Archive for the ‘portrait’ Category

Brother Cadfael painting completed

September 27, 2009

I finished my oil painting portrait of Brother Cadfael. This is based on the excellent show starring Sir Derek Jacobi…it’s a favorite of mine. I started this painting in late March of this year and spent about 24 hours on it over 6 months (including the initial sketch).

To see all 3 posts about this painting, search for ‘cadfael’ then click a post.

Here are photos of the painting both framed and unframed:

Brother Cadfael by Airn LeBus, 8x10 inches, oil on panel, 2009.

Brother Cadfael by Airn LeBus, 8x10 inches, oil on panel, 2009.

Brother Cadfael by Airn LeBus, 8x10 inches, oil on panel, 2009.

Brother Cadfael by Airn LeBus, 8x10 inches, oil on panel, 2009.

I used my current standard technique of making a photocopy of my original drawing so that it will stay intact when I transfer it onto the panel or canvas. I then transferred it by rubbing the back of the photocopy with soft 4B pencil and tracing over it with a pen onto the panel. I then used a fine sharpie over that (on the panel). I put a transparent imprimatura over it to seal it, wash away the pencil, and give some interesting brushstrokes in the background which may show through a bit later.

Next I painted the face as a “dead layer” with just raw umber and white, over many sessions. Once I was mostly satisfied with that I started glazing transparent color over the face. I also added more opaque parts and highlights, and fixed a few things with the features…although they are still a bit off, I settled with the look of it. The hair and robe/cowl were more directly painted but still with some glazing.

Regrettably, I didn’t plan the inscription outΒ  properly so it took a while to figure out how to arrange it, what to put, and to actually paint it.Β  It took a few sessions…I used paintings by Albrecht Durer and Hans Holbein the Younger as inspirations for the inscription look and feel. I wrote Cadfael’s full name, “Cadfael ap [son of] Meilyr ap Dafydd” and my little symbol of a cross, eye, crown, and initials ARL. I find that painting text, especially when there is no initial drawing or guide, to be quite difficult…but I enjoy the challenge. Compared to plopping on some text in Photoshop on some digital art, it’s like the contrast between walking into a store and buying a shirt vs. cutting the cloth, designing, and sewing one yourself πŸ™‚

I put it in a dark , sturdy, and somewhat simple frame which fits well with the Benedictine nature of Cadfael. I also had played with having his gaze pointed at the viewer but it seemed to fit him better to have him looking off to the side. Pretty happy with this one…overall the mood and look are what I was going for.

The White Hat – after Jean-Baptiste Greuze, work in progress

August 19, 2009
Although I haven’t been posting much lately I am indeed still working on stuff…most of it is not ready to be shown to the public yet though. I have been doing a lot of drawings and stuff, especially figures and faces.
Here is another master study that I drew a while ago and finally transferred to canvas and started painting. Click for a bigger version, it’s easier to see once it’s bigger. You can see the pen drawing on canvas with the first imprimatura paint layer. I have also started to paint in the background and the oval ‘frame’ around the portrait.
The White Hat, after Jean-Baptiste Greuze - work in progress

The White Hat, after Jean-Baptiste Greuze - work in progress

This is 16×20 inches and is oil on canvas. It’s based on a painting usually referred to as The White Hat by Jean-Baptiste Greuze, originally painted in 1780.

Brother Cadfael (Sir Derek Jacobi) – work in progress 2

July 11, 2009

I think I’m almost done with this one. I have been glazing and painting direct color over the raw umber dead layer underpainting. Here’s a detail shot of it:

Brother Cadfael WIP 2

Brother Cadfael WIP 2

This is oil on wood panel, 8×10 inches.

Here’s the earlier version: Brother Cadfael work in progress 1

Alice Pleasance Liddell miniature portrait painting

July 1, 2009

I’m including this miniature painting in the Alice in Wonkaland show. Alice Liddell was the real life inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This is based on a photo by Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll. It’s 2 x 2.75 inches, acrylic on wood panel, 2009. I put it in a little frame and painted on it “Alice Pleasance Liddell 1852-1934”.

