Try out of a portrait

JerryWJerryW -
edited October 28 in Post Your Paintings
Hello all, just wanted to post my try out after Sargent's painting of Loeffler the violinist painted in 1903.

It's been a long while since I found some time to paint again and I wanted to try out working with Cobra water miscible oils. I found them quite nice but -at least in my experience- the tended to get "spotty" when thinning with too much water. I have used a limited palette (titanium white, pyrrole red, ultramarine blue, burnt umber, primary/cadmium yellow), but I am unsure whether I like the result. The painting does not feel tied together although I thought using a limited palette may aid in that, as well as making sure all proportions are correct which I checked prior to the work.

Would definately appreciate all feedback and suggestions to produre some more "tied together" work.
Thanks in advance! 



  • Jerry
    A noble attempt. Sargent was a supreme drafts man. When he paint Roosevelt he repainted the head many times and was never happy with the painting. I would redo this with more patience and focus. Drawing is the key here. Sarge was a masterful drawer.
  • Thank you @KingstonFineArt for your kind and honest feedback. Focus is probably a highly important ingredient of success, i spend a lot of short sessions on this one but will aim for longer streches if possible. Thanks! 
  • I think you have too many hard edges. I would soften some of them. Maybe keep hard edges for where you want to draw the attention on, and soften some others that are not essential ?
  • Hi @JerryW
    How well does your photo reflect your own painting? The photos I've taken of my own paintings seem too vivid and too much conntrast.

    Also there are a lot of different photos of the Sargent painting, ranging from the dull to the neon. Here's one I think looks okay... how does this compare to your source?

  • Hi @adridri thank you for your comment, that probably does make a lot of sense. Also, from the image that @heartofengland has posted, it is very clear that there is probably a lot of wet in wet painting in the original. I do not know how to circumvent it entirely as I have small stretches of time to paint or I would just need to learn to work faster. In any way thank you for your suggestion!

  • Hi @heartofengland thanks for your observation, I used as an original the picture on my phone and also I used a greyscale print to try and compare the different values within the original. As i took the photo using my phone but with natural light, I'm afraid I cannot blame technology here, the picture I took looks very close to my painting so it doesn't get better than this.  

  • You are probably right about wet in wet. It would certainly help you soften the transitions. How long are your painting sessions and how far apart? It may be that there are ways to stretch the drying times or paints that are better suited to your needs.
  • Hi @heartofengland probably stretches I can make are 1,5 hours at max and I'm happy of that is within the same week again. In many cases, my paint is somewhat tacky again (if that is a word but I'm a non native speaker of English) so it does not really mix with the next layer. I'm not sure whether a drying retarder exists for WMO, probably it does but of course that would alter consistency of the paint again somewhat. Before I found this amazing forum and site of Carder on the internet, I never realised but now I think one of my handicaps is over blending, something which happens less when paint dries fast and you work in small stretches. 
  • @JerryW, given the time constraints you are working under I think you did a creditable job with this. There are some issues with drawing and colour matching but they will get better with practice.

    If you can only paint for short periods but want to paint wet in wet I would suggest you use a small canvas. Stain it first to get rid of the white. In this case a dark brown stain would have been good as that is the colour of most of the original painting. Doing this will save you time and give you a more finished look.

    It gets easier. Keep painting.   :)
  • It so happens that Alex Tzavaras just released this video you may find really helpful  :)

  • @tassieguy thank you for the kind and encouraging words! I think working on a more simple topic with a smaller canvas will be my next try, including overall staining instead of only the center area. Thank you very much for the input once again,  i will strive to create a bit more time and try again :) 😀 
  • Thank you @Intothevoid i will definately watch the video. I sometimes find Alex intimidating capable as he erases stuff that looks great a few seconds later again and then replaces it for something better. Thanks
  • You did a very good job.  A slight change I suggest is to dull the chroma of the eyes.  They came off too blue for me, distracting from the quality of the portrait which you achieved. Again, great work.  

    And I wouldn't worry too much about the length of your painting sessions.  As soon as you catch yourself mentally checking out, it's okay to stop.  If you keep going at that point, the progress will be rushed and sloppy.  If you can keep that interest and intensity up for longer periods though, of course that is great to work towards.  But there's no shame in taking a break when you feel the concentration slipping. Better to do shorter periods of quality then long sloppy sessions. Hope that may help you.:)
  • this just reminds me of Mark's encouragement to "paint ugly" as we should be painting for viewing from across the room not close up...on my screen it looks strange but when I stand back I can see it is done really well.
  • Thank you @allforChrist and I see what you mean with the eyes which are too blue in my case. Also thank you very much for your kind compliments, it is indeed probably going to be sloppy and hurried when you feel like you have to paint rather than when you really want to and like to paint. There is so much information that is actually present in the way the strokes are applied.. :smile:
  • Thank you @judith for your observation to "paint ugly"  :smiley: and your kind observation. One of the errors I make very frequently is over blending as Mark would call it. I'm trying get rid of this habit and only blend in the palette, I'm certainly not there yet, but I was somewhat pleased with some area's where separate strokes remained visible. Thanks!  
  • Tough challenge taking on Sargent but an admirable attempt. Keep it up! 
    Here is a link to a utube channel that has 3 or 4 videos of an artist from the portrait institute painting a la Sargent. Some good tips.

