Down to detail

I worked on both the mini cat fireboard and the girl with her doll yesterday afternoon.

Both now have a second coat of paint and look a bit more realistic

Here they are for you to look at. It won’t be long before they can have the final detail and be cut out. Small Dog’s photos got lost in the ether and Sandra is on a camping trip at the moment so we shall leave our canine creation till later.

The cat fireboard ( two coats of paint )

Sandra's mini dummy board - three coats

Special attention had to be paid to the pattern on the dress of the “Lydiard girl”, as if you remember in the original, we had very little to go on. We have managed to make the face quite sweet and the doll does look as if she is squashed against the little girl’s body too. These were our major problems when trying to create a nice figure from two not very distinct originals.

Three paint layers of the girl's face

If you need to refresh your memory about the Lydiard girl and the Easton Neston girl who are our inspirations, then this will help…“You lose some, you win some”.

and Fireboard

For a while I have been privately tutoring someone locally in painting. In the course of the past year, my ‘student’ and I have touched on quite a few important points about simply how I paint and I thought it might be an idea to share some of them with you, as I am often being asked how it’s done. We can expand points and single out those things that are useful when painting miniatures on wood in oils.Β  Shall we use these two commissions as examples? If you are not interested in how it is done, well in part anyway, go and make a cup of tea or something, and come back later. πŸ˜‰

  • RULE NUMBER ONE – PATIENCE – something that we MUST HAVE. It is not possible in oils to paint something great straight off unless you are merely drawing with the paint and one colour at that. If you tackle your subject again before it’s dry enough you will have an unholy fudgey blotch.Β  πŸ™‚ Believe me, even the small works can become a mess…more quickly than larger paintings, actually. This is where acrylics score but they can’t be ‘worked’ like oils and sometimes, that is what is needed.

  • We have our original drawing in outline on the wood. We put on the colours that we want the piece to be and gently stroke in the shadows. RULE NUMBER TWO – always take the brush strokes the way you want the piece of cloth, skin, fur, feather, what ever you are painting, to go. If the girl’s dress is slightly rumpled and there is a crease in it…drag the brush the way you want the fold to go. It’s a simple rule but how often have you seen a painting which seems to fall towards you or lean backwards? Light hits objects in straight lines and so the representation of that object should mimic this. Common sense maybe, but perhaps, not so common! πŸ˜‰

The above picture ( forgive me for using one of my more modern full sized creations- Under the White Horse ) is a perfect example of how to stroke the paint the way you wish the viewer to imagine the actual object is going.

The paths grass and shadows are all painted so that the illusion of fallng down a slope is created.

  • Look carefully at your original. What can you keep and what can you leave out. I’ve touched on this before. Unless you are one of those painters who can execute a Mona Lisa on a grain of rice, ( sadly I’m not one of thoseΒ  – but I am practising…. ) it’s not possible to put every tiny detail into your miniature, especially when it is as tiny as the kittens in the fireboard.

cat detail..not finished yet though....

  • RULE NUMBER THREE Distill the essence. Find out what makes the composition work, what makes it appear as if it has all the elements and stick with those features. If you don’t you will have one of those fudgey messes again….this time because you are trying too hard.
  • RULE NUMBER FOUR Work in short bursts. Not only ( in oils ) does this allow you to let it dry a tad but you will find that when you come back to the work after about twenty minutes or so, you are refreshed enough to see where you may have gone wrong or if not, what is now required more readily. It also gives you time to get your focal length back to normal…. and you can get a bit of housework done in the meantime thereby staving off an acrimonious divorce! πŸ˜‰
  • On the last coat of paint…and it’s up to you how many you do- but remember there is such a thing as overworking a piece, you can work on wet- ish paint as the joy of oil is that it blends and moves. I find that the more I work a piece the more real it gets and for example when painting the girl’s dress we can get a look of fabric by blending the folds together and adding the highlights in a colour whitened with Flake white. We thenΒ  stroke this along the patches we need to pick out. RULE NUMBER FIVE- don’t overwork ie: add too much paint but do work what you have.

Detail of the frock.

  • Layers. When painting mini dummy boards, I tend to let the piece dry between coats and add the shadows in particular with thin layers of paint.This is another joy of oil. RULE NUMBER SIX many thin coats are better than few thick. If it’s good enough for Gainsborough, then it’s good enough for us! πŸ˜‰
  • Painting detail. This is done ( by me anyway) in the last two coats. ( I usually do

four ).
Remembering about stroking the paint the way the object goes in real life, I add, for example, in the cats, the furry bits; the pattern on the kittens fur, the basket weave pattern on the bed, the detail of the cats eyes; on the girl, the flowers on her frock, the division between her fingers etc., the dolls face, the shadow on the lace, the flowers in her hair, the light on her face and I finish the eyes. I also add all the main and brightest points of light. RULE NUMBER SEVEN if you haven’t got the eyes right ( forgive the pun…) then you might as well start again. The eyes, apart from being, as Shakespeare says, ” the mirror of the soul ” are most important. This goes for all animates with eyes. ( Don’t worry about it with worms!) This is where your own eyes will be drawn and they have to look alive. They don’t have to be too detailed.… but they do need a spark of life! The tiny white highlights which I apply with flake white on a no 10 o’s brush, must go in the right place for the figure to look where you want it to be appearing to look. How often have I seen this done and the ‘sparks’ in the wrong place make the poor figure look cross eyed? πŸ™‚

Rather an exaggeration but you get the point ..and a pun thrown in !

Sorry to rattle on…got it off my chest now. Hope it has been useful. You can all go away and practice now…

I shall be sending round an examination paper later – to make sure you have all been paying attention!



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