I’ve been expanding my range of fandoms recently thanks to Netflix. In Canada we have a neutered Netflix, but that is slowly changing and we’re getting shows like Doctor Who, Fringe and Supernatural. I’m currently working my way through the seasons of Supernatural; I’m midway through season 7 as I write this. The show has me completely hooked. The stories are compelling and the relationship between the brothers drives everything.
Since I paint what’s on my mind, I’m working my way through Supernatural right now. I don’t have favourite characters (okay, if I have to pick, I choose the car!) but I have favourite moments. Moments of deep emotion, tough decisions, joy and loss. This is one of those moments from the Croatoan episode early on.
For my portraits, I always start with a black canvas. It was one of the turning points in kicking my work up a huge notch. When I was in art school, and even after, I specialized in chalk pastel painting. To make pastels pop, using a dark background was the way to do so. When I moved on to painting using acrylics, it wasn’t something I took with me.
I follow a lot of artists and one of them had a series of videos on how she painted. Now she does landscapes, but she always starts with a coloured ground whether it’s deep blue or red or whatever. I gave that a go on a few landscapes and then translated that to my portrait work. It was okay. Interesting, even.
And then Curry’s Art Supplies started selling black canvases.
Black canvases are seductive and satin and all kinds of sexy. They demand colour, take it and pop it like nothing else.
The only drawback with them is they don’t hold chalk well. I start my paintings with an exact and accurate chalk drawing and the black doesn’t hold the chalk well. But it’s so worth the challenge.
I work very quickly on the underpainting. Not looking for details but putting in shadows, highlights and main large areas of colour. I also always start with the eyes, finishing them completely. It makes for some odd painting sessions esp when the subject is locking eyes with me while I paint him/her. But it’s so worth it. The eyes make or break a portrait.
This painting had a lot of yellow in it. Flesh tones, for caucasians, tend to run peachy and I was having problems balancing out the yellow and the peach. Dean started looking too pink, then too yellow and then too pale. Altogether a very frustrating experience.
I decided to eliminate the yellow background and added in blacks and reds to balance out the colours and then called it a night.
When I returned to finish the painting, I started by smoothing out the face tones, bringing them together instead of as a collection of individual parts. I also realized that the background needed to be yellow but not as yellow. Once I put those two items in play, the painting started to come together. Flat, but I could see where it was heading.
I spent quite a bit of time working on getting the skin right but it wasn’t pulling together so I decided it was time to do something extreme. I’m not a hyper-realistic painter. That’s not my goal. Want hyper-realism? Here’s a camera! Ha ha. My angle is more painterly. Communicating emotion through colour, balance, lights and darks. In that vein, it’s my prerogative to take chances with colour and put in the unexpected.
In this case, the unexpected was a hit of magenta.
I had to dig around through my collection of colours to even find magenta. I ended up using Guache mixed with acrylic medium to get the paint I needed. Guache, left over from art school, but so incredibly high end that twenty years later, the colour is still intense.
Here’s the painting as it stood with the magenta added. Look how Dean has lost his flatness. Shape and depth start happening. And here I have to stop and tell a science story.
Painting, for me anyway, isn’t just la-di-da artsy fun, but I use biology and anatomy in every single portrait I work on. From facial muscles affecting my brush strokes to how the blood flows through the body. Where the vessels are most visible under the skin.
Nose. Ear lobes. Cheeks. Around the eyes. Neck. There are points where people glow red and we notice it at least subconsciously.
Even more interesting, in my mind, was the discovery that heartbeats and blood flow are visible and record-able on camera. After I read this article and watched the videos, I adjusted my painting technique to reflect that. Not with movement but with colour. We aren’t aware we can see these colours for the most part, but we are subconsciously are. The real trick is to find that balance of adding life without adding too much and losing the image altogether.
Acrylic on stretched canvas
Available now in large and small prints. Original painting also for sale at the time of this writing.
Want a painting of your own? Hop on over to my store and put an order in. Or send me a message. Custom work requires some talking to make sure we are a good fit and we can go from there. Prefer prints? I’ve got those too. Head on over to my store for more info.
And coming in September 2015: 30 paintings in 30 days! I’ve joined a challenge and am getting ready to live, breathe and eat paintings for a month. Are you ready for more Star Wars, Doctor Who, Supernatural, Harry Potter, Vikings and more? Because my theme includes all my fandoms! Details coming soon.