Archive for the ‘oil painting’ Category

A Country Girl Near the Dream City (revised – 2012)

June 28, 2012

I’ve been taking some previously completed paintings that I wasn’t happy with and making some changes to them when I thought that spending the time would be worth it. I recently made some big but fairly quick changes to “A Country Girl Near the Dream City”:

A Country Girl near the Dream City (2012)

A Country Girl near the Dream City (2012)

The way I see it, if I have something that I am almost happy with, it’s worth the risk of making it worse and it’s worth the extra time (let’s say an additional 15%) to try and make it better. I have been forcing myself to just focus on the key aspects that will improve the painting the most and have been pretty good about not letting myself start changing too much. I also ensure that I have a good plan of attack and have done studies so that I know how exactly to alter the painting once I get started. In this case I had been thinking about changes since last year, and did some tests in Photoshop to make sure that if I did alter stuff that it would look the way I wanted, rather than just employing trial and error which could end in frustration and an at least temporarily ruined painting.

This one went smoothly and I’m really glad that I took the extra couple hours so that now I have a painting I am much happier about.

A Chaotic Nocturnal Reverie altered and completed

June 2, 2012

I decided to make some major changes to this painting. I messed with the face a bit more but decided I wouldn’t be happy even if the face was OK since the figure etc were too flawed.I debated this for a while but decided to just paint over the figure completely. I had spent a HUGE amount of time changing the face and figure but painting over it is not going to take away the stuff I learned working on this project – and now I will have a painting I can be happier with.

Here is the full painting:

A Chaotic Nocturnal Reverie

"A Chaotic Nocturnal Reverie" by Airn LeBus, 16x20 inches, oil on canvas, 2012.

Here is a detail view:

A Chaotic Nocturnal Reverie (detail)

A Chaotic Nocturnal Reverie (detail)

My previous posts on this have a lot more info:

Final post on the earlier version



Memento Mori MMXII – completed

May 22, 2012

OK, I have completed my Memento Mori painting.

I’m pretty satisfied with this but towards the end I just wanted to wrap it up and work on other projects! I started this in October 2011 so I’ve been working on it for seven months, off and on.

Here’s the finished painting:

Memento Mori MMXII

Memento Mori MMXII

I spent about 21 hours painting this, in many separate sessions. I also spent about 4 hours drawing / planning it and then another couple hours making the maquette model to figure out the lighting and doing additional studies with a skull model etc. I talk more about that in previous posts (below).

Here’s a detail view:

Memento Mori MMXII (detail)

Memento Mori MMXII (detail)

I think that “Memento Mori” will be a running theme for me for at least my next few projects…I usually work on a few paintings at once so right now I am planning my next one while I also redo some parts of my tragically flawed A Chaotic Nocturnal Reverie painting.

Happily I am also going right from finishing this onto another oil on wood panel project, the Robert Campin study I am working on. I really love painting something with an archaic feel onto smooth wood panel whilst listening to some Medieval music…quite lovely.

Here are my other posts on this painting:

1. Memento Mori: work-in-progress

2. Memento Mori: update 2

3. Memento-Mori: update 3


Master Study – Robert Campin

May 20, 2012

I decided that I need to do more studying with the old masters…to start I am going to try painting one by Robert Campin: (link opens in a new window)

I have a nice hi-resolution picture of the original painting, which I cropped so I can just focus on the face. I especially love the way he did the eyes.

I’m painting this on 8×10 wood panel in oils and will use a monochromatic “dead layer” underpainting to start. I will then glaze color over it and do additional work on the shadows and highlights at that point too.

This is after 1 hour of painting and a few hours of drawing:


Robert Campin study WIP 05-20-2012

Robert Campin study WIP 05-20-2012

I sketched this freehand on the panel but divided the panel into 4 sections, then did the same to my photo to give me a little assistance in making it more accurate to the original.

This underpainting is all in raw umber and titanium white…I did my usual method before that of going over the drawing in sepia Sharpie pen then putting an imprimatura wash of yellow and black mixed acrylic over the drawing. This time I also used an eraser to get rid of most of the pencil before putting the acrylic on.

Here’s what it looked like drawn on the panel and then inked with the imprimatura, almost ready to start painting:

Robert Campin study drawing and imprimatura

Robert Campin study drawing and imprimatura


Rattus Magnus

May 17, 2012

I painted this for a Halloween thing in 2011. I think I did it in 1 day. It’s 11×14 inches, oil on canvas.


Rattus Magnus

Rattus Magnus

Memento Mori (update 3)

April 15, 2012

One of the books I bought recently is “Imaginative Realism” by James Gurney and he has some stuff in there about making clay maquettes (scale models) to help with painting. On this Memento Mori project I wasn’t sure how the alcove should look so initially I just painted it based on my understandings of light and shadow. It didn’t look very realistic to me though so I decided to make a tiny clay model of the alcove and skull and light it in a similar fashion to the painting. It really didn’t take that long and it made a big difference…below you can see the earlier version and what it looks like now. The skull is the same but look at the alcove it is resting in:


Alcove changes from maquette

Alcove changes from maquette

Really this is something that I have been working up to – taking more time and effort to figure the piece out properly. Earlier I’ve copped out and just guessed but often it’s not that time-consuming to do a little research and experimentation…it can really have a dramatic effect on the art.

On this painting, I had also “oiled it out” too much and the surface was really glossy and weird to paint on. I wanted to radically alter the alcove’s shadows and lighting but the paint was acting weird since the surface was too oily (FYI this is on smooth wood panel). It’s also normally tough anyway to lighten parts that are too dark – it ends up chalky, even without the surface being too oily. I ended up breaking out some really fine-grain sandpaper and sanding away much of the alcove, then repainting it…that did the trick.

