Sunday, August 19, 2012


Man, this one fairly FLEW out of my eBay store! I listed it last night and this morning it was outta there! Except for the time someone bought one of my works-in-progress while it was still on the easel, this is a new personal record. (That one was a dog painting, too, the first in my Napscape series) I’m very excited and grateful! 


Ensconced III: Buster  © 2012 Karen Mathison Schmidt, artist
6 x 6 inches • acrylic on archival, museum-quality GessobordTM

private collection • Elk Grove Village, Illinois

And, as promised, here are the work-in-progress photos. (Just a technical note: when working with acrylics, an indispensable tool is a small spray bottle of water, with a misting spray setting, and I spritz my palette once every few minutes or so. Not enough to water them down, but just enough to keep them nice and buttery. My palette for this painting: Mars black, dioxanine purple, Prussian blue, King’s blue deep, phthalo blue, emerald green extra, Hooker’s green, cadmium yellow light, cadmium orange, naphthol red, quinacrodone fuchsia, yellow ochre light, yellow ochre, raw umber, burnt umber, and titanium white.)

First, the sketch in black acrylic and washes. Very watercolor-y.

Next, I chose phthalo blue and Prussian blue for the underpainting glazes. For the glazes I use Liquitex gloss medium, or sometimes matte medium, mixed with my acrylics. I used burnt umber for the underpainting of Buster’s golden brown eyes.

After the underpainting was dry (less than the time it took to go and refresh my coffee ... love those fast-drying acrylics!), I started with Buster’s eyes as usual. I’ve said it before that when I’m painting a pet or a person I love starting with the eyes because that brings the painting to life right away ... just my personal preference. And assuming that your subject is awake and not napping, as in about half my pet portraits!

Continuing with the face, using warm and cool colors as well as lightness or darkness of hues, to define form with shadows and highlights, keeping the brushstrokes nice and loose. Sometimes adding just one or two strokes of a color before washing and reloading with a different color. It doesn’t take as long as you would think once you get a rhythm going.

Even though I’m developing a rhythm of checking my reference and adding paint, I try to constantly be aware of the serendipity of my process. In other words, when when you notice that something looks really cool, even though it may not be exactly technically photographically correct, LEAVE IT ALONE! (remember, you can always change it later if you want, but once you paint over those striking hues of the underpainting, it’s hard to get that vividness back.) For example, at this point I really liked the way the vivid blue underpainting was showing through on his ears and in little points all over where my colors weren’t quite touching, so I left it that way. Creativity and perfectionism hardly ever go walking hand in hand. (God may be the only exception to this rule.)

Here I left messing around with Buster and started adding some of the surrounding colors and textures, like the red blanket peeking out from under the lighter-colored fringed edge of the throw.

One of the hardent things about acrylics is the fast drying time, but it’s also one of the best things. It makes it easier to add little dots and dabs of color on top of one another to create texture, as you can see with the part of the woven throw in the top left corner of the painting, in this picture and the one below. I was careful not to overdo the layering, though. keeping it loose with a good amount of the underpainting showing through helped to keep that loose-woven look of the fabric.

During this stage, I was going back and forth between the background fabrics and Buster himself, making some of his highlights lighter, and generally adding more dimensions of color, always keeping it loose, being careful not to over-finish.

Here in the final picture, you can see that I continued with the dots and dabs of color on the throw, and added color to the multicolor strands making up the fringe. I also lightened up the throw right behind the top of Buster’s head, and added a few little dabs of soft highlights and points of color in the shadowy area just to the left of his head in the painting (just beside his right ear). 


Elizabeth McCrindle said...

Big yahoo to you was a lovely one knew it wouldn't take long to fly :)

Sonya Batten said...

Hello, i have just finished reading Acrylic Secrets by Gill Barron and saw your paintings in the book. I was immediately drawn to your style of painting and found you here!
Thankyou so much for sharing how you paint, i have found it very useful. Beautiful wonder they are flying out the door.