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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Etsy Shop Vacation

I will be accepting orders in my Etsy shop through November 25, after which I will be unable to ship items until mid-December.

Please visit to see what is currently available.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Details from Parameters painting

Enlarged details from my 9" x 7" oil painting, Parameters; currently in Nashville at Haynes Galleries for their small works show.
See the entire composition in my previous post:

Detail of satin skirt from 9" x 7" oil painting Parameters

Figure detail from 9" x 7" oil painting Parameters

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

New Painting: Parameters

Parameters, 9" x 7", oil on linen
My recently completed painting Parameters is currently in Nashville at Haynes Galleries for their small works show.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Final Stage of Tessa Portrait: Form Painting

Details from color wash and form painting stages of Tessa portrait

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts detailing the process for a portrait of Tessa that I painted from life at The Ryder Studio earlier this year.  Here are the first three posts:
1. Overview
2. First stages: Thumbnail Sketch, Poster Study, Preparatory Drawing 
3. Intermediate stages: Stencil, Brush Drawing, and Color Wash 


Form painting is the final stage.  The values are usually a bit darker than the color wash.  Beginning with the darker areas and working toward the light, I complete one area at a time.  Paint is specifically mixed in progressions that turn each small form from dark to light.  

When form painting, I try to use the paint fairly opaquely and add just a touch of medium if the mixture feels stiff.  I mix on my palette with my brush, usually beginning with the darkest tone that I’ll need for the area I’m working on.  I place it on the canvas and make adjustments if necessary.  Then I mix the next lightest step in the progression next to and touching the first.  I place that on the canvas and make any adjustments, then continue on in the same way until I reach the lightest tone in that particular progression.  I usually lay in a base for the form in which I keep the very lightest values slightly darker than I want them to ultimately be.  Then I bring up those final values by brushing a lighter mixture into the underlying paint.


Completed color wash, before beginning form painting

I finished the color wash of Tessa on Wednesday of my 4th week.  I still had a little time before the end of the session, so I decided to begin the form painting the same way that I began the color wash: with the ear.


Ear anatomy terms

To get started, I carefully placed the darkest darks in the recessed concha and a few other areas bordering the ear.  I then treated my paint edges in preparation for the next day-- feathering some edges with a bit of solvent; and in other places, mixing an adjacent tone to begin the transition or progression into the neighboring areas.  Usually I try to resolve any edges as I go along, by painting a bit beyond them into the next area.  That way, at the end of each session, the area of form painting is integrated rather than stopping abruptly with hard edges.

Ear - Day 1

On Thursday I finished form-painting the ear and earrings.  I began the session by placing the darks in the furrow between the helix and anti-helix; then I connected those with the dark areas I had painted the day before, by painting the lighter anti-helix in between.  I continued on with the tragus, anti-tragus, and the lower part of the helix.

Ear - Day 2

I had been working around the earrings, and was now ready to pop them in—first the silver ball and then the faceted gem.  I used small creamy dabs of paint to create the reflections, adjusting the contrast as appropriate for each.  Next I laid in a base for the earlobe and then brushed in the light catching on each small sub-form.  Finally, I finished the top of the helix.  

Ear - End of day 2


On Friday I began with the shadow that runs along the jawline and casts onto the neck.  As I worked out to the underside of the chin, I shifted toward more intense coral-colored reflected light bouncing up from the chest and hoodie.  I also painted a bit of the blue background next to the chin and neck for color context and to fuse with the edges of the skin.

Beginning the jaw

As I moved up toward the underside of the near cheekbone, I noted that the forms under the cheekbone were catching a bit of diffuse light, but I was careful to keep the values in key so that they would not pop out too much.  I continued up the cheekbone and then the chin, turning the forms from shadow into the light. 

End of week 4


On Monday of my fifth and final week, I completed Tessa’s mouth.  I began with the chromatic darks in the vermilion zone of her upper lip (2), and then progressed up into the skin just past the vermilion border (3).  I then switched to the lower lip, placing the darker tones first (4) and and then turning up into the light (5).  Finally I dropped in the highlights on the lower lip (6).   Throughout the session, I tried to focus on how light washes across the larger underlying forms of the mouth area, rather than merely filling in a rose-colored lip-shaped outline. 

Mouth sequence


I started the nose on Tuesday: first the underside, cast shadow, nostril cavities, and septum; then working up to the light on the tip and the wings.  I also completed the philtrum (the vertical groove extending from the base of the nose to the cupid's bow of the upper lip) and finished the upper lip area.

Base of nose; upper lip


On Wednesday I began creating a nest for the eyes by painting the lower eyelids, and then I completed the cheeks.  When I’m painting a form from dark to light, I also think about painting up to the next dark downturn.  In this case, as I worked up from the underside of the cheekbone, before rolling all the way up to complete the lightest lights, I wanted to first (as Tony calls it) “corral” the lights by putting in the lower eyelids, which are not as light-facing and are therefore darker.  

