Oil Painting Blog Catch Up – Two Paths

I’ve mentioned on a few blog posts over the last few months how far behind I am sharing artwork. This has been a continuously building situation since I started painting in October – but I’m not sure I could say it’s necessarily a terrible thing. I’ll explain what I mean by that, but first I want to give some more context. To paraphrase Richard Schmid, I’ve been “painting like a pig eats” over the last 7+ months, just finishing my 79th painting. I’ve been averaging between two and three paintings per week, mostly done on the weekends.

I’ve talked about this before, but I keep coming back to some advice that painter Graham McQuade gave some months ago about focusing on learning to paint versus blogging. The gist was on picking which to focus on, especially in light of how much practice is needed when you first start something new. These turned out to be wise and highly predictive words. I found myself becoming borderline obsessed with painting, but with too little time and too many hobbies. Although I do enjoy website building and blogging, I quickly learned I didn’t have time to do both at the level I wanted to…maybe if I didn’t have to work, but bills stubbornly refuse to pay themselves. Anyhow, since I still wanted to share my art, and do it more quickly than a blog post, I also became more immersed in Instagram and YouTube (which can be their own time investments).

This is all a recipe for website neglect. I redesigned my homepage to put more of an emphasis on those social media portals, but I am struggling to keep up with actual blog posts. I have kept my streak of one post per month going, about six years strong now, so that’s something at least. I’m presenting all of this information it’s a huge problem…but is it really? Just stepping back and looking at the situation, it’s not really a bad thing; I’m doing something that I enjoy and having a lot of fun with it. That’s kind of the point of it all I think.

All that being said, it would be nice to at least somewhat catch the website up to the social media pages. And I’ve got two paths ahead of me. With this post, as I’ve done a couple of times now, I’ve grouped paintings up together that were done around the same time. I’ve also been considering continuing to post them separately, but in much smaller blog posts – perhaps only a paragraph or two of text per post. I think that option might make the most sense going forward. My blog posts have always been a bit too unwieldy anyway, so maybe this is a good opportunity to streamline my process. We’ll see which path I take there. So, let’s get to this batch of paintings:

Green Wall

Woman by a green wall, oil on paper.

For some reason, I vividly remember painting this one, even though it was months ago now. I was watching the movie The Crow, which was only possible because the kids were not home. I felt like the painting was going fairly well until I started working on the clothing – I had the right color at the start, but for some reason I doubted myself and changed it to something worse. Then, I did a poor job trying to represent textured vertical stripes, which really hurt the piece overall. The portrait went from good to noticeably flawed in the blink of an eye almost.

I went back later and cleaned up the shoulder weirdness, which sort of helped I think. So, overall not a bad effort in the end. And I think it’s actually a solid representation of where I was in the learning process at the time.

Varric from Dragon Age

Varric from the Dragon Age series, oil on paper.

This was a relatively fast portrait study of Varric Tethras, who is a recurring character in the Dragon Age series (returning again for the upcoming Dreadwolf sequel). He’s a wise-cracking dwarf who provides some well-placed comic relief and story telling in Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition. Looking forward to seeing what role he has in Dreadwolf – I would be a bit surprised if he’s a party member again, but I’ll be glad to hear from him again however he pops up.

The painting itself is an interesting one. I actually felt pretty good about it at first. This was a second freehand attempt; the first try being quickly abandoned when I realized I wasn’t feeling it. But overall, I felt like it resembled the character for the most part (despite my slightly off-center pupil placement). However, once I shared the progression to YouTube, someone pretty thoroughly trashed it in the comments. I’m not even going to go back and look at exactly what they said, but it was harsh. I did also have some legit, useful advice from another user, specifically related to background colors.

All of that did change how I view this one now, for better or worse. I can see the flaws and mistakes much more clearly. I guess that’s a hazard of sharing art via social media. Some platforms tend to be harsher than others, and I knew that going into it.

