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Thursday, October 04, 2012

Rembrandt and Dirty Tricks

I will now show you a trick I stole from Rembrandt when he wasn't looking.

I begin with an extremely tight drawing, paying careful attention to the lines and proportions and expression.  I spend months and months of meticulous, precise draftsmanship to achieve the desired design.

I then destroy all of that and apply thick coats of paint like I am on fire. I also make sure to mangle the color. 

I then eat my drawing, fall into a deep depression and curl up under the table and weep while playing recordings of whales and sounds from outer space.  

Finally, I take a lousy digital photo of the painting. If there is one thing I am good at, it is taking lousy digital photos.

This is where Rembrandt's tricks come in.  Rembrandt had a curious habit of stopping a piece that was giving him trouble midway through and doing small studies of his painting to try and fix the issues that were troubling him. By doing this he could light his way forward without further savaging his painting. (see Rembrandt The Painter at Work from University of California Press for more on this.)

In my case here, I began to have doubts about my initial direction with color. I had originally been thinking the orange and green of mid day, but as I got into the painting I felt more and more like I really wanted this to be at night. So instead of possibly wrecking everything and having to rework it later, I took a digital photo, (HA! bet you wish you had one of these Ernst) after which I then applied a quick treatment of color in Photoshop (my native tongue).  This new comp, based on my current painting, is then used to guide me through to the finish and prevent me from losing my mind or trying to eat my own hands. 

 12" x 16"
Oil on Masonite

I hope Rembrandt will forgive me for this little thievery.

PS: For those of you wondering about the goats...  Here, this is what actually happened:


  1. Still in absolute awe of your work.

  2. Awesome Ent! And great insight into the process; thanks for sharing! Do you seal the pencil before starting with the oil at all? Or just start slabbing that stuff right on?

    1. Not this time no. Sometimes I do, but in general I actually really like doing the drawing in oil. So here I only did a transfer and then a light drawing before working in oil.

  3. Wonderful! The Ent, the Goats, Everything!

  4. Outstanding work. With the lack of leaves, a nightime scheme seems perfect. Great!

  5. Tunred out great.I am currently fighting with my own first oil piece. But I am slowly getting the idea of it. ^^ I will try to use such an underpainting the next time I do one too.

  6. Wow, you're great, and it's a privilege to learn from your work. Thank you very much. I'm your spanish fan.