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It’s been a while since my last painting post because I’ve been beavering away on this project and occasionally getting distracted, but the current project is finally finished and she’s ready to show to the world!

Bit of a change as this is the first time I’ve tried painting on panel, which has been a learning process. Art’s all about learning though isn’t it? Every time I use a new colour or new medium, lighting, surface, whatever, I learn something new. For instance, this project was the first time I used Peach Black. I splashed out on a Sennelier tube, and even that taught me that expensive isn’t always better as the tube leaked black oil all over the worktop, but the colour was pretty cool… literally, it was cool. Peach black it turns out has a very blue undertone and turns a sort of navy blue when blended with white, which was handy as that’s what I wanted, again, cool!

Choosing a panel was harder than expected though. Seriously, most artists seem to hold on to the secret of which panel they use like it was a secret handed down to them from centuries of past masters. In the end I opted for ply. There were some concerns about delamination if it gets damp, but hadn’t planned on making a boat out of the stuff, just painting on it. For that matter any surface is affected by damp. So I gave my ply a couple of coats of gesso (another new experience) and got to it. Gesso it also turns out is not a mystery. I don’t need to melt any rabbit skins or blend it from a recipe found in Il libro dellarte by Cennino Cennini (great book though). I just bought a pot and slapped it on… carefully, I slapped it on carefully and artistically.

Honestly there is so much mystery about this and that, what you can do and can’t do as an artist and some of it can be downright wrong. Boris Vallejo for instance once mentioned, in something I read when I was younger, that true artists never mix with white, they prefer yellow. Never mix with white… now it was a long time ago, so I’ll give Boris the benefit of the doubt I may have read it wrong, but one single stupid comment can have students tied in all sorts of knots, and good practical books on the subject – apart from Ralph Mayer’s Artists Handbook – are hard to find.

After that little rant, if you know any great books on the oil painting process please share them as comments.

So, where was I, panel and gesso. Yes, panel – cheap, easy to buy and to cut to size yourself, or you can ask the timber merchant to cut it for you, a good merchant will cut it for a minimal charge or for free if you’re buying a sheet. I would advise paying the extra for the top quality stuff though, the cheaper stuff has more gaps in between laminates which are undesirable in the long term, but fine to use to practice on. Gesso – buy a tub and paint it on. That simple. The one I bought is water soluble and just needs a little fine sanding between coats. If you want to do it the Renaissance way then rub the gesso down (made according to Cennino’s rabbity recipe of course) with a cuttlefish, if you haven’t got a cuttlefish, then a very fine wet-and-dry or sand paper will do. The more coats the better, but I think three should do.

Anyway, to the painting.

Initial drawing from photo’ and light under painting. In future I think I’ll aim for much deeper colour and more contrast, maybe even a complete sketch in black/burnt umber and white with full contrast.

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The “sock puppet” under painting, basically just an attempt to get the panel covered in paint to help future layers move better across the surface.

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Getting there. More colour and definition added, but still wasn’t happy about the lack of drama in the background.

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Final-ish

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Close up and detail

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The reason I chose this photo’ of my niece Amy is probably self evident, it’s fun and I liked the colour scheme.

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