Petrus Christus study completed – Portrait of a Young Lady

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 :)

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 Dürer 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 :)

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 :)

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

Petrus Christus, Cleopatra, and Medusa

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 :)

Petrus Christus study, Cleopatra, and Medusa

Petrus Christus study, Cleopatra, and Medusa

Graveyard Girl from the Dream City completed

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 :)

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.

Wot I am working on right now

Many of my current interests are strewn around my computer so I took a snapshot to show wot I am working on besides my 2 Alice paintings and a Falero study which are not pictured. I have been drawing every day from this Andrew Loomis book “Figure Drawing For All It’s Worth” which is really awesome. I have also started a study of Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s “The White Hat”. Anyway see the picture, I even labeled the sections…you can tell I have too much time on my hands :)

wot i am workin on

wot i am workin on

Oh, FYI those paintings are all on wood panel and are drying face-down leaning on this plastic thing, I guess I should have turned them around for this picture…anyway you can see them in previous and upcoming posts. I am going to post the finished Petrus Christus study and Graveyard Girl painting in a few days.

Alice in Wonderland oil painting – update 3

Here’s where I’m at on my Alice in Wonderland painting. I am happy with how it’s turning out…it’s going quickly too, which is refreshing. Every painting session so far has been really enjoyable and “productive”, without a lot of repainting stuff and frustration like many of my other paintings :)

Alice in Wonderland painting work in progress.

Alice in Wonderland painting work in progress.

Since I have a deadline on this one I am making sure to paint every couple of days, I’ll be done with it in a couple weeks max.

Update:  this painting is done. To see the finished one and other Alice stuff, look at the Alice in Wonderland category.