Here’s where this painting is at now (below). I just did the bottom row of text today which I painted in freehand by painting backwards, upside down etc to ensure all the spacing was correct. The background was dry, so every time I messed up (which was often) I could just wipe it off and redo it. I’ll be adding to the text later to make it look etched into the stone. I watched (or rather listened to) the film “Die Monster Die” while I worked on it. The title of that film doesn’t give any suggestion that it’s actually based on “The Colour Out of Space” by HP Lovecraft, an author who is a favorite and who has influenced me greatly. I usually “watch” something or listen to music that fits with the art I am making…much of the time I have been painting this piece I have been listening to the Cadfael score for its medieval feel.

OK, back to talking about the painting…when I first planned this I had two rows of text that were as large as the top row but since just the MEMENTO*MORI took me a really long time with tons of repainting I decided to simplify the lower line of text. I think a lot about about digital versus traditional art when I paint text…this takes a digital artist 2 seconds with minimal effort if they just type out a pre-made font but when you really need to do it from scratch it takes quite a lot of doing! I saw an Albrecht Durer masterpiece in Germany and felt a little better when I could see a faint haze around part of his lettering that made me realize that even genius masters like him were human and fallible when doing text on their paintings.


Memento Mori WIP 04-15-2012

Memento Mori WIP 04-15-2012



Memento Mori (update 2)

February 26, 2012

Although I haven’t been posting on here much lately, I have been doing a lot of art, especially sketching figures and learning stuff from a bunch of books that I’ve purchased over the past couple years. I’ll probably write about my favorite books later, but for now I just wanted to post an update for my memento mori painting. It’s looking like I’m going to have a bunch of pieces coming up with this theme, actually.

So here’s where I am at with this one:

Memento Mori work in progress Feb 25, 2012

Memento Mori work in progress Feb 25, 2012

I wasn’t happy with the diagrams of skulls I could find and so I ended up ordering a fairly realistic skull model. It’s made of plastic and is surprisingly heavy. I did a charcoal drawing of it and altered my painting a bit based on that. I’ll probably do another large skull study later and make it more accurate and realistic-looking.

Here’s the model skull I bought:


New server

January 24, 2012

OK, I just moved this to a new server so if you notice anything broken please let me know by leaving a comment ๐Ÿ™‚

– Airn

Memento Mori – work in progress

October 17, 2011

I just got back from a 3 week European vacation a week ago and I saw a ton of insane art over there that had me riled up to paint and draw and stuff. Then to top things off I spent a long time looking at which has SO many crazy works of art. The stained glass on the first page is one of the craziest things I have ever seen, especially given it’s age and the medium! Then after looking at a couple of Hans Memling’s pieces I instantly really wanted to do a skull in an alcove Memento Mori / Vanitas sort of thing. I’ve actually never painted a skull so that’s one reason I wanted to do it. I was also thinking it would be relatively easy and I think I could do a pretty good job on it, especially if I do it in monochrome. So I spent a few hours over a couple days planning and drawing directly onto an 11 x 14 inch wood panel and then started painting today. I spent about 2 1/2 hours today on this and am super excited about it.

I actually realized recently that it’s been about 6 months since I’ve painted! Yipes, that’s not how one gets better. I did do some drawing over the past months and I need more work on my drawing skills at this point anyway. In any case, I’m very excited about this project and have really been enjoying working on it, which wasn’t the case for a few recent projects ๐Ÿ™‚

Oh the cherub at the top is grey because the pencil didn’t get locked in very well with my base coat of acrylic which was supposed to wash away the pencil too and prevent it from muddying up the oil paint, oh well. Later it should get covered by the raw umber I am using so it fits with the rest of the painting. That cherub was inspired by something I saw in Venice…I wanted to give a little glimmer of hope to the painting.

A Country Girl near the Dream City

October 14, 2011

Update: I revised this painting later, new version is here.ย 

OK, I finished this a while ago but didn’t post it partly cuz I have been planning for a big Europe trip which I just came back from. I got to see lots of amazing art and scenery and stuff and am now fully inspired and ready to start on some new projects ๐Ÿ™‚

I wanted this one to be a fairly quick project and I succeeded in that respect, this took me only about 12 hours to paint – that’s very short for me. It’s 11 x 14 inches, oil on canvas. I call it “A Country girl near the Dream City”:

A Country Girl near the Dream City

A Country Girl near the Dream City

A main goal was to use some atmospheric perspective in the landscape background and to use canvas instead of wood panel to try to get a nice soft feel, especially in the background. I am really happy with the way the landscape turned out and also had fun with the hair, which I did a bit differently this time. Some influences on this one were Tamara de Lempicka, Albrecht Dรผrer, and Leonardo da Vinci.

I used cobalt blue in the sky, landscape, and clothing. The landscape is mostly yellow ochre and other yellows plus cobalt blue.

I’m not sure how long I spent on the drawing and planning but I started painting onย  March 2, 2011 and was done on April 3. I had a show I wanted this to be in so I didn’t putz around – it’s funny how much faster and smarter I work when I have a deadline. Looking back over my notes I had a good time painting this and it went very smoothly with minimal frustration – very nice after a couple recent projects that I kept changing over and over.

Here is the drawing:

Country Girl drawing

Country Girl drawing


After I completed the drawing I xeroxed it in order to preserve the original and rubbed graphite on the back of the copy. I then taped it to the canvas and went over it with a ballpoint pen to transfer the lines onto the canvas. I then went over those faint lines with a fine sepia sharpie and put a thin wash of transparent olive-green (black combined with yellow) acrylic to wash away the graphite and lock everything into place. I then painted everything directly with oils, no glazing or monochromatic underpainting on this one.


Transferring the drawing to canvas

Transferring the drawing to canvas