How to Finish a Custom Art Piece (or any art for that matter)

Last week I posted about a custom art portrait I have been working on for my neighbor. It is a group portrait and has it ever been challenging! It is like painting three separate paintings rather than just one painting. What I didn’t share in last week’s post was how difficult it has been to finish this project, which I feel has been dragging. Although the project started out to be deceptively simple, with the colors and the drawing coming together in a few days, once I got to the smaller version of the painting, the trouble began.

I discovered that working small on a 5 x 7 canvas was extremely challenging. I am used to working on medium sized canvases of about a 9 x 12 size and using large brushes, either a one inch flat or a 2 inch bright. For this project, I have had to use tiny brushes and it has made it take all the longer to complete. Also, working in acrylic rather than oil has been really difficult because the paint keeps drying faster than I would like and I have to keep squeezing out more of it and spritzing it with water or adding slow dry medium to the paint.  When the paint dries too fast, I get really hard edges which aren’t good. I’m worried that this project might fall into the realm of being overworked if I am not careful, but I want both the client and myself to be happy. So far, neither of us are. I’ve set a deadline for myself and I hope that works! Yesterday I painted out the middle person’s face in frustration because the proportions were off and the paint values seemed to have been too dark. So I am starting from scratch with the middle figure’s face. I re-measured the head and drew a new oval and repainted the whole in flesh tone.

In an effort to finish this painting by the deadline, I have been scheduling in time to work on it every week, and have been taking pictures of it after each painting session to make sure that it is really progressing and not just getting overworked.  When will I know if the painting is really completed? I looked up an article on ThoughtCo. to try and get some more perspective on this subject. According to the author, Marion Boddy-Evans, the answer to when a painting is done is as individual as each artist who completes the work, based on their individual skills, and their vision for the work. Source: Boddy-Evans, M. (2017). How Long Should it Take to Finish a Painting?ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/duration-to-finish-a-painting-2578835. For me, it will be a difficult tightrope between not finishing it and over working it. Diane Custom Art Tanya face painted out

Custom Art Portrait, in Progress

This week I have been working on a custom art portrait for my neighbor. These photos represent stages 1 and 2 of the custom art process. The first stage is stage 1, the three value pencil sketch, and stage 2, the color sketch. The first stage helps to define the lights and darks of the piece and the composition. And the second stage is a chance to explore different color schemes for the final portrait. If you are interested in ordering a custom portrait of your family member, celebrity or pet, email me at

jsjschmidt2@gmail.com or visit my Etsy site: http://www.etsy.com/shop/ArtofSchmidt to learn more about the process.

Master Copy Tutorial: Girl with a Pearl Earring

Last week I talked about the importance of copying the work of the old masters and this week I am going to give you a step by step tutorial about how to get started. I have several master copies in the works, but I am choosing to focus on Vermeer’s well-known work, Girl with a Pearl Earring, circa 1656, according to Maritshuis, 2014. If you wish to read more about this painting, you may visit the following link: Details: Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665, Mauritshuis. Retrieved on 9 December 2014. This citation is from an article about Vermeer’s painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, which I found on Wikipedia. The original painting was painted in oils on canvas, but to save drying time, I used acrylic paints.

Step One: Make a Grid from a Photocopy of a Master Copy

My first step in creating a master copy of Vermeer’s, Girl with a Pearl Earring, was to locate a good print copy which I could use to create a grid for the initial sketch. Creating a grid helped me to make sure the proportions of the head were proportionate to the copied image. I photocopied an image of Vermeer’s painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring, from the book, Vermeer, by Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. After I made the copy, I created a grid, measuring one inch from the horizontal and vertical edges of the printed copy with a ruler. After I measured out the markers for the grid, I drew vertical lines to create the vertical axis. Then I drew horizontal lines for the horizontal axis.  Each box on the horizontal lines of the grid should be numbered starting with 1, and the vertical boxes should be labeled A, B, C, etc. After that, I created an exact duplicate of this grid on a clean sheet of sketch paper. Note: it is very important to ensure that you have the exact amount of boxes on both the vertical and horizontal axes on your grid copy as the one from the original, or the proportions may be incorrect. Also, be sure that when you draw vertical and parallel lines that your ruler is perpendicular to the picture plane and doesn’t shift, or it make affect the measurements of the one-inch boxes.

Step Two: Create a Duplicate Grid and Transfer it to Canvas with Carbon Paper

Next, I located my first set of coordinates on the vertical and horizontal axes, on my grid copy to start drawing in the edge shape of the portrait, i.e. A1. The artist, Thaneeya McArdle, gives an excellent description of this process with detailed visuals of the grid method at https://www.art-is-fun.com/grid-method/?rq=draw%20a%20grid. To complete the portrait, I moved on the next grid coordinate, and so on. My next step was to trace the completed grid sketch onto a clean sheet of sketch paper, using my window as a light box. I taped the original sketch to the window with masking tape, then taped a clean sheet of paper on top of the original. Then I traced the image to the cover sheet. The traced image was then transferred with a pen to canvas paper, using carbon paper, with the dark side taped face down.

