Portrait Painting Video

I’ve recently posted a demo video of laying-in a portrait in oils using the sight-size method. I hope you enjoy it.

These days my videos go first to my Patreon supporters for three months. After three months I release them to the public on my YouTube channel.

If you get something out of these videos, please consider supported my equipment budget through Patreon. I make all these videos myself.

Short Tuscan Trip

Plein air portrait of a Tuscan farmer with his chickens.

Mario and his Chickens. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Here, quickly, are a few small paintings from last week in Tuscany. I was there doing some organizational stuff, and didn’t have a lot of time to paint. I was also enjoying a bit of a break after all my work for the South Carolinian show in May.

Portrait of a young girl in a Tuscan farmhouse.

Portrait of a Young Girl. 35 x 25 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a painter in Tuscany.

Ben Painting at the Torricella. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air self portrait.

Outdoor Self Portrait. 35 x 25 cm, oil on panel.

I painted only portraits and still-lifes. As I’ve wrtten before, the Chianti region of Italy is one of the most beautiful places in the world to visit, but the ‘big views’ aren’t great for plein air painting. The small olive trees make for poor compositional elements, the hills are too close together, and the ubiquitous vineyards consist of parallel lines, which landscape painters do best to avoid.

Plein air painting of an espresso with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Affogato. 20 x 15 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a Florentine steak.

Fiorentina. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Still life of peaches and ice cream.

Peaches and Ice Cream. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Turban Portrait Painting

Turban portrait of my wife wearing a Turkish style turban on the island of Korcula.

Tina with a Turban. 70 x 50 cm, oil on linen.

Here, quickly, is a turban portrait I did last month during the overcast and rainy days we had on Korčula. It’s for a turban/hat-themed group show this fall at Ann Long Fine Art in Charleston, SC.

Below are a few of the sketches we tried with various styles of turban. The one we settled on was bought on Ebay, and shipped from Turkey. I had actually wanted a more Venetian-style turban, as it fit with our setting, but getting these things right is more complicated than one would think. These paintings were all done in one sitting with very unsuitable light. We were on a terrace with only reflected light off of the garden around us. It’s always interesting trying new lighting set-ups, though having one strong light source makes for a much simpler painting experience.

Portrait sketch with turban, painted on Korcula, Croatia.

Turban Sketch #1. 25 x 23 cm, oil on panel.

Venetian style turban portrait painting, done on the Croatian island of Korcula.

Turban Sketch #2. 25 x 25 cm, oil on panel.

Turban portrait with a Turkish-style turban painted on the Croatian island of Korcula.

Turban Sketch #3. 25 x 23 cm, oil on panel.

Update: Here is an earlier attempt:

Turban portrait with a Turkish-style turban.

The Turkish Turban. 35 x 25 cm, oil on panel.

De Mayerne Medium in America

Plein air figure painting.

Gregurić Breg (unfinished). 100 x 80 cm, oil on linen. Painted with the new medium from Blue Ridge Oil Colors.

Blue Ridge Oil Colors is going to start pre-making the medium I use and selling it in the US. (For people in Europe who don’t want to make their own, I would recommend getting it from Zecchi). If you want to make your own I also have a youtube video showing the process.

I was trying it out recently on this large plein air figurative piece, and in my sketches from Copenhagen. The Blue Ridge version dries faster than what I’m used to using. I know that’s a plus for a lot of artists and it certainly is for me when I travel. During longer projects though, like the one posted above, I sometimes like to scrape down a fresh painting at the start of the next session, and this medium dries too quickly for that -just a heads up.

The recipe is a variation of the medium developed by Charles Cecil and is originally based, in part, on the writings of Theodore de Mayerne. De Mayerne was a Swiss doctor who was friends with Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyck. He wrote one of the rare documents discussing painting materials of the 17th-century, and he appears to have consulted with both Rubens and Van Dyck regularly on their opinions. His writings discuss straw-colored Strasbourg turpentine and thickening oil with lead in the sun, as well as many other art material related topics. You can buy an English translation online.

While I much prefer the smell of Strasbourg turpentine to Canada balsam, the Strasbourg turpentine sometimes beads a lot when beginning again on a dry painting. (Looking closely at Isaac Levitan’s paintings you can see the same beading, which makes me wonder what he was using).

At any rate, it’s a great medium for laying-in (add some turpentine), as well as glazing at the end of a project. I’ve been using it for over twenty years now and my early pieces are all in fine condition.

The Tuscan Summer

Plein air painting of a woman reading under an olive tree in Chianti.

Tina Reading under an Olive Tree. 110 cm x 90 cm, oil on linen.

Here are a few paintings from the last week in Tuscany. I did this large portrait of my wife reading under an olive tree. Being able to get far back is really great for painting portraits, even outside (I’ve discussed this before).

Here was the set-up:

Plein air portraiture in Chianti

Plein air portraiture in the Tuscan countryside.

As idyllic as it looks, it was ridiculously hot. After the last four hour midday session I got sick from the heat and had cold sweats, nausea and a headache. An occupational hazard.

These were some of the smaller sketches:

Plein air cloud studies from the Tuscan countryside.

Three Tuscan Cloud Studies. 20 x 14 cm ea.

Plein air sketch of laundry and lemon trees, Tuscany.

Laundry and Lemon Trees. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air sketch of hay bales along a road in Chianti

Hay Bales along the Road, Noce. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of Pistoletto's sculpture at Porta Romana

Pistoletto’s “Headache” at Porta Romana, 20 x 20 cm, oil on panel.

The above painting went face-down into the dirt when the dog pulled the easel over, hence the debris. Another occupational hazard. The trick to getting much of the dirt or sand out is to let the painting dry completely, then clean it.

Plein air painting of piazza Santo Spirito, Florence

Piazza Santo Spirito on a Sunday in July. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.