Stripes

Digital Art, Self-Portrait
©2022, Emma Pittson, “Stripes”. Rebelle 5.

For this piece, I decided to keep things simple and low-concept: just a roughly painted self-portrait, using a reference photo taken with my computer camera (note the tell-tale glowing blue neck). I kept the brushwork loose, and even cheated a little by sometimes relying on the eye dropper tool to help me get the right colour. There have to be some advantages to working digitally, right?

This piece was also an opportunity to better understand the newest addition to my digital painting arsenal: Escape Motion’s Rebelle 5. It’s early days still, but this might turn out to be one of my favourite softwares. Photoshop will always reign supreme for the sheer number of tools at one’s disposal, but Rebelle 5 has a much better “surface texture” feeling. Many digital painting programs claim that they can mimic the sensation of pushing paint around, but this one comes closest of all, in my opinion. And if nothing else, how can you not like the ripped edges of the canvas? Talk about a perfect little detail that I never knew I wanted!

Messy Bun

acrylic, oils, Self-Portrait
©2022, Emma Pittson, “Messy Bun”. Oil and acrylic on canvas, 14″ x 11″ x 0.5″

Here is another contender for the title of “Painting That Has Sat For The Longest Amount Of Time On My Easel While I Contemplate How Best To Approach It”. I believe it clocked in at about one full year. While I’m not completely sure why I lost my courage for so long, I suspect that I hesitated partly because I worried that the whole “portrait of the back of a woman’s head” thing had already been done to death. To me, it seemed like a cheap and easy way to add some mystery to an otherwise very pedestrian image. But artists steal ideas from each other all the time, and when you get right down to it, how many of us can say that our work is 100% original? We are all influenced by each other, and if you’re waiting for a truly original idea before putting paint to canvas, you’ll be waiting a long, long time. Life’s too short!

Original Reference Photo

I also wavered quite a bit on what medium to use. Acrylics are odor-free but difficult to blend, while oils (even water-miscible oils!) give me a headache. In the end, most of the painting is acrylic, with only the hair and certain details on the clothing are oils.

This piece also went through a few digital iterations prior to – and even during – the painting process. You might remember this earlier post where I played around with various background colours on a first pass of digital painting.

The winning background colour!

Once I’d decided on the background colour, I put down a first layer of acrylics then painted a second digital pass on top – just to reassure myself that I was going in the right direction after all.

And finally, here are some more process shots as I moved from acrylics to oils.

And now this painting sits on my piano – which I also haven’t touched in forever, btw – where I can see it every day, and it fills me with a sense of enormous well-being, and also a healthy dose of “Took you long enough!”

Backlighting

Digital Art, Portraits
©2022, Emma Pittson, “Backlit”. Rebelle 5.

I learned many things while attempting to complete this painting, such as the importance of working from a good reference image, and just how difficult it can be to accurately convey shadowed skin tones as well as brilliant, sunlit hair. Quite the challenge!

In fact, it was SO challenging that I made no fewer than 5 attempts to get this painting completed in a way that made me happy. After two false starts with oil on canvas and a number of digital tests, I wondered “Maybe this just doesn’t want to be painted?” For someone who hadn’t touched traditional paint in over a year (and is more comfortable with acrylics, to boot), a blurry, shadowed portrait with serious backlighting maybe wasn’t the safest, easiest way to ease myself back into painting. But of course, I couldn’t give up. Not only was I keen on trying to reproduce the halo effect on the hair, but also… the subject of the painting is my own daughter!

Self-Portrait with Kerchief

Digital Art, Self-Portrait
Self-portrait of Emma Pittson wearing a blue kerchief against Owhiro Bay, New Zealand.
©2022, Emma Pittson, “Self-Portrait with Kerchief”. Photoshop.

January was a fantastic month for me, art-wise! I made good on my promise to do at least 15 minutes of art-making every day, and that very often grew to 30 minutes or even a full hour on the week-ends. As you know, I’m still struggling to find my genuine artistic voice, and everything I’ve ever read about it states that your voice won’t just materialize out of thin air. You’ll have to make art – and probably quite a lot of it over a long period of time – before things start to fall into place. “Quantity leads to Quality” is the order of the day.

Anyways, here is a self-portrait based on a photograph of myself taken about 15 years ago when we lived in Wellington, New Zealand. The background is the view from the mountains south of Wellington overlooking Owhiro Bay. If it looks like I’m squinting, it’s because the mid-day sun in that part of the world could be unbearable bright, making every shadow look inky-black.

I’ve never painted jewelry before, but I have to say: that earring is my favourite part of the painting!

Tomatoes!

Still-Life
©2022, Emma Pittson, “Tomatoes”. Photoshop.

A study of tomatoes from an Instagram #foodpaintchallenge launched by @dennispfeil.art and @alaiganuza. The last time I did a still-life was way back in the mists of time (a.k.a. art school). This is NOT my area of expertise, but I’m determined to spend 2022 experimenting as much as possible with my art, so I decided to give it a go. Let’s face it: it’s always refreshing to branch out and do something different for a change. Are more still-life paintings in my future? Well, there’s no arguing with their convenience: you can probably find an abundance of subject matter in your own home, and you don’t have to deal with either changeable weather, or finding models. Maybe I can find a use for all this household clutter after all!