Step Three: Paint a three value underpainting in Acrylics

Are you still with me? I know it sounds like a lot of steps…Don’t worry I am including some photos of this process to help jog your memory. So now we move on to the fun part, the painting itself. To break down the light and dark values, I consulted a well-used book from my art library, The Complete Oil Painter, by Brian Gorst, which gives a detailed demonstration about how to paint a monotone underpainting. I mixed up three values from darkest to lightest with Liquitex Acrylic paints and a palette knife using Burnt Umber, Titanium White, and Ivory Black. The darkest value was applied to the background, while the middle and lighter values were painted on the figure. Intermittently I sprayed the palette and the canvas with water from a spray bottle to keep the paints wet so they wouldn’t dry up, especially while I was mixing them. I also stepped back every so often to view the painting from a distance and be sure that the drawing in my painting was accurate, and made corrections as needed. These values will give me a roadmap of where to put light and dark values when I get into the color portion of the painting. They help to simplify the lights and darks without the difficulty of color matching. Next week, I will paint a “limited color lay in” with the local color

Meisje_met_de_parel
Photo copy, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer ca. 1656
Vermeer copy with grid
Photo copy, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Vermeer ca. 1656, with grid 
Vermeer paper copy with grid
Copy of Grid with pencil on sketch paper 

 

Vermeer Copy Light Box
Traced image of grid using window as light box

 

carbon paper trace 1
Carbon Paper used to trace image to canvas

 

Carbon Paper tracing, complete
Carbon paper tracing completed

 

Jodie Schmidt after Vermeer three value
Three Value Underpainting in Acrylic 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do What You Love, and Make it a Habit

I started this blog late this week for a variety of reasons. One of which was that I wasn’t sure what to write about this week and how to connect that theme to last week’s theme. In the meantime, I have been taking my own advice from last week and doing what I love to do most, which for me is to draw and paint portraits. This week I have been working on a mixed media portrait of Emily Dickinson, to illustrate her poem, Hope is the Thing with Feathers. Here are a few lines to give you an idea of what this poem is about:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm – (Source: Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/42889.
The two main themes of this poem are the personification of hope ( as a bird), which lives in the soul and a metaphor for life challenges, which is the storm  (Source:http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/dickinson/section2.rhtml . In my portrait, I painted a stormy sky with a rainbow shining through the break in the clouds. The former symbolized hardships, while the later symbolizes hope. Other symbols of hope I included in this portrait are the soaring doves in the upper left clouds, and the author herself, Emily Dickinson, who has written about what it means to hope. I am planning to submit this painting to a juried art show at the Crestwood Women’s Center this April. If all turns out well, I will post about the opening night and art exhibition details.
Okay, so back to my main statement of Do What you Love…It sounds good, right? Kind of like the phrase, Follow Your Bliss. Let’s say you really enjoy, cooking every day, but want to get better, or you enjoy painting, but find it difficult to make time to finish your artwork. And lastly, how do you maintain the motivation to do that thing you love most in the world to do? I got curious and started doing some research about how to be a better artist, and that led me to an article by artist, Noah Bradley. The article is called:   21 Days to be a Better Artist (even if you’re terrible), by Noah Bradley and is available on https://medium.com/@noahbradley/21-days-to-be-a-better-artist-48087576f0dd#.fj77c5nel.
According to the artist, Noah Bradley (2015), if you want to get better at something you have to practice it on a daily basis (Source:https://medium.com/@noahbradley/21-days-to-be-a-better-artist-48087576f0dd#.fj77c5nel.)  Bradley (2015) recommends that if you want to get better at drawing that you should draw 1 hour for 21 days with no excuses, (ibid). And finally, he references a Ted Talks youtube video that explains the power of habit, which is based on “cue, behavior, and reward” (ibid) and  (The Power of Habit: Charles  Duhigg at TEDx Teachers College, http://www.youtube.com). Charles Duhigg, an author and Pulitzer prize winner, states that a cue is anything that makes you ready to start the behavior, while the behavior is the habit you engage in, and the reward is any action that you take after you complete the behavior which reinforces the habit (Source: ibid). For me, to start off my day of painting or drawing, I will play my favorite music by Coldplay or listen to a book on cd on youtube, set up my art supplies and set up the coffee maker to brew. Then I set my timer for 30 minutes and get to work setting up my supplies, photo references and start painting. When the timer goes off, I do something relaxing like reading a book to reward myself and reinforce the habit. Most important, I pencil in studio days on my calendar and try to do artwork before all the other to-dos on my list compete for my attention. So here’s my challenge, I want to start working in my sketchbook on a daily basis for 20 minutes, 5 days a week to get better at drawing. I will be posting the results on my Instagram account and on Facebook if you want to view them, and of course, here on the website. If you want to learn more about Duhigg’s Power of Habit speech

, you may watch his presentation on youtube by conducting a search on the power of habit, or you may look up the book, The Power of Habit your local public library or on Amazon. For this week, I am posting my progress photos of the mixed media portrait, Hope is the Thing with Feathers, featuring Emily Dickinson.