Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lion #1 (Painting In-Progress)

Hello, from Sydney on a Thursday morning.  Yesterday's drizzle has cleared and there is a partly cloudy day in its place.  Not overly warm (about 16 C now), but pleasant enough with a light jacket and a silk scarf.  Good light in the studio for a bit of painting on my current piece of work, before the next "shift of meetings" for the day (I have done one early shift already, a big-yikes! 445AM wake up for a first call at 5 and already now half a day's work done).

Some of you have asked me to post some here is what I am working on this week and it is very much in-progress at this point !  The first of two verdigris lion statue paintings.  The two lion statue paintings will be of different lions, I have collected a number of photographs of verdigris lion statues along my travels in past years.  Not least because my eldest daughter Karen has an affinity for them (she is a Leo lady, so lions are a personal mascot and favorite of hers).  As I mined my photo library, I found two verdigris lions that were suitable for painting subjects with good detail and colors and a composition or pose I liked.

The first lion lives in front of the Art Institute in Chicago, an outstanding museum to include on your next visit to that lovely city (a very impressive permanent collection, great visiting exhibits are well presented).  But back to the lion.  I did a bit of work on the photo get the right background I wanted and I had it printed.  I can print myself, but I prefer to use a photo printing shop, as their printers and papers are better quality.  As I just get a 4" x 6" print, it is not expensive to do this.  

Then I sketched the lion and his background onto a large canvas (90 x 120 cm, or 36 x 48 inches).  I use willow charcoal for my sketches and an old scrap of a flour sack cloth as an eraser (remarkably effective and easy to softly erase the charcoal marks).  When I am happy enough with the sketch, I use fixative to lock it in place, so it doesn't smudge or mix into the paint of my initial underpainting.  The sketch does not have to be perfect, because I will also work visually from my reference subject (photo).  But the sketch gives me some important inputs that are used as boundaries and to navigate my way.  This is especially helpful for large paintings or complicated compositions.

Then I did a first underpainting, working quickly with a large brush.  Quickly is a relative term, as I spent several hours on both the sketch, then the initial underpainting.  I am working in acrylics and my first paint mixes a bit soupy with gloss medium and also water that is in and on the brush.  This creates drips and spills, some of which I may keep and leave in place, others will get painted over with more paint.  I want to capture the drama and strength of the lion in the first session and I was happy with that part, his personality came to life on the canvas quite well and early on.   I eventually had to stop painting, because it got too dark.  I have lights in the studio, but they are not good enough for seeing detail I was working at the time. Sometimes my initial underpainting is in black and white (and shades of grey), but this time I worked in color for it, because the overall palette is not super varied (verdigris tones, shadowy darks, and stone and dark shadows for the backdrop).

The next day on the (this past Sunday), I worked on the Lion again, making a number of corrections to his features and adding a lot of detail to the shadows, especially in his mane around face and in front of his chest.  His left leg (lion's left !) had been a bit puny looking, so I redid it to be better proportioned and liked it a lot better.  I also did a lot of color and contrast work, to further develop the shadows and also the highlights, helping "sculpt" the dimension and shape of the lion.  I used Pthalo green with white as my base verdigris color with some accents for the verdigris that have a more yellowy green mixed in.  The shadows are predominantly achieved with Payne's grey (which has a lot of blue in it) and also raw umber.  The photo right shows the state of Lion #1 at end of painting session 2.

This lion almost jumps off the canvas !  He is truly larger than life looking. But he is not done.  I have more corrections to make, especially on his facial features and the shadows under his jowly jutting chin.  More shadows also to put into his mane and body fur.  Stay tuned for more posts soon showing how he develops in this painting.  Bye now !


  1. Kim:
    Nice work! Keep it up, and thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Steve :) Nice to get feedback and stay tuned for this lion as he develops...