Oil paint and brush strokes

Painting every day, one often comes up against a newly realised problem or difficulty that needs to be resolved.  I say newly realised because it seems that the problem has likely been there all along, unrecognised as such.  Ignorance is a kind of bliss, that's true. 

This week I have struggled with brush strokes in one of my commission portraits. These are usually tighter and with more detail than my other paintings. Unfortunately this can lead to some overthinking and soul searching during the process. I have decided that it will help me to pay more attention to mark making, and to be deliberate about it sometimes.

I am exploring the possibilities in a variety of marks and shapes, and attempting to create illusion of lines (for instance) rather than the simple directional lines that I naturally go to first.  I have found than by breaking up lines and adding movement to them, the effect is more natural and attractive, and the eye still reads the whole as a line.

Here is one example, the tan dachshund's ear just looked flat somehow. The straight down highlight on the edge drew the eye too much and looked wooden. Yet I wanted the left edge of it to be highlighted with the palest bright yellow as the light falls there in the reference photos.  So I experimented with a broken line instead of the straight line which works to make the ear sit more naturally

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At the same time, I simplified the shape of the ear, removed the extra colours and made the big shape of the ear all one colour (tan). Sometimes as painters we have ideas in our mind as to what things are, and they dont translate or 'read' properly to the general viewer. This was one such case, the extra colours didn't read as an ear so I simplified it back down again. I remember hearing an artist interviewed on the Artists Helping Artists podcast, I wish I could recall her name, but Ill always think back to her words of wisdom.

It was something like ' Don't leave weird, un-recognisable bits in your painting'. I expect that she worded it differently, but it is a great bit of advice all the same.

Painting a horse portrait with lost and found edges.

This painting that I am currently working on is from two pretty good photographs, but I wanted to create a lot more atmosphere and romance in the oil painting than exist in the photos. The horse is a gorgeous aged gentleman, at 36 years still going strong and I want the piece to have a timeless quality.

To this end I have replaced the stable walls and door and rug in the photo with a background half in deep shadow and half in light. He emerges from the shadows with the light accentuating his profile. (He has such a beautiful facial bone structure that I had to show it to best advantage in his portrait).

The edges take on new importance in this portrait, meaning that I am trying to create contrast in some important focal areas ( the nasal peak , and the eyes)  while playing down contrast in other areas so that they lose themselves into the background. 

There are just two layers currently on the piece, but I anticipate adding at least three more layers over the coming week as the painting nears completion.

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Above: is the portrait at the second layer stage. Mapping out the main lights and darks and organising the composition, checking proportions etc. Once this layer is dry, it will be time to add mid tones and smaller details.

Work process video - painting a horse portrait.

I had already painted the first layer of this painting of a beautiful Chestnut Peruvian Paso gelding called Tucker, kind permission of K Broemmelsick.  I hung the canvas up to dry and it was actually almost a year until I managed to get a second session in. I filmed myself painting the  next stage and have made a video.  When editing it, I found out that I use my fingers rather more than I realise!

Work in progress - Coonhound Mix Coda

This small oil is painted from a photo reference kindly supplied by permission of Karen Broemmelsick. I love this dog's expressive eyes. This is the third time I have painted a portrait of Coda.  I have a little work to do on the feet, which I will leave slightly deconstructed so as the keep the main focus on her eyes.