Lower eyelid forms
Cheeks finished


On Thursday, I continued to make a nest for the eyes.  Getting the eyes to look right seems easier to me if I first paint the surrounding area for context, and then I can place them more accurately.  The next major downward-facing plane was the underside of the brow, so I began to work around the eyebrow forms and the glabella (the area connecting nose and forehead).  I also worked a little bit into the forehead and completed the bridge of the nose. 

Brows and glabella
Forehead, bridge of nose


We also had an evening session with Tessa on Thursday, and with only one more day left of the pose, I was eager to start on the eyes.  I already had the lower lids blocked in, so I began with her left upper eyelid.  These forms are very small, but getting them to curve convincingly around the eyeball requires careful attention to the shape and light distribution. 

Eyelashes won’t achieve optical realism if each is painted with a crisp black line.  Firstly, the lashes themselves vary in thickness and color from lash to lash, and each lash is usually thinner and lighter at its end than it is at its root.  They also tend to clump together in tapering and foreshortened shapes that curve to catch the light differently at each point.  Secondly, due to the resolution of our vision and the scattering of light, lashes visually soften and dissolve to varying degrees into the surrounding areas of shadow and light on the skin, iris, sclera (white of the eye), background, etc.  

Upper lid (Tessa's left eye)

The sclera is called the “white” of the eye, but is usually infused with a touch of the color of the skin, blood vessels, and ambient light.  It is part of a rounded form that drops in value as it receives less light. 

Tessa’s eyes are greenish, so for the iris I used a range of mixtures from bluish-gray to muted gold.  The border of the iris and sclera is soft rather than sharp.  This is due to several factors including the translucency of the sclera and, again, the resolution of vision and scattering of light. 

The highlight is placed on top of a base of slightly dimmer light, which creates a soft transition from the dark tones in the pupil and the shadow cast on the iris by the upper eyelid.  The shape of the highlight is curved as it maps to the form of the cornea.  In this pose it appears horizontally elongated.  The large bank of overhead fluorescents creates a roughly rectangular reflection, the top of which is truncated by the upper eyelid.

The rim of the lower eyelid is upturned toward the light, and is often close in value to the white of the eye but a touch pinker.

Completed left eye

I completed Tessa's left eye that evening, and Friday morning I approached her right eye in the same way.

Both eyes finished


After evaluating the painting and making some final adjustments, I quickly finished her forehead and hairline at the end of the session, and the portrait was done.

Portrait of Tessa, oil on linen, 6" x 6"

I hope you've enjoyed seeing the step-by-step process for my portrait of Tessa!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Pendant with Oil Study after Bartholomé; inspired by Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity exhibit

Pendant with study after Albert Bartholomé's In the Conservatory
Hand-painted oil on linen, 1" x 1.5"
by Anna Wakitsch; available in The Pearl Paintbrush Etsy shop

 I recently visited the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago to see the exhibit Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity, organized in association with the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.  The exhibit displayed gorgeous period clothing along with rooms full of 19th century paintings depicting similar fashions.  

The presentation was excellent, often featuring a dress set up in front of a mirror and facing its painting.  I noticed that I could look at the dress from the front and also see (in the mirror behind it) both the reflection of the back of the dress and the reflection of the painting behind me.

Near the end of the exhibit was a grouping of large Impressionist paintings of fashionably dressed figures set in the outdoors.  These were housed in a delightful garden room complete with the sounds of birdsongs and AstroTurf that rustled softly as we strolled from Monet's Women in a Garden to the giant left and central panels from his triptych Luncheon on the Grass.  Finally, in the last room, was the Bartholomé: In the Conservatory (c. 1881).

In the Conservatory by Albert Bartholomé, c. 1881

Albert Bartholomé was a French painter working during the time of the Impressionists; the painting is a large full-length portrait of the artist's beloved wife entering the doorway of a greenhouse.  I was quite taken with the way she is stepping from one world into another; the dappled light, the lush emerald greens surrounding her, the deep blue-violet in her costume, her sparkling gold cuff and sapphire ring.  

On display next to the painting is the original dress in which she posed, carefully preserved by Bartholomé in memory of his wife, who died at a young age not long after this was painted.  Both the painting and the dress are on loan from the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

     After visiting the exhibit, I painted a tiny oil study on a 1" x 1.5" oval of fine portrait linen, which I set into a silvertone pendant.  It can be worn as jewelry or simply displayed as a miniature.  It is currently available in my Etsy shop: The Pearl Paintbrush.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Intermediate Stages of Tessa Portrait: Stencil, Brush Drawing and Color Wash

Details from brush drawing and color wash of Tessa portrait

This is the third in a series of blog posts detailing the painting process for the portrait of Tessa that I completed at the Ryder Studio earlier this year.  Here are the first two posts:

Transfer with Stencil and Brush Drawing

My painting support for this piece was a 6" x 6" panel onto which I had mounted extra-fine oil-primed portrait linen.  I use Artfix L84C, which is quadruple-primed and the smoothest linen I have found.  I adhere it to the panel with acrylic gel medium.  Then I moisten extremely fine 1500 grit wet-dry sandpaper and gently sand the primed surface to an even silkier finish.  

