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Mike Derby Portrait Blog



  • A little more progress.  I must say I feel a little silly for not thinking of a b/w photo myself.  I guess I have had a lot on my mind.  I have printed several out and noticed right away that i had painted her too dark.  So i repainted everything again today and then moved on.  By the way, the Geneva stain with marble dust takes paint very well.  This is just one coat except what you saw last night.  It is not Geneva paint since i am using up all my leftover homebrew SDM paint.  This will be 22x24 oil on panel.  No acrylic or alkyd anywhere.

  • I am loving this technique @MikeDerby
  • Nice Mike.  Looking forward to hearing your feedback on the grisaille technique.  No one can draft as well as you.
  • @PaulB Thank you very much for the very kind words.  I have enjoyed using grizaille because there is less stress associated with only painting values.  That may change when I try to make the colors match.
    Thank you @alsart for your interest and appreciation.
    Here is my limited progress tonight.

  • A little more progress.  I have enjoyed this so far.  I really like the way it looks in black and white.  In case you were wondering, it may be monochrome, but its DMP all the way.

  • Coming along nicely, Mike.  In the photo, the jawline is a lost line between ear and mouth.  But the photo is color, so it's hard to compare.  How are you managing the values?
  • Loving this, inspiring
  • Thanks Paul, I will work on that tomorrow. I am trying to be very careful to model this correctly.  I have a black and white photo I am matching to.  When I was matching to the color photo, I was doing ok, but it needed to be lighter, so I photoshopped the exposure and purposely lightened it up about 10% and started over.
    Thanks Alsart.  I gotta tell ya, its been a blast.  I have never painted in monochrome and I have really enjoyed it.  The depth seems deeper and easier to achieve.  It really does reduce the stress level when the color is removed.
  • edited January 2018
    I can see better how this new Geneva neutral color stain works as well, excellent. Very good neutral color.
  • Good work @MikeDerby I understand about reducing stress. How much and how do you mix the marble dust? what is the brand and size of the marble dust? No alkyd? What is the new Geneva Stain?
  • @bob73 I have been winging it but for this 22x24 panel I used a little more than a tablespoon of Geneva stain, which is a new product offered by Geneva fine art.  It is an oil based stain and no mixing is required.  To that i added a little less than a teaspoon of fine marble dust from Natural Pigments.
    I don't like alkyd.  I don't even like the idea of alkyd.  It is not a bad thing, I guess, but as it speeds drying thru a chemical process, I don't trust its longevity.
  • An now we wait for a couple of weeks so she can dry.  I see several things I want to touch up then but for now the paint is too tacky to be workable.  Let me know if anything stands out as needing attention.

  • I see some lines that look "over defined" but I expect that is intentional as this is not ala prima. Thanks for the info on the dust, haven't committed to trying it but it sounds like a terrific idea. I have to remember to book mark this but I think I already did for another reason. Also, @MikeDerby you said you already noticed some adjustments for this latest work; do you have a way of keeping notes for things like that. I could never depend on my memory.
  • Watching in anticipation and great interest @MikeDerby. Beautiful so far.
  • Looking good @MikeDerby. The jewellery looks particularly fine. 
  • Thank you @roxy, @boudicca and @dencal.  I appreciate the nice comments.  I labored over those jewels for the better part of an hour.  I am particularly proud of her nose.  I think its the best I have ever done.
    @bob73, all the hard edges around the hairline and brows will be covered with hair.  I have been practicing with the liner brushes I have so I can do a better job of laying in single strands.  Its an acquired skill.  I have covered a practice canvas with squiggly lines.  All the other mistakes are just mistakes and I will work on them in the next round.
  • Nice work @MikeDerby.  The nose is great.  The photo seems to have a softer edge to it, but as you pointed out, this is a couple of values higher, and there will be glazing.  I'll be watching closely.  I hope you make a video of one of the early glazes going on.

    As for small brushes and single strands, I suggest taking an old brush and cutting off hairs, reducing it to ten or so remaining bristles.  I find a rigger/liner brush too wide for that, so I make a smaller one.  The idea is to limit the number of hairs so you get a nice thin line, but retain enough so that it can hold enough paint to allow you to complete a single strand in one stroke.  Then you have to load the brush for every stroke. It's irritating, but the only way I can get nice thin lines.
  • Thanks @PaulB.  I actually found a liner brush at Michael's that works wonderfully for the very reasons you state.  Not many bristles but also quite long.  

    Here is some progress on Happy Family.  I have repainted the left background above and behind the family.  It looks good in person but I don't like the effect in this picture.  It needs more attention.  Notice how the baby pops off the canvas now.  I like that part a lot.  I will be toning down the haloing effect quite a bit.  It was overstated in the reference photo.

