Graveyard Girl from the Dream City – work in progress

I’ve been working on this painting since late November 2008, this is tentatively called Graveyard Girl From The Dream City and is oil on 11×14 inch panel.

For all posts about this painting, see the dream city category.

You can also jump to just the finished version here: graveyard-girl-from-the-dream-city-completed

Graveyard Girl from the Dream City (work in progress)

Graveyard Girl from the Dream City (work in progress)

Detail view:

Graveyard Gurl from the Dream City

Graveyard Girl from the Dream City (detail) - work in progress

Planning, transferring the drawing, imprimatura

I initially wanted to paint something like a combination of my old painting Pigtail Gurl and Dream City in a larger format and with the idea that I can do a better job now that I have more experience. I wanted to experiment more with the “dead layer” technique too, especially after trying it with my Christmas Angel painting and having some success with it there. As I was planning it out the drawing got more complicated and the buildings and such ending up being a bit less weird than the Dream City, although I will still use a similar palette and the skyline and sky will be similar.

I used Poser software to create a model of the girl that I lit and posed as I had envisioned and then used that as I would a normal photo reference. I did the line drawing all in Photoshop, and then printed it out at Kinko’s. I also did some color study stuff in Photoshop. I used graphite transfer paper to get it on the panel (tracing over my printed-out drawing). This is the first time I’ve tried this technique and it worked well, but I dislike the overall process and aesthetic of digital art so on projects I have been going back to traditional media (pencil/paper/etc) for everything, including the planning and initial drawing. After recently looking at some Albrecht Dürer stuff I’m even more inspired to get better at drawing and to generally eschew digital techniques. I ended up changing the drawing considerably later, I will post that later as a comparison to the final painting.

I went over the drawing on the panel in sepia ink (ultra fine Sharpie) and put a thin wash of olive greenish color over everything (imprimatura) using Turpenoid, a little Galkyd Light, tiny bit of red ochre, yellow ochre light, and ivory black. It really didn’t need to be that complex…a couple times recently I have used a few transparent coats of acrylic, very thin to keep it smooth, just black and yellow, for an olive green color. The imprimatura is partly to wash away the graphite and seal the pen, and partly as a ground for the next layer since the panel I was using was too smooth and shiny. You can also let the brush strokes show through to add variety and texture, although in this one I didn’t do that. I made sure not to use too much turps as it will cause the paint to lose cohesion, that happened to me on my Two Mushrooms painting. Using Turpenoid in the paint is not my favorite thing, that’s another reason for me to use acrylic for the imprimatura.

Dead layer underpainting

With the girl’s face, I am again glazing over a raw umber dead layer underpainting. It is very nice to just focus on the tonal values and such without worrying about color initially.

My first session of underpainting for the face ended up being way too dark, partly cause I had a rather bright light on my easel and it was too close to the painting, duh. I’m getting better about physically stepping back from the painting a lot, moving the light around and viewing under other lights, looking at the painting in a mirror, upside down, etc. I also know from reading and my experience with “failed” glazing attempts that the underpainting should be rather lighter that desired for the final result, since I will be glazing onto the shadows as well as the lighter areas later, darkening most of it except the highlights.

Here’s a photo close to the end of the dead layer stage (although this was too dark!) and then a pic of the work-in-progress after I had glazed on some color:

Dead layer version of Graveyard Girl from the Dream City

Dead layer version of Graveyard Girl from the Dream City

In the first dead layer underpainting session I spent about 3 hours mostly on the face. I used raw umber and titanium white with no turpentine, oil, or other medium. I mixed up 4 shades on my palette and was happy at first to have a fairly nice reference (for a change) from my Poser rendering. Later I bemoaned the poser reference for the lack of realistic details, a real photo would have been superior.

I used several of the same-sized flat and filbert / tapered brushes so that I could use one for each value of umber…I painted all the darkest areas, then moved up in lightness and painted a bit wet-into-wet, doing a little blending afterward with clean dry brushes.

After that I spent several more sessions working on the face, lightening further and defining features, etc. It seems generally better to err on the side of it being too light rather than too dark…as long as you don’t lose the drawing and definition between elements, it’s easier to go back and darken shadows than to lighten everything up. It can take several sessions to cover up a dark area with light since I paint thinly, and it can look funky and chalky putting white over a darker color when the dark shows through.

Palette and glazing over the dead layer

I used cadmium yellow light (hue) + mars black for the greens so far, and have been using fairly fine bristle brushes a lot lately. Pthalho blue for water and sky, french ultramarine in the sky too. Clothing is prussian blue. For black I use mars and white is titanium.

The flesh tone glazing has been vermillion and yellow ochre with bleached linseed oil. Before I glaze I “oil out” the skin area by rubbing on the oil with my finger, letting it sit briefly and rubbing off the excess with a finger or very carefully with a paper towel. Dust has been a major issue with glazing, I constantly need to check for and remove dust from the painting as I am working on it. Storing the painting in between sessions face down carefully leaning against a wall helps. Dust on big brushes is probably the biggest culprit.

So far I have spent about 24 hours total painting this with another 10 or so drawing and planning.

The next post on this will probably be in a few weeks and will be the completed painting.

I am going to do a separate post later about what I have learned so far about glazing and using a dead layer.

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