To "transfer" the preparatory drawing to the panel on Wednesday of my 2nd week, I traced its outline and essential landmarks onto another piece of translucent vellum.  Then I cut out just the outline of the figure to create a stencil.  I placed the stencil on the panel and outlined it with thinned light blue paint approximating a lighter version of the background cloth color.  

Tessa stencil clipped to panel
Blue paint outline on panel

Next, referring to both the model and my preparatory drawing so that I could make corrections as I went along, I worked within that outline using very thin paint (diluted with solvent) and a small round brush to develop a finely detailed drawing on the panel.  

Working up the brush drawing

My preparatory drawing didn't have much detail for the hoodie, so when I worked on that area in the brush drawing, I completed one main section at a time between breaks.  Folds of clothing end up looking slightly different each time a model leaves and returns to the pose, but the general character of each major subdivision will usually stay fairly consistent.  

Completed brush drawing on Friday of 2nd week
Detail of brush drawing

Easel Set-up

I sat on a folding chair at a French easel, which held a tall piece of homosote board.   I used thumbtacks to secure my panel to the board, clipped the preparatory drawing next to it, and taped the poster study above.  In the second photo you can see how I leaned my small palette nearly upright against the base of the board, directly beneath the painting.  This second image is a detail from a photo on the Ryder Studio Facebook page, which you can find here: original photo

Easel set-up
Beginning the color wash
Original photo credit: John Reger of The Ryder Studio

Color Wash Part 1: Ear, Jaw and Mouth

By Monday of my 3rd week I was ready to begin with color.  The color wash or wash-in is a thinly painted full-color underpainting, beginning with the darker areas and progressing into the lights.  The paint is diluted with solvent, and the white of the canvas shows through to create the lights, similar to a watercolor.  Drawing issues continue to be worked out in this stage, and the colors begin to approach the target colors for the final painting, but generally remain a bit lighter.

I began by surrounding the ear with some of the dark tones in the hair, and working a bit of a transition up the jaw.  I then painted the ear in detail, first placing the darker shadows and then turning each form into the light.  As I worked on each form, I developed gradations of paint on my palette, each mixture progressively lightening in value and subtly changing in hue and chromatic intensity.  I also thinned the paint to adjust the value as well, by allowing the white of the canvas ground to shine through more or less.  I mix the colors as accurately as I can, but due to the nature of the color wash, they are only an approximation of the poster--a map that I can build on and adjust when I move on to the final opaque layer: the form painting.

Color wash: Surrounding and beginning the ear
Color wash: Completing the ear, including placement of the earrings
Color wash: Working across the face, out to the cheekbone, chin and mouth
Color wash: Mouth sequence
Color wash: Finishing the mouth area above the upper lip, and starting the nose

Color Wash Part 2: Critique and Corrections

On Friday of the 3rd week, I received a critique from Tony.  He mentioned some specific adjustments I could make to the nose, eyelids, and head shape. As I continued to wash in the face, I made corrections based on his suggestions, which I've detailed in the photo captions below.

Color wash before critique
Detail (before critique)
Making corrections:
-Reshaping tip of nose and far nostril
-Lifting eyebrows
-Reshaping lower eyelid (far eye)
-Extending outer corner of near eye
-Reshaping upper-eyelid crease (near eye)
-Adjusting highlight on upper eyelid (near eye)
Continuing to make corrections:
-Swinging out bridge of nose (far contour)
-Reshaping near-nostril cavity
-Adjusting highlight on upper eyelid (far eye)
Final corrections from critique:
-Adjusting tilts of forehead and back of head

Color Wash Part 3: Hoodie, Background and Hair

On Monday of my 4th week, I started washing in the hoodie.  It looked fairly similar to the way I had drawn it in, but there are always variations in how the clothing falls on the model from pose to pose.  However, for consistency, I chose to stick pretty closely to my drawing, rather than make too many adjustments to match the changes.

Color wash: Starting the hoodie

After partially completing the hoodie, I scrubbed in the background color and moved on to the hair, subdividing it by first putting in the darks between sections.  I then finished the forehead and hoodie, and the color wash was completed on Wednesday of the 4th week.

Color wash: Laying in the background
Color wash: Subdividing locks of hair
The completed color wash
Completed color wash - Detail

Coming soon: Form painting!  (The final post in this series)