phase today.
  • Glad you found it interesting, I certainly did. The ratio used in my analysis above is actually 1:1.207, but it is indeed in the same family as the golden section (one of many that share similar properties). Have fun with the drawing.

    I have some Claessens 13 that I have marked for a landscape, and that I am eager to try. But I better make a start on my portrait first...
    [Deleted User]
  • This is going to be great. Glad you are going big! I don't like the bounce of stretched canvas or linen, I prefer a rigid surface, and a smoother one at that. Hope the Claessens works out for you.. :)
  • I love it Steve.  I downloaded it and it was great. I laid the fibonacci spiral (what i call a nautilus) over it and the groups of two fall into the focal point beautifully.  I am really impressed with the tool.  
  • The Claessens 13 is nice to paint on.  Did you follow Mark's video on stretching a canvas?  It's excellent for anyone who wants to stretch their own.  It does come out sounding like a drum.  You have a lot of work ahead of you with this large piece.  I'm really looking forward to it.
  • One bit at a time.. you are going to trace onto the canvas then?
  • All the broad shapes will be traced for speed.  All the delicate parts will be drafted for precision.
  • It is so cool seeing the progress on an epic project like this :)  it's gonna be great 
  • WooHoo! We have the best seats in the house! (who brought the snacks??)
  • Is he filming it too? :D
  • I can do that.  I have resisted the temptation up to now but if there is some interest i can work something out.
  • The finished portrait is wonderful!  I didn't even notice the background because she is so beautiful and you did such a good job.
  • This is fantastic, showing the process from stretching the canvas, preparing the reference photos, etc is time intensive and very generous of you, thanks Mike.
  • Wow! This is going to be a stupendous masterpiece! Do you think you'll have this done in time for the challenge, @MikeDerby? It would take me months.
  • Thank you everyone.  I am about 40% done with the transfer.  I think I will finish in plenty of time for the challenge but we will have to see if it's good enough.  It was pretty hard just trying to figure out where to start.  I am strategizing as I go on paint mixing and storage.  I think maybe all the background and then one figure at a time.  I have never had to stand to paint before but I am doing lots of new things on this one.
    Thank you @oilpainter1950 . I realized what I did wrong on the background and can fix it but the wedding is in three weeks and it will just have to wait.
  • We would all love to see your progress on this. BUT; You have the skills, courage and patience to do this but you are also very generous and kind to the forum as a whole so I'm telling you as one of your avid followers that you should not let the forum distract you from the mission. Remember always that baby on the left and her grand children will be enjoying your work as they approach the 22nd century.
  • SummerSummer -
    edited July 2017
    MikeDerby said:
    he taught me everything that I know, just not everything he knows
    Good line.  That is what keeps me coming back to DMP.  I must be trying to learn everything he knows--haha.
  • Ohh! I was looking forward to the Oscar-winning "Artist at work" production.. :(
  • I've learned a lot from Mark too but it is amazing how much I've picked up here in the forum. Some times it is someone restating one of Mark's comments or tips but there are a lot of original thoughts coming out too. So many people were already expert in another style but came to the forum to grow. It has been beneficial to all of us.
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