Posts tagged ‘Oil paint’

Two Sides

bKerriorgdretouched copy 2

Two variations of K.bKerri glamor retouched copy

There are so many ways to portray a subject.  Even when the portrait is figurative, a straight forward depiction of likeness; a literal likeness of an individual, it’s a challenge to decide which aspect of your model you want to highlight or capture.  That said, I’ve been playing with “sets”.  These are two figurative, straight up portraits of an individual, exploring two very different ways of seeing her.

-Please forgive the less than ideal photos of these oil paintings. The human eye blends the color and values, my lack of expertise  with a camera seems to separate them-



Experiments In Oil#3


I LOVE to paint portraits, people, figures, gestures.  In the hands of a skilled and thoughtful artist, Old Master or contemporary, there is no subject more compelling for me  than a portrait.  But, paintings of people can sometimes leave me less than satisfied.  They can sometimes appear to me, too pretty, or too gimmicky, too separate from the viewer, or too…vacant.  I wondered what would happen if I pushed all of these notions?  So, I did.

With this third painting, I decided to glaze with opacity (a paradoxical notion), in order to create a ceiling, if you will.  A separation between subject and viewer, like the photos I’d taken of debris, still, under a frozen pond.  This painting is no longer a portrait because it does not reflect what I know about my subject. Here, she is merely reference for a painting. It speaks for me, not for her.  Got to say however, that I enjoy this outcome:)

The three experiments in oils have helped me come to some conclusions about the way I like to work, what practical methods I find satisfying, and the thought behind what I want to make. I think that now I’d like to further explore both my appreciation for portraiture and my personal prejudices about portraiture, to see what might happen next.

Thanks for your kind comments and interest!  I’ll keep you posted;)

Experiments In Oil#2

c3 copy

Thanks for all your thoughtful and kind comments on experiment #1.

Onto experiment #2.: Experiments #1 and #2 have photo challenges in common,  even though this surface is not shiny. These colors are somewhat brighter than the original and playing in PS didn’t get them right.  No glazing here, the paint was applied fresh but thick with medium.

I say, “meh”.  So far I’m confirming that the way I usually work, seems to work better for me.  I’m going to have to paint this model in my old tried and true fashion,  because I just haven’t begun to do her justice.

Tomorrow, oil experiment #3

Experiments In Oil #1


I’m without a commission at the moment, so I’ve been pushing into “what if” territory in oil paint.  I’ve played with three paintings, all handled differently.  The subject is the same, though posture and expression vary greatly.  Above is the first.  I applied many more layers of glaze than I normally use, to see if my usual technique could improve with the added work, or if the result  would just become too noodley. The later is the final verdict. The dozen layers or more of paint simply created thicker clumsy strokes. The painting does however, look better in reality. Photographing the painting sans the shine was a bear. The translucent quality resulting from multiple glazes isn’t apparent in the photo, and the transitions between values aren’t showing up well, resulting in annoying linear areas.

Note to self:Don’t overdo the glazing:)

Tomorrow, oil experiment #2


It’s been many years since I’ve worked on a self portrait.  It was time.  I’ve decided on a limited series, in order  to experiment.  This first oil painting is pretty straight forward, but distortions abound.   It’s a manual facelift. 

Here’s the progression.  The changes in expression are awfully funny, (at least to me).  I’ve used lots of glazes via Gamblin Neo Megilp with my oil paint.

Pause #20

Editing.  Culling.  Selecting-  I’m curious: If you were to choose three of the strongest images to best represent contrasting nuances of expression, which would you choose?  OR  which of this grouping is the strongest image?  For the Pause Series.


(There is now a “Pause” gallery  page on this blog.  The tab above or this click  will take you there.  Clicking on the Behance  Network will take you to an edited “Pause” gallery there as well.)

Now loyal, patient friends, I will tell you in more personal words than you will read in my artist’s statement, what this work is all about, how and why I made it, and why I can’t wait to make more.

Portraits, faces, and captured gestures fascinate me.  I’d love to have the power to pause time and to really understand what I am seeing or witnessing in the face of another.  Naturally, what I may glimpse in a passing gesture or expression runs through my filter and I come away with an impression of an expression. While that process works well enough for most of us, I often wonder just how similar our perceptions are.  I delight in reading expressions. Conversely, I sometimes wonder about the sincerity of an expression.  I find micro expressions captivating.

I am equally enamored with technology that plays with our perceptions. particularly technology that broadens the opportunities for artists. I love my digital camera, computer and my Wacom tablet. These tools help me capture expression in a most immediate and gratifying way. However, I also recognize that the old-fashioned, traditional methods of working feed my need for personal expression in a more intrinsic fashion.

