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Anatomy of a Painting

This is a new blog designed to depict how a painting in constructed and painted from start to finish.  There will be further updates in the future.  

This is the photograph the painting was based on which I cropped so that burn marks wouldn't show from a fire we had Christmas Eve 2014..  The problem was our legs were cut off, which made me half to guess the bottom part.

I generally start with a sketch which gives me a chance to set proportions, establish where everything will go, and gives a clear roadmap for the painting.

Wedding Sketch

For this particular painting, I went one step further and coated the surface with Oil Priming White from Utrecht. This creates a much smoother surface and the paint goes on and functions differently than on a standard surface.  I did my sketch right on this surface.  

 Oil Priming White

Fortunately, I later found another wedding photo that gave me an image of Cay's full length dress, my tux and more detail of Cay's face.  It was a lucky rescue from the fire.  

 Full length dance shot

This photo also gave me something important:  the shapes of our shadows, the cracks in the cement surface we were dancing on and the wrinkles in my pants, which helped me enhance the details of the painting.  

The next step is to start outlining and sketching over the shapes and figures with a good drawing brush and then stain the canvas with a mixture of burnt sienna and turpenoid (an odorless turpentine).  You do this to cover up any white--a practice we use when painting with oil.

Stain & outline

Once you have stained and outlined the painting, you have a basic cartoon of the painting and are ready to start laying in the colors.  Remember, dark colors first.  

Laying in colors of background foliage

 As you can see, I'm starting to lay in the color of the background foliage which I'm painting in a jungly manner.  

Louie in a purple tux

Here you can see how I added more darks to the background and my tux and created more detail to my face and hair.  Not to worry, my tux won't stay purple, but since we paint in layers, that's fine, and it gives a good base to the painting.  

Note, I painted the cement patio surface a solid grey.  This was just to get more color laid in on the painting.  The more you can fill in the more the canvas looks like a real painting.

.Cay's flesh tones

 In photo above, I started on skin tones for Cay's arms, hands and face, ruffly as it was my first go at it.  Also, tuned up details in my face making it more distinct.

Below, I started to really go to work on Cay's dress.  Note:  Her dress is white, but I added folds in the dress to form wrinkles and texture.  It took many layers of color in her dress and veil.  I started out with warm colors and then added highlights to brighten the material and have it read as a white dress.  I also added some color and highlights to the the balloons in the background.  

background changes

The real miracle of the painting was giving the dress a lacey look above her waist.  My technique was to use some actual lace and paint over it as a stencil with some light molding material.  

I improved skin tones on both of us and changed the way I painted the foliage using shorter strokes, which gave the  background a more detailed refined look.  And I put some nice sky holes in greenery.   

A little refining of Cay's face, a little more touch up in other places and the painting was ready for hanging.  

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