Miniature painting of Alice Pleasance Liddell by Airn LeBus, aft

Miniature painting of Alice Pleasance Liddell by Airn LeBus

See the Alice in Wonderland category for my other related stuff including a larger picnic scene with another Alice.

This is my first acrylic painting in more than a year, I normally paint with oils but I had limited time on this one since it was for a show and I used up all my time in the first attempt, which was oil. I abandoned that first attempt and redid the whole thing. This acrylic one took about 4-6 hours over about a week, in maybe 5 sessions. It’s the smallest painting I have tried and it was really fun! To give idea of size, one eye is about the size of half a rice grain. I will be doing some additional miniatures in the next few months, probably in oil though.

I did seven small drawings of this same thing, but really the second drawing was the best-looking, although kind of cartoony:


Alice Liddell drawing

I used a different drawing for the first version of the painting. I might post that painting later since I am changing it. I spent a TON of time on that first painting, which was in oil, and kept having problems with features being misaligned, etc etc etc. I kept making big changes to it and I think it was mostly because the original sketch (again, not shown here) was not correct. I redrew the whole thing a few times until I thought it was right and used that for the basis of the acrylic painting above.

If you want to learn more about Alice Liddell, Charles Dodgson, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, I would really recommend a cool book which I just discovered called The Other Alice. I bought it used on Amazon but it seems readily available wherever. It’s kind of both a kid’s and adult’s book and is chock full of illustrations.

Petrus Christus study completed – Portrait of a Young Lady

June 18, 2009

I finished my Petrus Christus master study. This painting is usually referred to as “Portrait of a Young Lady” or “Portrait of a Girl”, etc. His version was painted c. 1470.

Here’s my version, completed and in a nice frame. Portrait of a Young Lady, Airn LeBus after Petrus Christus, 11×14 inches, oil on panel, 2009:

Portrait of a Young Lady

Portrait of a Young Lady, Airn LeBus after Petrus Christus, 11x14 inches, oil on panel, 2009.

My version differs from the original in many ways, mostly on purpose with a couple things unintentional πŸ™‚

Here’s the original: Petrus painting at wikimedia

I wasn’t looking to copy the original painting exactly and did my own thing on stuff like the background, eyes, highlights, and overall tone. Also, because the original is very cracked and small I had difficulty seeing how some parts looked. The necklace and decorative metalwork of the hennin hat look a lot different than his.

Petrus Christus study - detail

Petrus Christus study - detail

I painted this with oil on panel, and used a “dead layer” underpainting in raw umber first for the face and body. After I was satisfied with the way it looked, I started glazing flesh tones over the dead layer, very thin, with bleached linseed oil and just a small amount of paint.

The main colors I used in this painting were mars black, raw umber, burnt sienna and burnt umber, vermilion (hue), yellow ochre, and titanium white.

I wanted to do the text inscription after looking at some paintings by Albrecht DΓΌrer and Hans Holbein the Younger. That part on my painting was pretty painstaking to execute and plan; it was the most complicated text I have painted so far. I did it over 4 or 5 sessions, getting the overall lettering correct first and letting it dry before embellishing it, and putting the raw umber drop shadows last when the rest was dry to avoid smearing what I had already done. I lightly oiled out the area each time before starting a new session.

Here’s a photo without the frame, you can see the detail of the inscription and stuff better:

Petrus Christus study without the frame

Petrus Christus study without the frame

One of my favorite things about this painting is that her gaze really follows you around the room. Anywhere you are, if you glance towards the painting she is looking right at you. It’s a little creepy πŸ™‚

I spent about 45 hours painting this. The drawing took an additional 6 hours or so. A lot of the painting time was spent painting and repainting the metalwork and trying to figure out how to do that and the necklace. I spent at least 3 times longer on the necklace and maybe 6 times longer on the hat metalwork than I would have if I had known exactly how to proceed. So as always, this was a learning process…that was one of the primary reasons I did this painting in the first place, so I guess it worked out πŸ™‚

I have two other posts about this painting, to see them look at the master study category.

