Demo of Walking Boots

Philip Howe Fine Art
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Fine Art - Figures,Portraits, Other Subjects
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 This 'still-life' took about 4 days, with some drying days in between, but the actual working time was less than two days worth because of the simplicity of the subject. Again, I set up a simple pair of boots against a simple background, dark against light, and kept the color minimal. So I have a pretty good shot at making this work. If I added a lot of fluff, like more flowers here and there, it would loose something, I believe, and it's taken me many years to see how these simple compositions can be much more interesting. Now, if I can just simplify my spiritual pieces..... I am working on it!

Blue wash over dried brown wash over pencil

 Over a dried wash of raw sienna, I flooded this 30" wide canvas with blue color and worked quickly before the medium set up. I know blue will take a long time to dry so the medium not only speeds up the drying time quite a bit, but allows me a slightly more viscous feel as I work the paint around with a wide bristle flat. Below, all I did was buff out the color, easy to do with a soft mop or fan brush. Now I let it set overnight, lightly touching an edge to feel if it's really dry before I go to the next stage. So far I'm into this one about 15 minutes.


 I start adding the flowers on the left and probably should have waited for the boots to be blocked in. Why? Because I could have done the entire background easier just working through the boot area, but instead, I chose to see how the blue relates to the dark areas so that I can evaluate just how much blue tone to go into the area behind the boots. While this second pass of blue was still wet, I dropped in some opaque greenery on the left and tweaked the edges here and there to get some out of focus effects. Once those set up, I can come in with sharper focus leaves that will pop forward. I have pointed this out several times on this site, but, again, if you set up a background area slightly out of focus (as Sargent and others did for portraits, for example) then any harder edges will be pushed forward, as the leaves and boots will come forward here. 


 Now enough of the blue background is in solid enough to look good and not weak, so I heavy up the boots and begin blocking them in more opaquely. The black boots were very quickly painted, not much color except the blues and a few warm areas reflecting off the black. 

 You can see, below, where I blocked in the lower tub white area, the lightest area below the boots, and then smoothed them out. The paint was heavy enough that a simple round bristle brush worked well, just scratching at it until it became even. Finally, I buffed the remaining area, carefully, and pulled at any stubborn sections with a very long bristle flat, which, because of its length, is firm but soft. I know Sorolla and others used these extra long bristle brushes to get those effective color areas without leaving strokes, a bit hard to do, but worth trying and a definite brush to keep in your arsenal.  


 Above, I decide the background needs more color tone. That makes sense, after I heavied up the black in the boots, the background suddenly got a bit lighter. This can happen quite a bit in portraiture if you don't drop in the dark hair soon enough to check for skin and background color balance.

 Below, I simply buffed out the glaze, this one with Liquin+ a little walnut oil. Experiment with different mediums and combinations, knowing the effects and drying ahead of time is really worth the effort.


 Above, the boots blocked in, then softened here and there. I used a smaller bristle round that was worn enough to scratch at the paint layer without pulling it off. It's not the same effect you might expect with a sable, the standard blender, but leaves a bit more color and using a slight scratching from one area into the next, especially along the softer edges, where the boots meet the blue background, gives it more realism then if I elaborately nitpicked the edges with small sables. Plus, it leaves just enough of an interesting stroke that it looks painted and not like I'm trying to copy a photo, which I'm not. My coloring and tonal range is quite a bit different than any reference or the scene itself.

Left boot with warm glaze over highlights, right boot without

Below is the final. Note the warm rose glaze I put over most of the highlight areas and on the lighter face of the tub. It's very subtle, but the eye can immediately detect the nuance, especially in original art. Oil paint traps that slight glow, jewel-like in its final form with light reflecting off the opaque surface- through the translucent glaze- and back to your senses. While you can reach a similar state of subtlety and texture with Acrylics, the final rich quality of oils is what I feel sets this medium apart and gives a look of timeless quality. If I had another lifetime to learn, I would continue to experiment with various ways of achieving this rich look, especially under warm lighting, gives most of my work a slight glow. A fully glazed work gives even more depth, but is so time consuming and finiky that the technique is not for me. I prefer to get a similar look with opaque first, let it fully dry as I work on other things, then glaze or patina that opaque surface to get the look I want. 

Walking Boots final 18x30

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