Messy Bun

©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!”

Struggling With Supplies

Ever purchase some art supplies that fail to live up to the hype, or even sadly disappoint you? I had that experience just recently.

While stocking up on some stretched canvases, I decided to try a different brand. Royal & Langnickel stretched canvases came in economical packs of ten, and I thought “Well, my usual Omer Deserres are just fine, but maybe these are better?”, and, um… no.

I felt like I was trying to paint on burlap that had been given a generous coating of water repellent! Worst of all, I was also testing out a new set of Daler-Rowney water-miscible paints at the same time. How could I tell how the paint was behaving on such a lousy support?

©2021, Emma Pittson, “Tremblant in the Rain”. Oil on canvas, 8″ x 10″ x 0.5″.

And here is a close-up of the canvas texture, just for fun. Smooth as a baby’s bottom, no?

Ah well, at least I’m happy with how the image turned out! I had started a second painting at the same time, and because I had only put down a value study in acrylics, I gave that canvas a few coats of matte medium in hopes that it would kind of “fill in the holes” – but I think it was only moderately successful. As a final attempt to salvage my investment (and I say that with tongue firmly in cheek because I am a total cheapskate), I slapped two more coats of gesso on two unused canvases. I don’t know if I feeling brave enough anytime soon to give those a whirl, but if they ALSO turn out to be failures, then it looks like my kids are going to inherit a whole bunch of stretched canvases, whether they like it or not! 😉

Study of “Lady in Black”

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Study of Lilias Torrance Newton’s “Lady in Black”, oil on canvas, 8″ x 10″

I thought that it might be fun and different to try copying a proper oil painting.  I was blown away by the Beaver Hall Group show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts a little while back, so I opted for a classic 1920’s portrait by one of my favourite painters from that group, Lilias Torrance Newton.

Painting for September 29

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Face Study no. 16 – oil and acrylic on canvas, 6″ x 8″

Here she is, folks: my final (finished) painting for the “30 Paintings in 30 Days” challenge!  I don’t know if I can really call them daily paintings anymore, though, because I’m taking longer and longer to finish them, but I digress…

Some notes about this specific painting:

  • painting albino skin tones is NOT an easy feat.  If you’re up for the challenge, proceed with caution! 😉
  • I finally realized with this painting that it’s in my best interest to add another coat or two of gesso (with some light sanding in between) to my pre-gessoed canvasses.  The basic Omer Deserres canvasses are fine, but these small Apollon ones would pill here and there and leave tiny bits of matter in the paint.

Things I’ve learned about oil painting in general thanks to this painting:

  • I really should use more paint.

Next time: A complete rundown of the pros and cons of doing this daily painting challenge – what I learned, where I stumbled, how often I asked myself “why the frig am I doing this?”, etc!  Stay tuned…

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Painting for September 23 WIP

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©2016, Emma Pittson, “Face Study no. 17”. Acrylic and oil on wood panel, 8″ x 6″

I always lose steam by the end of the week, so today’s painting for the 30 in 30 challenge might be a little late…

On the plus side, I might have figured out the best working method for me:

  1. Apply acrylics for the base “flats”, smooth where possible
  2. Paint the eyes and other fine details in acrylics ONLY
  3. Paint over only certain areas in water-soluble oils as needed.

And that way, I’ll get my nice, smooth surfaces, and my fine detail, and not want to tear my hair out! 😉

In case you were wondering, this painting is 90% acrylic.  I only painted over in oils parts of her nose, lips, ear, and the lower part of her cheek.