pictures and words by paul mccall

December 2018
« Dec    
Neil Young Digital Sketch?
Filed under: Studio Painting
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 10:42 pm

The question mark behind the sketch in the title of this post is due to my not knowing when a piece is finished. To know when something is finished I generally have a deadline, just stop working on a piece or overwork it. This is a digital painted piece done in Painter 11 that I spent about an hour on. I started out wanting to do another caricature of Neil Young to use on a label for an American Masters DVD I burned for a good friend who is a major Young fan but doesn’t watch broadcast TV. As a caricature I’d have to rate this as a failure since the exaggeration is so minimal as to be nearly nonexistent. I just elongated his philtrum (the divot underneath the nose) a bit.

1 comment
Firefly Fantasy Portrait Post 11
Filed under: Studio Painting, Firefly Fantasy Portrait
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 8:36 pm

And so, it’s finished. And surprisingly it’s dry. Dry enough at least to put a coat of a new type of varnish over it for protection. (Most oils paintings should remain unvarnished for six months to a year to be sure all the thick paint is dry down to the canvas. I’m still not a “thick painter” so my canvases dry faster.) I’ll varnish it tomorrow.
I also built a frame for display purposes. This painting will be displayed and presented at the STARBASE INDY convention this weekend so I wanted it to look nice while on display. Framing is a personal decision so I don’t impose my ideas of a frame onto a client. They can get it framed to their tastes and I’ll reuse this one.

1 comment
Firefly Fantasy Portrait Post 10
Filed under: Studio Painting, Firefly Fantasy Portrait
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 5:45 pm

Now I’m at the stage where everything is painted in and I’m looking at the entire canvas, judging balance and looking for small (hopefully) screw-ups to fix and things to adjust. I thought her jacket was looking too blue-ish so I laid a darker glaze over it. (Some of what you see in this photo on both of their coats are shiny reflections from the lights in the studio. Unavoidable with oil paints.)

Boob Job
Speaking of screw-ups, there was an alignment problem with the previous cleavage so I repainted that area.

Much nicer! (ahem, well - moving on…)


Comments Off
Firefly Fantasy Portrait Post 09
Filed under: Studio Painting, Firefly Fantasy Portrait
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 6:48 pm

The pistol butt I painted yesterday was too large.

Comments Off
Firefly Fantasy Portrait Post 08
Filed under: Studio Painting, Firefly Fantasy Portrait
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 6:09 pm

Glasses for the gentleman, then some clothes and the beginnings of a gun belt and pistol butt.

Comments Off
Firefly Fantasy Portrait Post 07
Filed under: Studio Painting, Firefly Fantasy Portrait
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 7:04 pm

The previous session I finished up the hands after I took the close-up shot of the heads.

Today I added the glasses to the female face (I asked first!) then moved on to the costuming.

Comments Off
Firefly Fantasy Portrait Post 06
Filed under: Studio Painting, Firefly Fantasy Portrait
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 10:26 pm

Now we’re having fun!

Comments Off
Firefly Fantasy Portrait Post 05
Filed under: Studio Painting, Firefly Fantasy Portrait
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 6:09 pm

Today I started on scumbling in some basic facial modeling, added a thumb and painted the “hogs-leg” sawed off Winchester firearm in the females upraised hand. The facial scumbling is sort of a preliminary feeling out of painting the faces. It will all be lost as soon as I start applying color but I find it a good step to familiarize myself with the faces. I would have gone on to painting the faces but I got distracted by that gun, I wanted to get it done. As it turns out it will be the only gun in the painting. After the line drawing was approved the principals decided the pistol in the man’s hand looked odd out of the holster. I couldn’t change the drawing on the canvas since it has been fixed (sprayed with fixative) then the brown wash applied and there was no point in it anyway, I’ll make the change in the painting stage. To make that hand look more at home I added the thumb hooked into the pants.

1 comment
Firefly Fantasy Portrait Post 04
Filed under: Studio Painting, Firefly Fantasy Portrait
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 5:44 pm

The background is just about there. Of course when I get the figures laid in and they begin to develop I may have to go back in and adjust the values of the background again. And when I get back to it tomorrow I’ll probably fiddle with the background for another day.

