• Annalisa Rivera

Off the Easel: Behind the Scenes with Maka

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

If any artist tells you their way to paint is the "right way" or the "only way", walk away. But otherwise, I encourage all artists to keep learning from a variety of teachers, and keep experimenting!

I am so fortunate to have met quite a number of willing cosplay/costumed/reeenactor models, particularly through my favorite sci-fi/fantasy convention, Arisia. I have so many to work with now, I have paintings to practice on well through the pandemic! But, one downside of happened to be that all the volunteer models, though from diverse walks of life and ethnicities, happened to be all female and fair-skinned. I really wanted to change that, and had an opportunity to do so via a Facebook challenge by Matt Philleo.

Imagine hundreds of artists all simultaneously working at their own pace to paint the same model. It was a wonderful experience - we were all studying the same photo, yet we all came to a different result, all made with love and care. I found that following the lessons, and chatting with others in the process on the Facebook group was encouraging, especially when dealing with a vastly different method. I think most painters look at their work early on and think it's going the wrong way. It takes a lot of layers and patience to get to a place where you're content!

Learning from multiple artists, I see what methods work for my particular style in addition to what works on the whole. For this particular project:

  • I gessoed the canvas in white; had my reference handy. I like having a color print, a black and white to see tones, and use a digital reference so I can zoom in and out of areas.

  • Transfer the image onto the canvas. This is one of those areas where artists get persnickety when they really should not. In art classes, to give you a solid understanding how to draw, they teach the grid method. It works amazingly well, but for heaven sakes, it can take forever if you are a perfectionist like me. You better believe I much prefer any other tranfser method over it. I used what I had on hand, but it was suggested you try brown or sepia prismacolor pencils. Why? I didn't realize until much later that for glazing this way, you are treating this under drawing like the grayscale foundation of the painting. To date, I knew of painting greyscale first and glazing color after, or just going for layers of color from the get go. I thought I was sunk, but thankfully later layers saved the day!

  • After you coat and seal the drawing with a spray of watered down fluid matte medium to prevent smudges. Once dried glaze the canvas with a toning layer.

  • Then it was a multitude of layers - layer after layer of glazes, combining to create new colors. This gist is to start very thin - very little pigment to fluid matte medium - to more and more opaque layers as you get to the end.

For deeper insights, give the teacher his due and check out his page and follow his Facebook page for possible future challenges. A heads up: he's a very spiritual fellow and starts his lessons off with a prayer. If you're not into that, just skip that bit.

I decided to stop after so many layers, when I felt I'd captured the essence of the model. Photoreal- no. That's what great photos are for. When I was done, I thought my representational portrait looked quite familiar, yet not quite like anyone else's.

Final portrait of Maka - woman with painted dots and lines on her face against blurred nature landscape.

I hope you enjoyed a little peek into the process, and look forward to sharing more with you all in the future!

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