My finished portrait painting (weekly #10)

Friday I finished my 4-week painting. Here is a picture of it that I took with my cellphone:

(Click to Enlarge)

I’ll post a high quality picture after the painting is dry enough to varnish (which revives the color and reveals finer details).

I had fun painting this one.
Because of the subject, I felt comfortable painting more loosely than I usually do. The reason for that was that an unblended brush stroke would end up looking like a wrinkle in the skin and stay true to the subject.

This means that I did not make an effort to blend brush strokes into existing paint on the canvas and just let them sit on top. Another aspect of this is that I built up my paint in layers working wet into wet. So, suppose I wanted to paint the feather, for example, first I would put the background, then I would put the colors of the halo of the feather (I wanted it to have a bluish halo), then I put some dark brown, which is the average dark part of the feather and finally built up the lighter paints on top, letting them sit there without blending them into the canvas.

I will try to continue the same method of working on the next long pose – we will have a young woman.


I find that I really like finding similarities among objects, as much as I like finding the differences. I may think of the structural separation between the nose and the cheek, but then find that they are similar in value because the light is hitting them both equally, creating very little separation between the two planes. It is a challenge to describe the differences and the similarity at the same time. I enjoy this challenge and I am curious to see to what balance I would eventually arrive to in my style of painting.
Finding differences is more of my natural inclination and I hope the balance will end up being more on the “similarity” side.

For a reason I don’t yet know, subconsciously, I think of being “true to what I see” primarily as being able to find distinction between things rather than similarity. I think that deep down inside, I think that it is the separation from other entities that gives something its identity, even though its similarity to other entities is part of identity just the same. For example, an apple is an apple because it is different than a banana (it’s green, firm etc’), but also because it is similar to a banana (it’s sweet, edible etc’).

Or to pick an example that relates to painting: An object in a bright light is distinct from a neighboring object in the light (they have different shapes and colors), but they are similar in that they are both in the light. The question is, which should takes precedence when painting them – The similarity or the difference?

My answer is: It depends on what the theme of the piece is (I think of it as the “actual subject”, as oppose to the subject matter, which is a different thing). If these are just background objects to the “actual subject”, then it is better to describe them as just “things that have bright light hitting them” and play on their similarity. If these are the actual subject, though, it would be better to emphasize their difference.

The challenge is, then, not to obsess over any particular object and describe it to perfection if it is not the “actual subject” of your piece. This sort of obsessing is easy to do, since when painting it, it is the center of the artist visual focus (Last week I quoted my instructor about this).
I think the key to avoiding the error of over describing something is to keep in mind the actual subject of your artwork at all times. This is achieved by staying emotionally connected to what it is you find appealing in the painting you are creating at all times.

I am discussing this a little too soon, though. I am still an art student and what I create are studies, not art in the full sense. I learn to see and describe value, color, paint handling and so on. As such, they don’t necessarily have an “actual subject” – not a subject I chose and not one I am necessarily emotionally attached to. This is OK, this is the way a school should work, in my opinion, since the primary focus should be technical.

Next year, which will be my final year, I plan to work on a project that would involve more of working from imagination and putting a figure in an environment. That project will be one where I will apply the above thinking more.

Have a good week and I appreciate your interest,



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