Petrus Christus, Cleopatra, and Medusa

June 18, 2009

My framed Petrus Christus study next to my Cleopatra drawing (after Michelangelo). The cool Medusa statue was purchased at Michael’s craft store last Halloween πŸ™‚

Petrus Christus study, Cleopatra, and Medusa

Petrus Christus study, Cleopatra, and Medusa

Graveyard Girl from the Dream City completed

June 9, 2009

I just finished this painting, which I started in late November 2008. It’s called Graveyard Girl from the Dream City and is 11×14 inches, oil on panel. It’s a kind of surreal portrait of an imaginary girl in ornate finery standing in front of a tombstone-strewn night landscape with a dream city background.

For all posts about this painting, see the dream city category. I have a lot more info about this project in the earlier posts.

Graveyard Girl from the Dream City by Airn LeBus. Oil on panel, 11x14 inches, 2009.

Graveyard Girl from the Dream City by Airn LeBus. Oil on panel, 11x14 inches, 2009.

I’m pretty happy with how this turned out, it has a kind of shining dark clarity which I think is unique. Painting on panel and leaving a lot of hard edges yielded a crispness which contrasts with the surreal nature of the painting. It took “too long”, but I learned a lot. A lot of time was spent on the face fixing some issues, and a lot on the clothing which I had not planned out properly and which I changed halfway through. So like many of my paintings, much time was spent re-doing stuff or experimenting / figuring things out. I think painting on panel is more difficult for me than canvas, but I can’t glaze in the same way on canvas so I have been using panel when I am going for harder edges and lots of glazing.

Total time spent on this: about 40 hours painting and 14 hours drawing and planning.

Graveyard Girl from the Dream City (detail)

Graveyard Girl from the Dream City (detail)

On the clothing, I suffered from lack of reference material and the small size of the details. I wanted to do some gold embroidery like in the Ghent Altarpiece but after trying it for a few hours / sessions, I ended up painting over it and adopting a simpler approach. The gems in the middle ended up looking cool but part of the effect was accidental — I wiped off some paint and removed some lower layers by mistake. It made a kind of glow-effect that I kept and built on.

I like the final glazed-over face, even though I initially painted a dead layer that was too dark and it took me many careful sessions to lighten it. I left some parts “too dark” since she looks kind of corpse-like and it fits with the graveyard scene. I’m not quite sure if she is undead, or a ghost, or what. Her eyes follow you around the room though, so that must mean she is still alive πŸ™‚

I glazed vermillion (hue) and yellow ochre over the raw umber dead layer underpainting to get the flesh tone. I also put more opaque white/yellow/vermillion for highlights and to lighten up the underpainting.

Graveyard Girl from the Dream City (background detail)

Graveyard Girl from the Dream City (background detail)

Once I finished this, I didn’t using retouching varnish. Varnish in general can really unify and deepen a painting and just overall make it look way better, but you can’t use a final varnish on an oil painting until it is truly dry; a general rule of thumb seems to be a year. You can put retouching varnish on when it is only touch-dry though, like maybe a week or two after your painting is done. I used to do that with all my paintings but a few of them are still sticky months later so I am going to stop using it. This one would be at major risk for the same thing, since many parts are thick with many fairly oily layers so I am already concerned about drying times.

Switching to mars black has helped, since it dries much faster than ivory black which I was using before. I also started ‘oiling out’ much more lightly after parts were sticky for many days due to too much oil in the oiling out and glazing process. Dust is also a major concern when the painting is sticky like that. Now I very lightly apply oil with my fingers and wipe as much off as possible, again with fingers or very gently putting a paper towel against the painting and running a finger over it to get the excess oil up. Even after a week of drying, rubbing a paper towel over the oiled-out painting seems to remove paint. I usually try to paint very thinly so depending on the color used and oil amount, a week is usually enough time for me to oil out and do another session. I use bleached linseed oil which I understand dries faster than normal linseed and also yellows less.