Figure Study #2

Second Figure Study, oil on paper.

This was my second freehand figure study, after the one I did from a portrait model. Although overall it’s not bad, I do think this one was somewhat of a step backward. One of the hardest things about figure painting is the smaller surface area for facial detail, and in this second one, I didn’t do as well in capturing those subtleties. I also kind of botched the proportions a little bit, particularly leg length and size. Again, it’s not a terrible study, but it’s also not my favorite.

I did try to do a couple unique things here though. I tried to play around with color and light a bit more than I typically did at the time. For example, the box/window framing the face is something I would definitely revisit in later portraits. And I made an attempt to get into some color value/contrast experimentation, which is also something that I’m revisiting quite a lot now. So, in a way, this painting is a bit predictive of where I determined I wanted to go months later.

Portrait of a Colleague

Portrait of a Colleague, oil on paper.

As a rule, I don’t discuss my work life at all online. Similarly, I typically don’t name portrait subjects unless they are otherwise famous or publicly known people. These two rules converge when it comes to portraits of colleagues…which I’ve actually done a surprising amount of. At some point in the last few years, I started doing funny portraits as gifts to people I work with for major events (retirements, departures, big milestones, etc). Not caricatures exactly, but more so attempts at true likeness but with some funny easter eggs thrown in. I have not shared any of those portraits here or in social media. Until now that is.

One of my colleagues, who again I won’t name, has taken a great interest in my artwork and has offered a great deal of encouragement about my learning to paint. As thanks, I painted him a portrait – he gave me permission to share that here. Although I won’t name him, I will say he’s quite a skilled musician and always good for a laugh.

Yellow Jacket

Yellow Jacket (Third Figure Study), oil on paper.

This was another attempt at a figure study, my third at the time. I feel I started out strong with my first one, but as I mentioned, had a bit of a regression with the second. With this one, I hoped to swing back up and hopefully show a bit of improvement. I think to some extent that is true; certainly the proportions and positioning was better here. And the face was probably a bit better too, but still not quite where I wanted to be.

One thing I really like about this one is the color use. I made some purposeful choices with the yellows, blues, browns, and grays, which came together in a way I really like. I am still not great about making good color choices, so this was a pleasant surprise that it actually seems to work now that I look at it months later.

Behind Bushes

Behind the Bushes, oil on paper.

To me, this is a very strange painting. I don’t dwell on specific pieces much because I’m all about getting maximum practice – basically, finish a painting in a few hours and then move on. But with this one I’ve sporadically thoughts about it afterward with with “off and on” regret. Parts of me dislike it because it’s a terrible likeness and has virtual no fidelity to the subject – in that respect, it shows my inexperience.

But, on the other hand, it is interesting to some extent to see the brush work, contrast, and color. It puts on display some things I wanted to practice at the time, and was somewhat successful at improving on later. So there is some good that can be found here. But flipping back again to the negative…it has substantial flaws. I’m fond of saying this is all a learning journey, and this portrait puts that fact on display.

Not Nicolas Cage

Not Nicolas Cage, oil on paper.

This was not supposed to look like Nicholas Cage, but I just can’t unsee the resemblance. I actually do this quite often – somehow, unintentionally morph a portrait into various celebrities. I’m not completely certain if part of this is just in my head though. I think humans tend to try to make something recognizable even when it’s not (like seeing faces in clouds or inanimate objects).

Anyhow, this painting transformed quite a bit as it progressed, which I think you can see from the time lapse videos. For some reason, it got more likes on Instagram than my typical post at the time, which was quite surprising. I almost didn’t share it, but apparently a handful of people liked it better than I did.

Bonus items – Painting to Music

I’ve also been experimenting with sharing longer painting videos set to classical music. There’s probably not a huge audience for this, but I think it could be useful if I ever decide to do a booth at an art festival. I thought I could set these videos on a loop at the booth to show my painting process.


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