Onto the painting. I almost always paint on DiBond panels these days. DiBond is an industrial material made by 3m (although there are plenty of other companies making a similar product, and 3m isn't giving me any free stuff...so there). It was originally intended for industrial applications and for signage apparently. I'm told it's what the inside of buses are made of. It is essentially polymer sandwiched in between two super thin pieces of aluminum. It's sometimes tricky to find, (I get mine from a plastics supplier in Burbank) and cutting it is a chore. you can cut it with a circular saw and a carbide blade but holy shit does it make the worst noise ever. its use in public transportation and other stuff aside, it's amazing. Once the panel has been prepared, I use at least 4 or 5 coats of acrylic gesso. it feels like any other hardboard panel to paint on, but is almost indestructible. it isn't susceptible to warping, or really any kind of degradation because the surface isn't porous. and even though it's super thin, it's rigid enough to paint on a 48' square piece without framing. I actually ran out of DiBond for this painting, so I won't get into how I prep it normally, but Kate Stone has a great blog entry about it here. I essentially prepare DiBond the same way although I use an acrylic ground instead of the real stuff.
Instead of DiBond, I tried a new pre-gessoed hardboard panel from Blick. The surface was really smooth though (I hate their pre-textured gessoed panels) so I gave it an additional coat of grey acrylic gesso, which I didn't sand, just to give it a little tooth. I'm not even finished with the piece as I write this, and the surface has already chipped a little -- so my review is, these suck. stick with the unprepared hardboards (maple, etc.) and gesso them yourself -- or...DiBond!
I don't always grid my preliminary sketches, but I find I get the most accurate results this way...and I really like not having to worry about the drawing when I'm into the paint. plus I knew I was going to write about this piece and didn't want to fuck it up. when I was first starting with oils, I used to paint so thinly that you could see bits of the sketch coming through if I used a normal pencil, so I got in the habit of using red which sat nicer amidst flesh tones. I paint with a lot more paint now, but I still like the red pencil and I can use progressively darker shades if the sketch calls for a lot of refining. after the pencil is down, I often remove some of the grid with an eraser so it isn't distracting, and I can get a better idea of how the whole thing is looking. I then seal it with Crystal Clear so the pencil doesn't get picked up with the paint.
This is my second attempt at piecing together a portrait instead of painting the whole thing in layers, which I wrote about in the Portrait Explainer post. for this first sitting, I started with the eyes and just went until I felt like stopping, but made sure that every area I worked was as finished as I could get it.
you can see here that I'm not worrying much about the background, mostly because I don't have plans for it yet, but I am painting up the hairline and adding darks there. that will make it much easier to blend the hair into the dry paint of the face when it's time for that. the more I stick to that sort of planning, the easier the subsequent stages of the painting will be...but I'm not stressing over it.
I'm definitely fighting the urge to paint other areas of the face with the same tones here, since that's always been my habit. but it's nice to be able to just focus on one very small area without that much concern for the next step.