Jeremy Lipking workshop 2017 Mheer - Wouter Tulp
JL = Jeremy Lipking
In June 2017 I attended a five day workshop by Jeremy Lipking. In this workshop Jeremy did a portrait demonstration from a live model and an outdoor model painting demonstration.
During the workshop I took notes. These notes are based on my personal observation, and on what I wanted to take out of the workshop.
Jeremy is a very kind and modest man, who comes in quietly and starts painting. The workshop itself does not have a clear structure, and what you can learn from him will come mostly from observing him while he’s painting, or asking him questions. He does not mind being interrupted for questions, and takes every question seriously and takes a lot of time answering them.
Most students liked to watch him paint rather than to paint themselves, so most of the first two days of the workshop consisted of seeing him paint and asking questions.
Day 3 and 4 we all painted the model as well, while Jeremy did rounds as wel as continuing on his portrait. On day 5 we all went out, and Jeremy did an outdoor painting, while we could choose to watch him paint or paint along with him.
Jeremy uses a colourful palette, but earth tones like raw umber, or yellow ochre are not on there. Here’s an overview of the colours that were on his palette:
-Lead tin yellow lemon
-Transparent Oxide Red
-(Azure Blue) -not always
-(Cobalt Blue ) -not always
-(Phtalo Blue) not always
-(Permanent Green Light) -on his palette for the landscape, not the portrait
JL takes a lot of time posing the model. He pays attention to the light, and what visual pattern it creates. When he is finally satisfied, he takes time to observe and create an idea in his mind of the composition and the concept for the painting. He is painting a front view, and tries to avoid a 50-50 division of light and dark in the face. The first posing session took 20 minutes, and although a big part of the time was filled with answering questions, still he spent most of the time just observing.
By the end of the first 20 minutes, he only made 2 marks on the canvas marking the top and bottom of the face.
Before he starts painting, he fills the canvas with a wash of mineral spirits and ivory black. He waits until the mineral spirits have evaporated before he starts painting.
His painting approach is not always insightful. He does not start with an overall design to establish proportions and composition. Instead much of this takes place in his mind, and the start of the painting consists of a tonal value and color indication of the light area of the face. For this he used paint thinned with mineral spirits. On top of that he starts making marks of where the eye is going to be. He measures a lot, but the results of this measuring are hardly visible as marks on the canvas. Only a few brushstrokes indicating some heavy shadows, contrasting the value of the light area of the face.
After that he starts developing the eye in full detail, in a very early stage of painting, using a 0 brush.
His explanation for this approach is that he does not want to establish ‘almost right’ colours and values in an early stage, but exact ones instead, deciding at the moment he will arrive on that area in the painting.
JL uses Long flat brushes series 279 Rosemary and co. For the first day of painting he used about 7 brushes. (two big Bristle brushes, two no. 4 brushes, two no. 3 and one 0 brush)
In bigger paintings JL uses stiffer synthetic brushes for the bigger areas on the canvas
JL uses as little colours as possible to mix the desired color, so it is easier later on to mix that same color again.
He often uses Transparent oxide red, King’s blue and Veridian for his skin tone mixes.
JL uses the brow-nose length as a unit to measure other parts of the face.
His reason for not having earth colours on his palette is that these colours easily become muddy, and he has to clean his palette and brushes more often.
I didn’t see JL clean his palette during the painting. (he did at the end of the day, starting with a clean palette the next day)
JL did clean his brushes continuously, always holding a tissue in his left hand, cleaning his brush almost after every stroke,
He uses a 0 brush both to lay down a stroke, but also to blend it until it becomes very soft.
JL creates values in the face rather too dark than too light, as it is easier to lighten than to darken the painting.
The model he was painting wore a red shirt. Because JL does not work on the full painting, but on a small detail instead, he premixes the color of the shirt on his palette, so he can compare the skin tones with the red color, so he can judge the relationships before putting the paint on the canvas.
JL hardly uses titanium white in the portrait. In the demo he didn’t even touch the titanium white on his palette. When he does use it, it is for significant highlights at the very end of the painting.
The first layer of paint serves the purpose of defining the colours and values of the ligt area. During the process JL completely covers this thin layer with thicker paint.
JL mentions he add small cool accents on various places. For example where the forehead transitions in the hairline. These cool tones ( greens and violets) are visible, but he emphasises them to make sure it does not look as a monochromatic image. It brings life to the painting.