  • Since I cannot decide how to proceed I am resorting to experimentation.  This is scrap canvas taped to scrap plywood and stained with Geneva stain just like the subject painting.  Next I added some grey scales so that I can try three different techniques for the application of dead layers, verdaccio, some combination thereof and glazes.  This is all done with liquin so it will dry fast.  The subject is still a little wet and must be dry to the touch before proceeding.

  • holy cow @MikeDerby    I missed all of this.  I think she is looking lovely and I can't wait to see it progress.  I just tried a b&w study yesterday - I wish I had toned my canvas mid grey before I started - your palette layout is very smart!  Isn't it amazing how the more you look, the more you see.  Thank you for sharing your process!
  • Thank you @Julianna.  
    Here you see my experimentation.  After it dries I will cover the green with the reds and the reds with the greens.  Its a tossup between the tube sap green and the viridian olive mix for the next layer.  I like the iron oxide and geneva red mix the best for the first color layer.

  • I don't know about that background but i think the dress works pretty well.  Let me know what you think.  I was torn between this violet and a cool minty green.  I can always paint over it, but i have to tell you that the more i look at it, especially on screen, more power it seems to project.  The addition of surrounding colors add life and context to the remainder of the project.  I hope its now easier to lay in the facial temperatures.

  • For now leave background as is, it's interesting, We'll see what happens as this gets filled in more.
  • It was too much.  I will try something else.  Here it is with a verdaccio glaze.

  • It looks better to me now, you don't want the background to overpower her face.
  • I have applied the first glaze to the hair and laid in another background, which I like so far.  Let me know what you think while it is still wet.  I applied it with a knife so its variegated and the paint was not thoroughly mixed.  Its indigo with some black and white so its not as blue as it looks here.

  • I think I like this one best, looking forward to when skin tone is added.
  • To be honest I'm not sure about the mixing of the textures, at least at this stage - though if the hair has some texture too then I think that would work. I think the colour will be good once you glaze those flesh tones
  • Thank you @forgiveness and @roxy.  I evaluated it with a spatula in my hand, ready to remove it, but I think it works in person, even with the texture.  I want to be certain that the texture does not force the background forward.  But you make an excellent point.  The dress has texture and now the background has texture so I will add some to the hair to transition to the smooth face.  I want to add color to the face so badly!  But I have to wait.  It has to dry about two weeks before I can glaze it again.  After that, I will begin to add some opaques to restore the lights and try to finish it with 4 to 5 passes.  I read a blog yesterday about a man who put 27 glazes on a painting.  It is a beautiful thing.  I hope to get a similar effect and learn the technique with less effort.  Wishful thinking probably.  I have already determined that I am going too fast.
  • I have glazed it and wiped it down 4 times. The first two times I had trouble getting the paint to stick. It was actually beading up like it was water on oil, or vice versa. I finally decided (might be wrong) that it was the stand oil in my medium. I bought a book which states that stand oil creates a shiny enamel finish, which is true, and probably makes it difficult to paint over (my conclusion). It appears to be fine when used in the direct method because everything stays wet. I switched to linseed oil and it seems to work fine.
    In the process of wiping it down I did some damage so I had to repaint the underlayer. I used a fairly traditional earth tone mix which is much greener than it appears in this photo. I will treat it as the verdaccio. There is some burnt umber and yellow ochre in the mix so it qualifies as warm over cool.
    I will let it dry and start the temperature glazes next.  Thanks for looking.  Please offer any suggestions you may have.

  • She is mysterious and intriguing! I love the effects your technique creates. The glow of the skin is mesmerizing and the background, blouse, and dark hair give this a greater depth. 
  • Thank you @Renoir.  I really appreciate the feedback and kind words.  I am relieved its beginning to come together..  

  • I've never tried altering colours with layers, can you tell us how it compares to painting directly with the DMP method? :)
  • I am glad you asked @Richard_P , because its exactly the same so far.  I am only using two colors but I am using all the values.  I have the reference photo in monochrome right by the painting and am matching as I go.  The difference in the method is to alternate between warm and cool layers, but each layer is direct.  The benefit of multiple layers is increased depth and translucense (if I can pull it off).  I have to be careful with the oil mix so the previous layer is not completely obscured and avoid painting  brittle (lean) over flexible (fat).   But in the end its all DMP because thats all I know how to do!