Who knows about all this stuff though, because scouring the web or books gives conflicting info, and there are so many different combinations of technique and materials which can yield different results. I just read books and search on the web, take everything I read with a grain of salt, and try stuff and if it seems to work I keep doing it.

Petrus Christus study (Portrait of a Young Lady) – update 2

May 26, 2009

Although this is only my second blog post on this painting, I have been working on it for months and spending a good deal of time on it. I’m almost done…I hope to finish in a couple more sessions. Here’s my version of this Petrus Christus painting, generally referred to as “Portrait of a Young Lady” or similar:

Portrait of a Young Lady work in progress

Portrait of a Young Lady study - work in progress

The accursed decorative silver metalwork around the hat is the main thing I need to finish…it’s really caused me a lot of bother. I would have been done with this painting weeks ago but I keep “fixing” that part, I have painted over it several times now. I’ll write about it more when I post the final version, hopefully sooner rather than later! πŸ™‚

*Update: For the completed painting see:

Brother Cadfael (Sir Derek Jacobi) – work in progress

May 24, 2009

I’m usually working on 3 or 4 paintings at a time…here’s another one I started recently, a portrait of Brother Cadfael as played by Sir Derek Jacobi.

Brother Cadfael painting work in progress 05-26-09

Brother Cadfael painting work in progress 05-26-09

It’s oil on panel, 8×10 inches. I am using a raw umber dead layer underpainting on this one, which I will glaze over later with color. At first it progressed really rapidly, but I keep altering the mouth; it’s been really tough to get it right! This should be a relatively quick painting though, since once underpainting is done I won’t have too much farther to go and there is no complex stuff like the metalwork on the pesky Petrus Christs study I am doing, which is driving me crazy.

I love the Cadfael series, and murder mysteries in general…I plan on doing a few other portraits of famous sleuths, including Nero Wolfe (Maury Chaykin) and maybe Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett).

Update 07-11-09 – Here’s a much more recent version: Brother Cadfael – Sir Derek Jacobi work-in-progress 2

My version of Bouguereau’s ‘A Calling’ aka ‘Une Vocation’

April 8, 2009
As I posted previously I’m doing some master studies to learn stuff. I finished my version of Bouguereau’s painting “A Calling” (“Une Vocation” is the original French title). FYI there are two paintings by him with that name.
Here’s my completed painting, based on the original by Bouguereau:
"A Calling", Airn LeBus (after Bouguereau), 11x14 inches, oil on canvas, 2009

'A Calling', Airn LeBus (after Bouguereau), 11x14 inches, oil on canvas, 2009

I started this in early February 2009 and completed it in early April.

I spent about 4 hours drawing it with pencil on paper in the same size I would paint, 11×14 inches. The hands were the toughest part and took several sessions to get correct.

I transferred the drawing to the canvas with graphite paper. I then went over it in sepia ink with a Sharpie and put a thin imprimatura olive-greenish wash over everything (turpentine, bleached linseed oil, ivory black+yellow ochre).

Once that was dry I started the painting, using a direct technique (no monochromatic underpainting with subsequent color glazing). I mostly used bristle brushes and oil straight out of the tube with no medium.

My palette was the following (with some exceptions like the blue pencil):

  • burnt and raw umber
  • mars black
  • titanium white
  • yellow ochre
  • burnt sienna
  • vermillion (hue)

I saw early on that the painting was turning out a lot different from the original tone-wise…the contrast was much less dramatic. I still liked the way my painting was looking though so I decided to keep my version as it was turning out and didn’t try to alter my version to look more like Bouguereau’s.

The original is about 22×18 inches according to, and mine is 11×14 inches. Overall my version is less detailed than his, which was due to the smaller nature of my painting, my current skill level, and the amount of time I was willing to spend on this. Overall I am happy with it, especially the hands, since this is the first time I have painted hands πŸ™‚

The painting work on this took me about 19 hours. I spent the most time painting the eye area of the face, the hands, and the clothing.

Now I need to finish my Petrus Christus study πŸ™‚