Saturday, 22 April 2017

Venus - Progress shots

Acrylic on 40cm x 60cm Canvas
Masterpiece Commission
Botticelli "Birth of Venus" detail

I usually just launch into an acrylic painting freehand, but with a masterpiece commission I'm a little more cautious. First I mark the canvas into about 16 squares along the edge with a neutral mid tone color like raw sienna or yellow ochre. Then I paint a main outline using the sections as a guide and paying attention to negative spaces.

I've been traveling with watercolors and the only acrylics I could obtain locally were thinly pigmented, so In this case I chose to build up the image in acrylic washes. For the sky I used two light washes of Ultramarine and Phthalo Blue.

I don't work top to bottom or background to foreground in any particular order as you need to in oil, because acrylics dry so fast. Here I laid in the darkest dark in a thin wash of Ivory Black, then went to the lightest light of the face, starting with a light wash of Vermillion, then a little Titanium White which was so thinly pigmented that it was almost mixing white. Lastly I painted a very light wash of Cadmium Yellow Light, adding some detail in the hair and eyes in Ivory Black.

Next I worked on the hair with layers of wash and line in Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Yellow Light and Burnt Umber. For the fine lines I used a fan brush. I made a few corrections to the face and eyes, whiting out dark spots with Titanium White and acrylic gesso and then adding corrections.

Lastly I worked on the right hand side of the hair using the same wash methods as the left side.

More tweaking to the all important right side of the hair.

Now the fine tuning of the features and hair. This is the part that takes time. I used a small round brush for the lines and an angle flat brush for the modelling washes. These were a bit of a nightmare because with acrylic paint a wet layer over a drying layer lifts the paint below. The only acrylic paint that works like oil in this respect seems to be Atelier Interactive, which is European, but available on the internet. If I had some of that I could have made one even light wash and it's longer drying time and reactivating quality would have helped with the hot climate here. I ended up using a stippling stroke, basically adding a light wash only to the dips in the canvas weave. This was very time consuming, but it gave a sort of weathered look to the painting. I have to admit that this made me feel like I was communing with Leonardo da Vinci and I certainly learned a lot about portraiture.

The final step was to coat the hair and features with a thin wash of my low pigment Titanium White. This softened all the Cadmium and gave the painting a slightly aged and faded look. Lots of work, but I really love how it turned out.