Lady with turban 2 (painting process)

Lady with turban 2

It’s a long time ago that I wrote about my painting process. This time I wanted to give attention to the highlights and darks in a painting. A good amount of highlights and darks can give a dramatic effect on a painting. The old masters and especially Caravaggio, often used this technique to create more drama. And drama was an important thing in paintings and fresco’s when you imagine that paintings hung in areas where the light was not often good or the distance from the viewer to the painting was huge.

Caravaggio, the upper part of the painting Narcissus, oil on canvas, 110 x 92 cm, Palazzo Barberini, Rome


For this painting I used an Artists Canvas Laminated Board 280 gr measuring 40 x 50 cm.

I wanted a “painterly” and lasting effect. So I prepared the canvas board with one thin layer of a paper napkin (often consisting of 3 layers). This is glued to the canvas board with binder and then I brushed a layer of binder over it to make sure everything is properly glued. As a result, the creases naturaly arise.

The start of the painting

Starting point is a dark background because the light-dark effect immediately produces a considerable contrast. I often mix black with Phthalo Blue to get the right colour. Sometimes a dollop of Ultramarine Blue or Carmine Red is added because Phthalo Blue is a rather cool colour in my eyes.

I painted the whole canvas first with this dark colour. I decided that the light comes from the top left. It is time for the drawing now. Most of the time I use a coloured pencil for that. Lines are easy to remove, although most of the time, they do not disturb the painting. The drawing immediately indicates where the light and dark areas will be.

Drawing of Lay with Turban 2

The first brush strokes

I have chosen a free approach in which I use strong strokes. I use a 2.5 cm wide brush with nylon bristles for the entire painting. You can handle it well in a size of 40 x 50 cm. This immediately gives you a good surface fill and the colours remain pure. I also filled in the face as much as possible with this brush because I don’t details in this phase. After this it was time to stop.

The first brushstrokes

The shaping

On the next day you see with fresh eyes what you did the day before. Now the adjustments follow. The trick is to leave the first quick brushstrokes as much as possible, to maintain its purity. That means that little lubrication is allowed. So every stroke or line, however subtle, must be in one go. I put the painting regularly away for a short time for a better assessment. Here I saw that I needed more warm colour in the face, so I putted some warm orange/red to it.

Warmer colours in the face and turban

My pitfall is that when at some point I think: “It’s done!” And then later I still see all kinds of imperfections and sometimes spend days doing fine-tuning. I will have to learn to make 2 moments of this. A moment when the big work is done and the second moment after change all the things I see afterwards. I thought this one was ready.

But then the next day it all looked too pale to me. So I adjusted the colour of the blouse to green. As a result, now the face had too little colour. There too I had to fix it with some extra strokes of orange-red and then worked up the colour totaly by means of scumbling.

Scumbling refers to a painting technique which involves applying a thin layer of paint with a dry brush and a loose hand over an existing layer. Monet was a master of scumbling. His Hay stacks painting is a good example of this (left photo 1890-1891). Nice to mention that the same Hay stacks still can be seen in Morocco some 130 years later (right photo 2018) .

But now I am drifting too much! Maybe some other time a bit more about that holiday.

The next day I looked again to the painting and was still not satisfied. I made a drastical decision and overpainted a good part of the face.

I removed a part at the right of the face and the turban was made smaller. The face got far more colour and the eyes are painted open now. Here’s the end result of the Lady with Turban 2. I hope you will enjoy it!