A Good Start at Last

Although I first set brush to surface several days ago, I’d say today was my first real start on my painting of three rabbits.

Last week I prepared the surface. It is masonite which I sprayed with Home Depot style primer then coated with two coats of brush-on gesso. I toned the surface with red iron oxide acrylic, then transfered the drawing with white transfer paper and did a rough underpainting, also in acrylic. (The only part of the underpainting that shows in this photo is the front rabbit.) Then yesterday I got a very tentative start with the alkyds and the rear rabbit (“Blackie,” henceforth). I painted his eye then base-coated his fur with a mix of Van Dyke Brown and Ultramarine Blue. For the ear, I used a combination of Red Iron Oxide and Buff Titanium. Then I mixed a little of my brown/blue mixture into some Buff Titanium and used a liner brush to start the hairs.

Then today I was able to work for several hours and made more substantial progress. I finished the light hairs on Blackie then turned my attention to the middle one, “Spot,” brushing in tiny hair all over her – the mix of Van Dyke Brown and Ultramarine Blue on the dark patches, and a mix of Butt Titanium and Raw Sienna on the light patches. Finally, I painted the first coat on the ball using light blue (Ultramarine Blue and White) and deep red (Red Iron Oxide, Van Dyke Brown, and White), shading wet-in-wet.
I am intending to blog in a fair amount of detail about this entire painting process while I try to develop a method for painting animals in oil. In general, the edges of the fur will require me to paint from back to front. And I’ll probably proceed in this way covering the entire painting in layers. It’s tempting to finish the background in it’s entirety before proceeding to the rabbits, but I think I need to develop the whole painting together to get the value and colors correct. Perhaps after two full layers I’ll be able to complete the background then concentrate on the rabbits – we’ll see.
According to this plan, my next step will be to add a foundation of texture to the front rabbit, “Whitey.” At that point, I will have the first layer over the entire painting.
My plan for the fur is to establish texture and build up color by putting in a base layer of local color covered with tiny hairs for texture. In some cases, the hairs will be lighter than the base color and in other cases they will be darker. Then I’ll add glazes of color, and repeat these two steps until I’m satisfied.
I am actually painting in alkyds rather than oil. I painted in alkyds years ago and really liked them although I was always aware of, and sometimes irritated by their stickiness as they dry. And these paints dry very quickly – one of their great advantages in the right situation. Today I had problems getting the paint texture right for the tiny lines for the hairs. I wanted the paint to flow smoothly and give a thin line with plenty of pigment. But the paint kept getting stickier and sticker – drying, I presume. Tomorrow I’m going to try switching to actual oils for these little hairs. I’m hoping that the paint will dry overnight if I use Liquin. So we’ll see!
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