August 2, 2013

“The Doctor and Donna”

I’ve talked about failure recently.  No matter how you frame it, it sucks. But the trick is to come out the other side and use that failure to change anything and everything. But it can take time. I paint from the heart and I think most artists do no matter how they express themselves. And having failure in creating a vision still hurts. So how does one move forward? Apparently through Google! And soul searching.

So I took a close look at my recent failures and even my successes to see what was working and what wasn’t. I came up with a short list that then gave me a direction to tackle. My under painting technique is too fluid. While I can rescue paintings as I go, if the under painting isn’t technically sound, the painting will suffer to a degree. Obviously I am my own harshest critic, but improvement doesn’t come with flowers and harp music.

And what else? I wasn’t happy with some of the colour flatness I was seeing. I’m not looking to paint hyper-realism by any means, but my use of colour wasn’t working as well as I wanted.

So two things and they relate directly to technique. I’m lucky in so many ways and the big one is, I married a very technical artist. I went through Interpretive Illustration and other artsy fartsy courses and he took Technical Illustration. So what does that mean? I can talk through these issues with Pete and figure out where I’m weak as a painter and actually get meaningful feedback and direction. My other lucky thing is my oldest spawn is also an excellent student artist, but how is she learning? My spawn uses Google and YouTube! Of course, I use them to a degree, but never really when it came to upgrading or polishing my skills. Wow. And look what I found: Just amazing work and technique. And I’ve watched them through and more.

So now let’s proceed to how I took all of that soul and internet searching and applied it to my painting. What you can’t see below is the initial chalk drawing I did, but it’s there. I made sure it was precise before putting in the basic darks and lights. I worked using both an iPad and a print out to get the likenesses. The printout gave me a fuzzy, monochromatic reference so that I could focus on the big things first and the iPad gave me the colours and details. I love working with an iPad, because I can zoom in as needed and even adjust the colours on the reference photo before painting.

Also new, I started with a prepainted canvas. I made several last week while I was thinking about painting (but at the same time didn’t want to paint until I had sorted myself out) so the next batch of paintings will be different from starting on white.


This particular image had some cool blues in it and I wanted to make sure they made it into the final so I added them early on. I love blue. If creepy clown people come to mind, you’d be about right. It’s hard to see a likeness here, but all paintings look like shit before they are done.


I took the time to colour match and really try to see the faces as whole items and not patches of tones.


I used browns like burnt and raw sienna. I used to use them all the time in portraits and then…somehow stopped. They really add life. And some of the flesh tones were surprisingly darker or more red than I had expected. I used colour matching to get them where I wanted them. This means, I mixed the colours and then held the brush to the screen to see how close it was and very often I had to go ruddier.


Working tones and tints here. Another neat thing I learned is that shadows should be translucent. Completely different from how I was working! Adding purple where I didn’t initially see it – around Ten’s eyes and mouth – was weird, but it works!


Nearly done. I walked away a lot on this painting, often for minutes at a time just to keep my perspective fresh. Plus…I really, really wanted it to turn out.


And the final as it was on the easel last night. I’m pretty darn pleased with it. My spawn, the cruelest reviewer outside of myself said it was great. And I know the stack of planned work will be much more satisfying for me now. What do you think?


Actual proper photo coming soon. This was drying on my easel last night.

Doctor and Donna.

14″x18″ Acrylic on canvas

Prints available HERE in my shop.