On The Easel
I hope to show the viewer my process in completing these two paintings. Not all paintings are done exactly the same, but in general I follow this process.
This painting is using two of my favorite models, Charlie Weber and Jay Lewis. They are relaxing around a warm fire after a hearty meal while out trapping in the Yellowstone basin. After preparing my canvas with a couple of coats of gesso, I will usually paint a thin layer of tinted gesso or a thin tint of acrylic to get rid of the white glare. In this case I added a little yellow ochre to my final gesso to give it a warm glow with which to start. I prefer to sketch with a brush using raw umber acrylic as my medium and that way if I make errors which I always do, I can just wipe it out with water or go over it with a little gesso and I have a clean surface again. I had to resketch the reclining figure and that is why the background is darker in that area.
Now the painting is being done in oil paint. I can paint oil over my acrylic sketch. I start with the faces and get them roughed in and then work my way down the canvas doing the painting in about 75% detail. I always go back and refine or add clothing details later.
I am feeling fairly confident at this point that the painting is going to work. Sometimes you get to this point or maybe a little earlier, you find it is not what you have in your mind's eye and you have to set it aside or rethink your direction. At this point I am only worried about making the fire and foreground look right for the painting. The guns, clothing and shadows will be worked out by trial and error
Again I start this painting of "The Bearskin Coat" by roughly sketching it in acrylic over an off white gessoed canvas. The sketch is crude and mainly for proportion and placement of my figure. I realize while I am painting I made a large mistake with both his arms. Although I wanted to show the left hand and butt of the rifle, it is just too short unless it was coming forward and perhaps resting on some object as is his right arm. Both arms are too short and it seems much simpler to just drop the arms and rifle to put things in proportion. I love this coat and the model lends mystery to the coat as well. Where did he come from, a slave background perhaps or some other? What has he seen and how did he come to be a hunter on the plains. Is this a coat made from a bear he killed or was it traded for as the beads are traded that hang about his neck.
I start again by doing the face and general work quickly from the top down through the painting. I am trying to keep it fresh and making the most of my brush strokes. I don't want to overwork it. The coat is fun and with all the different textures it is challanging along with being rewarding. I am worrying about how much detail to put in the lower part of the painting. I know his hand with the cigarette will draw the eye and I wonder whether to omit the cigarette or hide the hand. I decide that the little bit of his left hand along with the rifle will bring the eye up and around again to the face where it all starts. The fact that the lapels and arm positions all contribute to this motion is quite by accident. I wish I could say I planned it that way but it just happened.
I am generally happy with the finished painting. The color and lighting is okay, but it lacks a little detail and I could have spent a little more time applying more paint and defining facial texture as well as that of his scarf and shirt. I wonder if I were able to show a little more of his left hand and the gun if it would read better. I worry the gun make take you out of the painting on that side. It is finished never the less and I still wonder about the man in the "Bear Skin Coat"
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