    As to drying time - Mark has recommended adding Oil of Cloves to your paint. Keeps it "open" longer.
    Also storing your palette in a fridge or cool room and covering it if possible with some kind of lid will also extend drying time between sessions
  • Dear all!

    I hope you all are well and healthy. I wanted to add to this discussion one more further try out with WMO paint. The palette consisted of cadmium yellow, pyrrole red, ultramarine blue, titanium white and burned umber, as "power colors" I used a tiny amount of black and green. This time finishing the painting in one day and without using any WMO paint medium (although the medium has a wonderful smell of linseed oil to it) but just using water instead as a thinner. I wanted to put my focus on brush handling and not on drawing but just practising by going along a youtube example (not by Mark I must admit). It's a different style again, but it was a lot of fun this time. Looking forward to all comments and critiques! Thank you in advance!

  • I think this is an improvement over the Sargent violinist painting.  The bold black brushwork is what does it.  The only areas that I would consider removing the greenish area around his mouth.  I also think that if you had a smoother background the boldness of your brushwork in the portrait would be emphasized.
  • I love the strength of character portrayed in this portrait. It's enhanced by that strong sculptural quality.
    I didn't see this thread and your earlier portrait: to the earlier comments about blue eyes in your first portrait - for a strong realist approach almost all portrait artists mix grey, slightly cool, to portray blue eyes. Not blue. It feels counter-intuitive when you do it, but it's correct. But in this one I think you are purposefully using strong colours in your portrayal so that the blue of the eyes is a wonderful cool set against all that warmth and it draws you into his gaze very well.
  • I agree with the comments of @GTO and @Abstraction. It's a strong portrait.  The bold, loose treatment works really well. It would be better if the background were quieter. That would be easy to adjust. I never noticed the green tinge around the mouth because the value is right.  But now it's been pointed out I can't unsee it. Overall, it has presence and I think you should be pleased with it.
  • Dear @GTO , @Abstraction and @tassieguy, thank you so much for your kind comments! You completely make my day!

    I agree with GTO now looking at it longer that probably the background could improve by perhaps changing this to be more uniform, I was thinking of an opposite color such as a greyed down light blue color? Also, there is indeed green in the mouth area, this should have been toned down agreed!
    The fun also is that the Sargent study took days to complete, the above portret perhaps took only one quarter of the time spent on the Sargent study. Overblending is one of my many and frequent mistakes (including values that are off) but i tried to constrain myself here and use big brushes that I normally would not feel comfortable with :#
    Thanks you once again for this motivating feedback!  :3
  • Regarding your question about the background.  When in doubt go with a neutral grey. Since the skin tones are fairly warm you can go with a slightly warm grey.  That way the portrait will feel like it has some space around it.  Leave the existing brush marks and color that you have below his collar. It works with his portrait.  I suggest not having any sense is a cast shadow in the background.  That will give the portrait a greg post modern feel, which I think fits with some of your other paintings.  
  • Hi @Richard_P, thanks for the example  :) At first glance I did not notice the difference... I was staring at details in the face, then I finally noticed you changed the background color and it works nicely. Thanks, I'll put myself to work! 
  • edited October 29
    Or you could make the background quieter like this:

    Maybe rough it up a bit more.
  • Thanks @tassieguy with a quiet background the face stands out more so it seems. I will adjust in a few days when i have my painting stuff again. Thanks!
  • Thanks once again for all the helpfull and aducational comments. I have both improved the background of Abe by mixing up a slight warmer grey and started another fun study (the pose was inspired by another artist) 
  • These are great, @JerryW, I like what you did with the background for Abe. And the other one is really strong, too. Reminds me of Francis Bacon and Lucien Feud. You have a talent for getting the essentials down to make a bold and memorable statement. Keep painting and posting.  :)
  • Thank you @tassieguy !! Thank you for your stimulating comment, I admire Freud a lot. Being on a new avenue I am eager to try and post more. Thank you!  =)  
  • Well done @JerryW, these portraits have a unique style to them.
  • Thank you @MichaelD i appreciate it!
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