Strange as it may seem, I have also been thinking about fabric.  It is the first and last “material” in the world that literally touches us.  We spend time and dollars searching for garments, home furnishings and bedding that are to are liking. Fabric literally hides us. Fabric is loaded iconography.

The Pause series weaves these three attractions of mine into one project. This the ungarnished process:

I ask a portrait subject to pose for a portrait, and to use the fabric I give them in any way they choose.  I digitally photograph the subject in between “poses”, while the subject is thinking about what to do next with the prop, or before they settle into a new pose.  These resulting images become reference for a traditionally painted oil portrait.  I employ the digital camera again to take photos of the completed oil painting, and then print these photos onto silk fabric.  I manipulate the fabric to present various new isolated expressions and distortions of the subject’s expression. I digitally photograph these manipulations. The work finally culminates in large-scale prints of re-arranged expression.

I must add here that I do get  permission to manipulate the portraits, but the subjects do not know what will happen to their images before the shoot.  Everybody to date has allowed me to proceed with wonderful good humor. Thank you to my subjects.  And thank you to you for your interest and your comments about the project. I have many more portraits in the works and look forward to sharing them with you.

The Unsuccessful Portrait

(An unsuccessful portrait study and unsuccessful painting)

A portrait by definition, must embody the personality, the light, the very being of a subject, filtered through the artist’s eyes.  Of course, this does not have to be in a traditional or figurative fashion.  But, if we are talking about a figurative portrait, a likeness of face, gesture and personality is essential.  Sometimes-HA CHA, it all comes together naturally. When this happens, an artist may feel a little bit like a magician or an instrument of an artsy spirit;)  When it doesn’t happen, a young or novice artist may become frustrated.  I’m sure there are parallels in all of the arts.

I am personally awed and  thrilled when a piece just happens seemingly on its own. But, I’ve been working long enough to know that I can’t count on the magic.  There are times when a portrait becomes a bit of a struggle. It can seem as if everybody but the subject have made an appearance on my canvas.  When this occurs, I don’t worry , I don’t stress about it.  I walk away…

But I do come back.  Here are my tips. They can often save a portrait;

I always work on at least two pieces or projects at a time, so when I abandon one for a while, I move to another. This allows me to disentangle from the work and when I see it again, it’s with fresh eyes and attitude.

I’ve also created a “formula” for getting at an elusive likeness. The formula link will take you to my blog for young artists (directly under the sketchbook info, at the bottom of the PRACTICAL INSPIRATION page). It’s useful for helping me analyse the spacing between features. Since none us are completely symmetrical, the shape of a space surrounding a feature and the shapes that comprise a feature are great places to troubleshoot a portrait that isn’t working.

I use a mirror behind my easel to check the subject against the work. This changes up the perception and allows for delightful moments of discovery.  It invites the magic in and what’s not quite right in the work often becomes clear.

If working from photos I turn them and my canvas upside-down. This allows for the same sort of magic as the mirror.

I include errant hairs and moles and wrinkles in a portrait that I’m struggling with to act as landmarks or anchors within a face. If I’m working in an opaque medium, I can easily edit and remove them or make them more subtle later on.

I always try to get to know the subject a little, see how the subject interacts with others, and pick up as much as I can understand about the individual.  If I must work from photos that I have not taken myself  (because the subject is no longer with us), I ask lots of questions about the subject and request as many photos as I can get my hands on.

If the subject is a child, but appears too young or too mature in my portrait, I check the spacing of the forehead. As you see below, the spacing of a forehead does make a difference.

Values play a huge role in the molding of form. So, correcting the value of an area can change the structure of a face or body in subtle but important ways.


Despite using all of these tips, this portrait isn’t working. You can clearly see it in the progression below.  This subject’s youth and freedom of spirit inspired a really loose and colorful underpainting that soon became a loose cannon. As you can see, I’ve wrangled with this likeness, and it shows.

Occasionally, despite all of my tried and true tips, a painting simply does not work.  If  (for lack of a better word),  the “spirit” isn’t there, then I don’t have a good painting.  Sometimes the struggles show, and the painting  reflects the battle, so I’ve got a bad painting all ’round.  I’m showing off some really bad work here, because it’s honest and part of the process. Every now and then it happens.  It is not a reflection on the subject, just a poor attempt.   This portrait is a perfect example of a do- over.   But that’s ok.  The experience just gets me more fired up to paint a much better portrait.🙂

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