Figurative Oil Painting Demo with Joseph Larusso – Real Time!

Check out this demo from Joseph Larusso if you want to get looser with your oil portrait painting!

Joseph Larusso demonstrates in real-time his unique figurative oil painting technique (big fan of Sargent) and how he mixes the colors on his palette. If you want to get looser with your portrait painting, then Larusso’s style is a great one to mimic.

I purposely left this demo in real-time, rather than speeding it up, or just showing his painting in progressive stages, so that even beginners can gather enough information to implement this style! Plus, as an artist, I really enjoy seeing exactly how other artists work: how long do they take? How do they hold their brush when mixing colors? How long do they think about things? How do they apply paint to their canvas or board – do they skip all over, or do it in sections?

If you simply LOVE his palette colors, then see my other video where Larusso shows you exactly which colors he has on his palette and which brands of paint he uses for each.

Joseph Larusso’s Palette – Figurative Oil

I recently did a workshop at the Scottsdale School for Artists – a figurative oil painting workshop with Joseph Larusso.

Larusso has a very loose, unblended style to his portraits – when you look at them up close, they look like strips or sections of color just laid down, side-by-side. Yet viewed from a distance, they look blended and realistic.

I think this is because of his very unique color palette and you can see exactly what I mean in this video here:

And while we’re on the topic, check out Carina Karlsson‘s new site – a fellow workshop participant and my burrito buddy every lunch hour!

Painting Techniques of the Italian Masters

painting-methods-masters-wkshopI just finished a 5-day workshop learning the Painting Methods of the Italian Masters with Martinho Correia. Five, 8-hour days, working on a single small painting… and I’m not done yet!

But wow! Did we learn a lot. Below is the same process used by Da Vinci and Michelangelo – which Martinho learned during his studies in Florence.

STEP ONE: Transfer a black and white photocopy of the image onto the canvas. Apparently this technique was routinely used for painting frescoes. Sorry I didn’t get a picture of this step, but here’s how you do it:

– Get a black and white photocopy of the image you want to paint and make sure it’s the same size as the canvas you want to use.

– Cover the back of the photocopy (or drawing) with compressed charcoal. Press really hard and make sure the charcoal is very dark. Don’t worry about it getting on the canvas as it is easily covered up by the paint and doesn’t show through.

– Next, tape the photocopy securely in place over the canvas and using a PEN trace the image – including the major tonal values – onto the canvas. So the charcoal side is against the canvas, the image is facing you, and you are tracing over the lines of the image with a pen. Check every so often to make sure your tracing is transferring properly. If it’s not, you need more charcoal, or you need to press harder with the pen.

– Remove the photocopy. Now you have the sketch of your image on the canvas, so you don’t need to spend 2 days drawing it on there!

STEP TWO: Using burnt umber ONLY do an underpainting of the image where you basically paint in the tonal values of the image – providing a tonal map of where the light and dark areas are. This map will come in handy when applying the colored paints. Here’s what it looks like when finished – note I didn’t bother doing the shirt as that is fairly easy to do directly with normal paints:


p.s. I apologize for the quality of all these photos! They were only taken with my iPhone, not my good camera.

STEP THREE: Next, you start to lay in the color. Some people in the class laid in the first pass at the colors for the entire painting at once. For me, I prefer to work bit by bit. So I started with the hat and the hair and a bit of the shirt:

underpainting-hatSTEP FOUR: Now that I’m into the groove, I’m ready to start on the face. I spent the entire day on the face and here’s how far I got:

day1FaceSTEP FIVE: Continued to work on the face for the entire day – was also able to do some glazing as my work from yesterday was dry enough (I’m using Cobra Water Soluble Oils, so drying time is a bit faster). If I need to dilute or increase flow, I use a tiny bit of water, or linseed oil. Important points at this stage are to paint the muscles under the lips and all around the mouth area. When painting areas like the chin think of sculpting the shape, rather than just painting it. Make sure all your transitions (from one color to the next) are smooth, with the colors either blended, or a transition color between the two.

Day2FaceThis is as far as I got on the piece and I will finish the rest at home.

If you want to know the palette colors, here is the Workshop Materials List for you to download.

Here are some of the best things Martinho taught me on this course:

1. To get the darkest areas on the face, mix together burnt umber and ultramarine – never in 100 years would I have figured that out! If you need it still darker, add a touch of black.

2. When you need to tone down the chroma (brightness) of an area, you can grey-down the color using these methods (depending on what your desired effect is):

  • Using BLACK will grey-down the color and add a BLUE hue to it.
  • Using RED UMBER or BURNT SIENNA will grey-down the color and add a RED hue.
  • Using RAW UMBER will grey-down the color and add a YELLOW hue to it.
  • Using BURNT UMBER will grey-down the color and add a ORANGE hue to it.