Comments Off
Firefly Fantasy Portrait Post 03
Filed under: Studio Painting, Firefly Fantasy Portrait
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 5:24 pm

Becoming less sloppy, marginally.

Comments Off
Firefly Fantasy Portrait Post 02
Filed under: Studio Painting, Firefly Fantasy Portrait
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 7:02 pm

And so it begins. The first stage is to start placing the darks in the background. Painting from back to front is an accepted method that works best for me. The beginning stages of most paintings look sloppy so don’t panic!

Then other tones are laid in.

Comments Off
Firefly Fantasy Portrait Post 01
Filed under: Studio Painting, Firefly Fantasy Portrait
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 1:55 pm

This is a new category for the blog. Here I will show the progression of a fantasy portrait. A Fantasy Portrait as I offer them is this; choose a scene from a book, TV show, film or any other area and I will paint you into it using photo reference I shoot or you provide. I’ve done this a few other times. A Farscape portrait, a Space Marine and a few others.

This couple chose the TV show “Firefly” and wanted to be painted as a pair of characters against a shipboard setting. After looking through lots of images from the show I chose the engine room and some representative shots of the characters in costume. From that I developed a starting sketch.

After getting their approval on the sketch (I showed them two different ideas and they chose this one) we set up a photo shoot. They arrived in clothing as close to the character costumes as possible. That’s important as it helps with the lighting on the wrinkles of folds in the clothing. Here are a few of the shots.


After the photos were shot we all three viewed them in the computer (digital photography has made this step so much simpler!) and they chose the shots that best reflected what they wanted for each individual. As almost always happens one shot would be good for one person but not the other and vice versa. Using Photoshop I cut each figure out and placed them together into one image on top of the engine room photo.


From this I developed a line drawing and emailed it to the couple.


After their approval I transferred it to a 3 foot by 4 foot canvas which I had drawn a grid upon for that purpose. I used spray-fix to set the pencil drawing to the canvas in anticipation of the next step.


The engine room scene is an overall brown tone so I made up a thin brown wash and covered the entire canvas.


While waiting for that thin coat to dry sufficiently to paint on I took a shot of the reference stand set up. I use an older Apple laptop and an auxiliary screen to display the reference photos. This set up allows the reference to be back-lit by the light of the screen. Much more satisfactory than a paper print. I also stained a scrap of canvas the same brown to place under my glass mixing palette so the colors mixed there will look the same when placed on the canvas.

1 comment
Back to the Colonel
Filed under: Studio Painting
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 4:59 pm

After a long dry spell when other things kept me from the easel I spent a day on the Sargent copy of Colonel Ian Hamilton. I went in to detail his uniform and I’m reasonably happy with the results. The medals need some more detailing but that will be better done after this area of oil paint dries. I feel I’m learning things from the process of copying and will probably do some more.

comments (0)
An Unusual Commission
Filed under: Studio Painting
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 6:25 pm

This was an unusual commission on two levels. There was a time pressure, as this pastel portrait will most probably be displayed at the subject’s funeral. She goes in for a surgical procedure soon and only has a 33% chance of coming out of it alive. And even then the doctors only give her a few more weeks. So she’s been making her final arrangements. Unusual also in that I don’t work in pastels. I don’t like them. But considering the situation I did it. From a photo, of course, and unfortunately, only the one photo was provided. (When an artist has to work from photos it’s better to have several photographs from which to work that capture as many angles of the subject as possible.) Also the straight on pose isn’t the best choice but again, the time pressure.

I was surprised in that I enjoyed working with the pastels but I was also reminded of some of the aspects I don’t like. Blending the various colors at times seems to threaten to rub a hole in the paper (at least as I do it!). But this experience has shown me that pastels aren’t to be completely avoided as I have for about 45 years!

Comments Off
The Colonel Continued
Filed under: Studio Painting
Posted by: Paul McCall @ 9:54 pm

Continuing my copy of the Sargent portrait of Colonel Ian Hamilton.

I laid in color in the background, military tunic and  began work on the hands.

Comments Off