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In the Studio – Wonky Portrait, UFOs, and a Duck

This week I will share the results of my efforts in creating a wonky portrait, a UFO (unfinished object), and a duck!

In addition to taking the Kaleidoscope 2023 course starting in August, I decided to sign up for Milan Art Institute’s Mastery Program. It claims to be able to turn someone (me) into a professional artist in one year! I had been looking at the program for some time and comparing it to similar offerings and felt it provided more of what I needed. I am anxious to take my art to the next level. See what I’ve managed to do this week.

Mandarin Duck

The Mastery Program has you start quickly and dive right into oil painting. The process used is called subtractive painting where you lay a dark paint, called a ground, over the entire canvas and then use different tools to remove the paint and essentially capture the different values of the reference photo.

Several photos of birds were available to choose from, and I decided this this Mandarin Duck. Isn’t it cute?

Photo of a Mandaring Duck

I used a variety of items to remove paint from the surface – rags, Q-tips, dry paintbrushes, and makeup sponges. My ground was starting to dry before I could complete subtracting the highlights.

After that dries, a transparent glaze is used to define the colors. This is where I could really tell I didn’t do enough subtraction. I did what I could and forgot to take a picture of this step.

The next step is applying the opaque layer of paint. At this point, I was really regretting my choice of the Mandarin duck. So many feathers and so many different colors! Here’s where I left off. I will continue to work on it but must move on.

Painting of a Mandaring duck

Wonky Woman

I was so frustrated with the duck, that I wanted to do something quick and fun. One of the lessons for September from Kaleidoscope 2023 is a mixed-media portrait taught by Jenny Manno.

She chose to do a portrait of Iris Apfel, an amazing fashionista. Iris is over 100 years old now and has a style I can only hope to imitate at some point in my life. Check out all the inspiring photographs on her Instagram account. I chose this one.

Jenny Manno suggested drawing the face in a continuous contour style – that means not lifting the pencil off the paper! The results are wonky, but makes for a loose, fun portrait. I used watercolor, Neo-color water-soluble crayons, a Posca pen, and a black fine liner. I like the results a lot!

Mixed media painting of Iris Apfel.

Unfinished Objects (UFOs)

One of my art friends uses the phrase UFOs to describe the various art projects she has laying around. I like the term and it’s a fitting description of several paintings hanging out in my studio.

This one is a portrait I had started when I took a portrait workshop in Scottsdale, Arizona with Robin Damore. I had taken a couple previous workshops with her and wanted another opportunity to further my skills.  Unfortunately, the workshop was only a few days, and I didn’t get an opportunity to finish the portrait.

Portrait of a red haird woman

I worked on it on and off at home but felt it needed something more. I imagined the model as a magical creature and felt a dragon would add to the mysticism. I used charcoal to draw in a dragon with wings circling around her head. Then I got too scared to start painting the dragon.

After taking the initial Mastery Program oil painting lesson and learning about using cool transparent colors in the background, I laid in a blaze of Phthalo Green and Phthalo Blue. I like the contrast with her red hair.

I can still see the sketch of the dragon and one day will feel confident enough to start painting it in. What do you think? Should I go with the dragon?

What I Learned This Week

I learned much about color and where to place transparent and opaque colors and warm and cool colors in a painting. I have a lot more learning in front of me and I am challenging myself to continue even when I get discouraged.

Thank you for reading this blog post and following along with my creative journey. I hope you gain some inspiration to start or continue your own journey.

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