Isn’t that cool??

Here’s what my palette looked like – meant to bring my large palette, but forgot!


What was really interesting to me, was that 3 other students there chose to do the same painting as me, so I got to check theirs out for ideas along the way – and also learn from each of them.

BUT even though we all started from the SAME tracing, our finished paintings are all quite different! Here are the other students paintings of the exact same image:


Student 1


Student 2


Student 3

And thanks to Lalita Hamill for bringing in Martinho for this intense and enjoyable learning curve!

For those of you who are wondering, the piece I worked on was a ¬†a detail from Cagnacci’s ‘David With the Head of Goliath’. And here, finally, is my finished piece after completing it at home:


How To Prepare The Quickest Artist Bio EVER!

Okay, so it is mere hours before I head off to see my painting auctioned.

I prepare the Certificate of Authenticity and as I’m putting it in the envelope, I think, hmmm… looks kind of lonely in there…

Plus, what if the buyer’s friends want to know who did that amazing new painting on their wall? : )

So I whipped this up in – no kidding – 10 minutes using Pages on my iMac:

Artist-bioIsn’t that great?! I simply:

1. Copied all the text needed from my website. Pasted text into TextEdit (or Notepad) –> make Plain Text to remove all formatting.

2. Then copy/pasted the text and dropped it right into the Modern Newsletter template in Pages (on Mac).

3. Dragged over a painting of mine that already matched the existing color scheme and dropped it into the image box and voila!

Now you have no excuses — get going on yours!

Art Journaling Bookclub!

So I have a lively bookclub, with a great group of gals… but somehow it just wasn’t ENOUGH to get everyone out consistently in the evening. Out of 6 of us, only 3 or 4 would show up each month.

For myself, I always found it hard to get the kids seen to and also felt like going nowhere by 6 pm, the only thing that appealed to me was moving the household towards bedtime!

Then, not everyone would have the book read… sound familiar?

But all that has changed and I feel inspired and excited… because now instead of just a bookclub, we’re going to have an Art Journaling Bookclub. One of our members, Susan Wade, is a super-talented¬† mixed media artist and art teacher, so she will be guiding us on this exciting journey.

We’re going to start by discussing, exploring and art journaling one chapter each month of Brene Brown’s latest, Daring Greatly. I’ll post photos here as we go along.

Currently, there are artists who have created online art journaling courses based around a particular book, like this one using the book, Fabulous Friendship Festival by SARK. But I’m trying to convince Susan to create a guide to this process for other bookclubs to use with any book they choose – wouldn’t that be exciting?

Perhaps this is an idea you can swipe and use if your own bookclub is flagging. Stay tuned…

100 Words To Stimulate Creativity

When you’re stuck in your art, here’s a great way to stimulate your creativity. Or push you into new directions. Use this list of 100 words (fill in the purple form at the top right hand side to get your list of 100 words –>).

Close your eyes, breathe deeply and connect with your core. Then choose two numbers.

Look up those two numbers you chose and that’s what you have to paint.

For example, let’s say you chose numbers 70 and 56, your words would be: Obsession AND Sacrifice. Now paint that! Trust me, if you have taken the time to connect, you will either choose 2 words that are immediately meaningful to you, or the meaning/purpose of your choice will emerge as you paint. It is a way into your subconscious, or your soul. Try it, you’ll see. Just fill in the form in the purple box to the right and I’ll email the 100 Words to you.

Here’s a painting I did using this 100 Words Game. I had some friends over for some appies and what I call “Speed Painting”. We each had to choose 2 words and then we had to paint that – and I mean a finished painting – by the end of the evening (about 3 hours).

This is wonderful because there’s no time to think, no time to sketch it out, or for your head, doubts, self-talk etc. to get in the way. You’re there with your friends, it’s light, it’s fun and you just have to go for it.

My two words were number 9 – Breathe Again and number 32 – Expectations. And here’s what I painted. One more thing: I also decided to do this painting with my daughter in mind, so I used “her colors” as I would normally not paint in these colors – which is another great way to push yourself outside your normal box:

Speed Painting!

One of my favorite things is to have a Speed Painting party with some good friends. It doesn’t matter whether your friends have ever painted in their lives – they will still enjoy the experience.

Because it’s not about how “good” your painting is. It’s about letting yourself paint free, by forcing your mind out of the way. How do you do that? By not giving yourselves time to think.

I get some good friends round, put on some music, lay out some appetizers and give each person a canvas and tools, paint, etc. The only rule is: You have to FINISH your painting tonight (about 3 hours).

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