I put the final touches on this self portrait a few hours ago. This is one of those paintings where I look at it and kind of don't know how I did it. It almost feels like I go on autopilot and just channel directions while I'm working. I think maybe I'm so concentrated that I almost enter a trance while I'm working. It was just me, the mirror and the painting.
So I'm proud to say this painting is done. It's so tough to say when a painting is done. I personally feel like it's one of the most difficult decisions in all of art making. I wish I had some wisdom to share about finishing a painting, but I don't. It's tough because I never want to over-work a piece, but I do want to effectively capture the spirit of whatever I'm trying to paint.
I've been getting better recently because I've been concentrating really hard while I work. I think getting better at painting really means getting better at seeing. Seeing both the details and the larger picture and having the skill to effectively translate that to the canvas. Another thing that was difficult about this painting which I didn't really realize when I set up was that my face was in shadow. I didn't realize this until my friend Asem pointed it out and I'm glad that I didn't think about it because maybe I would have psyched myself out about it.
I'm including a picture of a self portrait that I did when I was 19, so 10 years ago. It's crazy to see the change, but I still recognize my style which I never want to lose. I think I'm going to do a portrait of my Dad next so I'll share that whenever I start it.
I started this painting session feeling very down. I left off yesterday feeling good, but I wasn't feeling good about it today. It's funny how your perception of a painting can change so drastically overnight; in some ways it feels like the painting itself changed while you weren't looking.
So before I started today, I was thinking about redoing parts of it and maybe squinting in order to clarify the values. I've fallen into this trap before, thinking that squinting will magically solve my problems. I ignored the temptation to simplify and decided to just dive in. Instead of looking for an easy solution, I just kept battling and reworking until it started to look better. I've noticed that my process is a very up and down process and I really fight hard to make it look good. It always requires a lot of struggle.
I think the portrait is just about done and I'm going to work on the background some more and see how that goes. Quite a journey with this one, but I like the way it looks
Done with the second day working on this. I think it's going to take around 3 more sessions to get the background fully in and the full details of my portrait. It's going well and I'm excited to work on it more.
My watercolor class for the Ridgewood Community School starts tonight at 7 which is something else that I'm looking forward to.
Just started a new self portrait, using a canvas that I recently made with Natural Pigments lead oil ground. The beginning is always rough and I'm not going for any detail at this stage. I think of the beginning like the understructure of the painting. Portraits have a lot going on, but they need to progress gradually. It's good to keep the beginning malleable instead of committing to some exact detail such as a highlight. The painting gets more delicate as more modeling is added so it's not good to jump to details right away. The beginning has some slight indications of general details, but nothing concrete in case I have to adjust some proportions.
As I said, I'm using a lead oil ground; lead oil grounds are very different from titanium oil grounds. Lead has a really nice level of absorption that also repels a good amount of the paint laid on top. I've noticed that titanium white grounds absorb a lot of the paint and it feels like you have to pile on the paint just to get any level of impasto. If you're a painter that likes thick paint applications then I encourage you to use a lead oil ground.
I'm going slower with this painting and with more of my old intuitive approach. I still like alla prima painting, but I can't get the level of detail and modulation of tone with pure alla prima. I already paint fast and I feel the need to slow myself down and let it dry when necessary in order to build up the detail. I'm excited to work on this more and will post more as it progresses.