Time Lapse of a Studio Landscape

Here is a short, two minute, time lapse video of a large studio landscape I painted over the last couple of weeks. After buying a ton of winter gear for plein air snowscapes we’ve had a really warm, snow-free winter, and I’ve had colds and flu for two months and been stuck inside the whole time. On the bright side, I did manage to get a lot of studio work finished.

This painting was enlarged from a plein air sketch I originally did on Diaz Beach at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa two years ago. I also did a number of drawings to design the composition and I had photographs that I used for information in the areas which my sketch didn’t cover. Even though I had thought out the composition that I wanted with drawings, as you can see in the video I often make changes after I get started as it is easier to see what works and what doesn’t on the large canvas.

I’ve added some annotations in the video to explain some of my decisions while working and I explain some compositional rules. I feel it’s important to reiterate that, while I believe it’s important to understand rules in painting, often the paintings that we remember -the ones that really stay with us for a long time- are precisely the ones which break those rules.

That said, the compositional error of having major elements all the same size is something I do feel hurts a lot of paintings, some of mine included. It is something artists should be aware of.

Landscape painting in oils of Diaz Beach at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa by Marc Dalessio

Diaz Beach, the Cape of Good Hope. 120 x 150 cm, oil on linen.

Portrait Time-lapse

This is a portrait I did of a friend a few years ago. As a last-minute idea I set my old cellphone on a chair and had it take a photo every few minutes over the course of the week. The battery kept dying and people kept bumping into the chair so the already-poor-quality image jumps around a lot. My apologies. I found the pictures recently and threw them together:

Self Portraits over the Years

Every year on my birthday I paint a self portrait. Many I’ve abandoned and destroyed, some years I skipped it, and I lost a hard disk a few years back with the only images of some of them. These are the ones that survived. It’s interesting for me to look back over the years to see the change in my understanding of drawing and painting.

My early attempts were pretty bad. The first two are from my three years at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The art department there wasn’t very didactic, and students were left to their own devices for the most part. All my technical knowledge at this stage was from books. Notice the poor compositions, the poor handling, the poor understanding of form…etc.

Self Portraits from my UCSC days. 1989-1992

Self Portraits from my UCSC days. 1989-1992

The second two are from my first years at Charles H. Cecil studios. Notice in the painting the over-modelling of the hair as well as the poor design and annoying fuzziness in the clothes,

Early Cecilian Self Portraits. 1993-4

Early Cecilian Self Portraits. 1993-4

The portrait on the left was from 2002 (I think), and it starts to show a more mature style. Better design overall, better handling of the paint, and a more successful rendering of atmosphere. On the right is a sketch of Saint Mark’s Church in Venice as I was there on a plein air trip for my birthday one year.

Self Portrait from 2002(?) and Saint Marc's Church.

Self Portrait from 2002(?) and Saint Marc’s Church .

The next three portraits are recent and are more ambitious in scope, being 3/4 and full length with backgrounds. One thing about self portraits is that they can be a great way to experiment with new materials and techniques. The first one was one of the more complicated portraits I had ever set up, and the objects in the background were selected to describe aspects of my life. The second painting was painted on a much heavier weave of canvas than I am used to, and the last one was my first attempt at an outdoor portrait.

Self Potrait, 2007

Self Portrait, 2005.

Self Portrait, 2006

Self Portrait, 2007

Outdoor Self Portrait, 2008

Outdoor Self Portrait, 2008.

Here is a quick video (2 minutes) showing a time-lapse of this year’s self portrait. My experiment this year was to do the reverse of a grisaille, so I did the underpainting with a high chroma and glazed and scumbled the grays, greens, and browns over it.

(Update: Here is the final image.)

Self Portrait, 2010.

Improvement in oil painting is not a linear progression in my opinion. The ability to see improves before technical skill, and we often have difficulty assessing honestly exactly how our work looks. Below is my attempt at graphing the progression.

(Being my first attempt at visually interpreting quantitative information, it probably looks similar to the self portraits at the top of the post.)

Sunday morning time-lapse fun

Here is a short video from a quick portrait sketch yesterday morning. After a one-shot session like this I usually end up with a ton of paint on the canvas from pushing shapes around quickly. This is where scraping down with a palette knife is so useful. In fact, I would say scraping down between sessions at the beginning of a portrait is probably the second most useful thing I learned while studying portraiture (the first being the sight-size technique).

I have a short video of the scraping down process which I’ll add soon.


I haven’t been out landscape painting this Autumn as much as I would have liked. The image above is an HDR photograph, but it gives an idea of the colors here in Tuscany at the moment.

Here is a short timelapse of a sketch for a commission up near Barberino val d’Elsa. Its a 17th century copy of the Duomo of Florence in the middle of the countryside, people often think I’m dabbling in surrealism when they see the paintings, but its really there.