The process of making a painting.

Art, Charcoal, Degas, Impressionists, Painting, Painting process

This is the process of making a painting from start to finish. It is of the Degas painting, The Tub and was a commission by a customer who wanted it done in my style. It was a painting I had been wanting to ‘copy’ for some time so the order was a nice coincidence.

Degas: The Tub. Pastel

Firstly I studied the original for about 2 or 3 days, making notes about composition, colour and items depicted in Degas painting. Then I primed a canvas and started my version. The size of the canvas 60cm x 60cm has been dictated by the customer. Charcoal is my preferred drawing medium for the under-sketch of all my work.

Stage One: The charcoal sketch

I sketched the figure practically the same as Degas’ and the tub stayed the same as well. Then I developed the perspective, working in a spiral, I worked outwards from the tub, developing the table on the left, and then the table on the right. The door was an afterthought, to prevent the viewer’s eye from wandering off the canvas. The background is just an accessory for the moment. What interests me for now is the human figure. I opened a bottle of wine and enjoyed two or three glasses whilst reviewing what to do next.

Stage two: Initial colours.

I then laid in some initial acrylic colours, depicting contrast on the figure with an undercoat of a blue/violet mix for shade and raw sienna for the skin tone. So as the second stage ends, the essential areas of the painting have been illuminated with colour. I then sat back with another glass of wine and looked at the painting for at least an hour.

Stage 3: More colour and glazing the figure

In stage three I’ve started to add more colour, the floor colour and items on the table, also defining shadows caused by the items on the tables. I have also given the figure a light glaze of yellow ochre mixed with some white, covering over the original colours to tone down the blue. During this stage I added a box of tissues in the lower right corner to balance the composition. Poured another glass of wine and reviewed progress.

Stage 4: Enhancing colours and starting to show form.

In stage four I’ve added a hairbrush to the table on the right, an item which is in Degas’ original. I’ve enhanced the table top colour on the left and I’ve now finalised all the colours of the painting apart from two bottles on the left hand table. I’ve added a towel centrally at the top of the painting. Detail has been added to the door and I’ve started to ‘black line’ the figure and other objects. I’ve also added a hair band to the figures hair. More contemplation and more wine needed so a new bottle opened.

Stage 5: More glaze and scumbling.

In this stage I’ve added a thong (knickers) hanging on the door handle, more detail to the hair and added colour to the last two bottles. I thought it necessary to add some vibrant colour so chose red and yellow ochre for these two items. I’ve added some very slight white highlights to the body along with more glaze, more detail to the water in the tub and some steamy detail in the mirror and detail to the mirror frame. I was getting close to finishing and therefore more wine was needed to help me decide. One of the most difficult things to do with a painting is the decision to stop.

Final Stage: Details

In the final stage I’ve concentrated on finer details, the water in the tub and the models foot. Highlights on the tub and tub handle and my signature. I then spent 3 days drinking wine and looking at the painting and just touching some detail here and there, making tiny adjustments. Et voila! Painting finished.

Terms used in article:

Glaze: A weak mix of colour washed over previous colours, leaving some previous colour underneath.

Scumble: A fairly dry mix of colour to soften previous colours or outlines

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