  • edited February 2018
    I repainted the girls hair.  I tried to leave it disheveled but with the charm of her little ringlets showing clearly.  I have not quite got it right but might leave it anyway.  All efforts to obtain the original HD jpeg have failed, so I will just have to make-do with what I have.  I also put a blue shifted grey glaze over the denim vest because it as just too clean.  It also worked nicely on those glowing hands and the father's jeans.

  • Genius move on glazing the denim. I'm still trying to understand that whole veraccio grisselle thing. It seems like a lot of trouble for not much benefit. The painting of the lady is terrific and you are learning new stuff on the way to becoming a more well-rounded artist, I see THAT benefit.
  • Thank you @BOB73 .  You are very generous and encouraging as always.  I wish you could see the painting in person.  The visual impact of the glazing is lost on screen.  The lady is so far from finished it is difficult to see the benefit.  But on the Happy Family, it has made all the difference between a fairly plain, mediocre attempt, and a visually interesting piece.  If you would like to see the fairly dazzling result of well done indirection, have a look at the attached link.

  • I can see a difference in the portrait of the model alright, and I know that your painting is still much better in person that what I see even yet. I see the benefit in this. I am quite impressed and curious to learn and see more as this develops. This looks very good for portraiture. When I used to work in acrylics, I had mastered working in layers, up to 7 layers in a single painting, and worked especially well with airbrush. The end result was much more satisfying than single layer painting, even though more labor and time was involved in the process, it was worth it as this added to the quality of realism attained. You are taking me by surprise, I like that!
  • edited February 2018
    Thank you Bob and Mark.  Here is my progress today. I am beginning to understand just how little paint is in each layer. I can see why this method was so popular when paint was so scarce.

  • Looks good :) I see that using this technique u are achieving  that kind of transparent and opaque property of the skin. Did u use a verdaccio for the underpainting? How do u make the glazing varnish?
  • I did use a verdaccio but as you can see from earlier photos it did not show up very well.  In this pass all the shadow areas were enhanced with a sap green glaze.  The warm areas were glazed with alizarin.  The medium is turp and linseed oil.  I have made some mistakes with the mix due to my aversion to the smell of turp, but it is supposed to start with 1/4 oil, then for this stage be 1/2 oil and finally 3/4 oil.  I hope that because I am using panel, the reduced flexibility will reduce cracking over time.  Obviously the glazing layer is not DMP, but the next layer, where I model it for the last time (I hope),will be.
  • You're a workaholic when it comes to learning new methods and materials @MikeDerby. Most of us fail the first few times we try something new but you seem to always make them work. That's why I have every confidence that "The Lady" will be spectacular. I guess Einstein was correct when he said "creativity is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration." Or was it Edison said that.  
  • Thank you very much for ur detailed answers @MikeDerby it really helps. I'm using both way of working now, alla prima and glazing and I Found both methods can be used together in a nice way. Of course I'm still struggling with transparent Vs opaque colour..there are so much things to know.. I had a look at your previous works and u are a very good painter, thanks again for sharing :)
  • Thank you @bob73 and @Bobitaly .  If you have been following along you may have had a chuckle over the fact that I started part of this journey trying to get single coat coverage.  Now here I am painting the same picture 6 or 7 times.  But I have also made a lot of mistakes so it’s not as straight a path as you might think.  I glazed it and wiped it off several times, then had to repaint the underpainting.  It is fun watching it emerge.
  • She's your Mona Lisa. She's becoming even more real and luminescent.
  • edited February 2018
    Based on my latest glaze, it is apparent that in the next step I will need to remodel the entire face and bring the values back up.  Can you tell I covered all the skin with another glaze.  It is not so clear in the photo.  I like to use the softest acrylic wash brush I own for glazing.  I get the smoothest, most even application with it.  I apply the glaze, then treat the brush with medium, squeeze it out, and work the paint so the coat is even.  There is a real danger in overworking the glaze.  If it starts to get tacky, it will tend to clump.  I actually glazed it three times and wiped it off twice.  I reposted the pic and its closer to what I see.

  • How is it looking in person - is the depth that the process creates emerging?  I'm guessing that cannot easily be photographed.

    When I was in college, I watched my friend eat a piece of chicken that had green spots on it.  He was not happy that I hadn't pointed out earlier in the meal that his chicken was green.  He was red/green color blind.

    She's green.  Is that the photo, me, or are there layers coming that steer the green back towards orange/pink?
  • @paulb. I had a feeling the photo was not good enough.  I have just covered her with red paint, but it’s thin, so the green still dominates.  If the theory holds true and I do not botch it, as I add layers the green makes the skin luminous.  However, at this point it just looks flat and lifeless.  So in person it is much warmer but not much deeper.  I will play with the color settings and repost the pic.
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