The overal system seems to be to lay in a color and value foundation. then accents of contrast are placed on top. Colour and value define structure, even when the placement is not set in stone yet. he uses a 0 brush to add details, but keeps working, wiping and adjusting.
Every brushstroke is placed with the utmost attention and precision. Even broad strokes are placed with full focus, nothing is placed randomly.
JL does not have big mixture supplies on his palette. He starts out mixing a light and a dark skin tone, and uses these to mix from.
After a while he’ll start adding more cool colours to the painting. ( at this point all we see is the eye, which looks completely rendered already, the forehead and a cheek.
JL uses medium if a painting needs to be photographed quickly. It avoids dark areas to sink in. He tries not to oil these areas because it will be harder to varnish them, and also it attracts dust.
He does not recommend isolating varnish. He mixes glossy and matte varnish in a 50/50 mix. JL waits as long as he can to varnish a painting. If it needs to be done fast, he’ll wait at least a month for small paintings with a thin layer of paint. Otherwise at least 3 months and preferably longer.
Except for one specific area he’s working on, JL does not commit to much in the beginning of his painting. This way he can adapt to the changing light. He also tries to anticipate to changing circumstances.
During the process JL keeps measuring in order to find the right placement for the features.
JL never rushes. He takes a lot of time in between brush strokes to observe and decide what to do next.
The shadow areas in the painting consist of a lot of transparent oxide red, and this color has a short drying time. Still only a part of the face is visible on the canvas, but JL already finishes these areas so he won’t have to paint on top of dry paint the next day.
In some portraits JL spends hours just fixing small details.
The values in JL’s painting appear to be much closer to one another than visible on the actual model.
JL changes, simplifies, and enhances for the sake of the painting. He pays attention to the abstract visual statement and makes changes to enhance those shapes. Quote: ‘Sometimes the painting wouldn’t even be recognisable to te original subject’)
Whenever an area that is laid in becomes distracting, because of too many brush strokes, JL takes a clean brush to blend that area to a blurry value mass, so it is no longer distracting, and he can co back to the area he was working on.
Even though JL works on very small areas at a time, the foundation is always the same: Simplifying color and value for that area, and then gradually narrowing it down, creating subtle color and value changes to establish form.
While painting, JL holds his brush in his right hand, and two or three brushes in his left, along with a piece of tissue on which he very often cleans his brush. After a while a pile of used tissues lies under his easel.
JL appears to break all academic rules. He starts working on a very small detail, uses a very small brush already at the beginning of his painting, and does not stand back to evaluate his painting from a distance.
By the end of day one, JL has painted the eyes, forehead and nose area. The mouth area is established only with a few values. He uses a big brush to even out the paint, so that if the paint should dry there will be no ridges he has to paint on top of.
JL says he likes working on the painting the next day, because the paint has dried a bit, and is stickier.
Quote: ‘ Likeness is sometimes less important than design choices when it comes to creating a good painting’
In his studio, JL adjusts the height of his canvas during the process, so the area he is painting is always just a little below eye level.
In his studio JL uses a Hughes easel
JL measures his portrait bit by bit. This causes every part of the face to be in the correct place. However, it is hard to add gesture, or pushed features this way. In figure paintings where he finds gesture more important, he’ll start out with just a few lines to indicate gesture, but after that he’ll still work from one area to another.
JL uses photo reference for his paintings
Small dark shapes surrounded by light stand out a lot. For example a nostril. It can be better to paint it a bit lighter than you see it, to make sure it does not get too much attention in the painting.
In his studio JL does step back to judge the painting. He has a mirror opposite his painting to take even more distance.
JL doesn’t work on top of dry paint much. especially in the face, because he feels things are more likely to go wrong then.
JL suggests working with good materials. Your skills are intertwined with the materials you use, so don’t use cheap stuff.
JL uses cremnitz white. It allows blending after 1 or 2 days. Titanium white tends to get hard, and it is unable to softly smoothe edges and shape forms.
In female portraits JL tries to avoid painting too thickly.
Walnut oil slows down the drying time a bit. Poppy oil even more.
JL will leave some blending effects for the next day. For example he blends the hair in the background the next day. The paint is dryer then. He uses a brush dampened with mineral spirits to do so.
Sometimes in his studio JL uses a retouch varnish spray during the process, to bring back sunken in areas, so he can judge the colors and values better. He does not use spray varnish for the final painting.
JL spends a lot of time developing a concept for a painting. When his idea is clear he takes photos for reference, and combines different photos to construct his desired composition.He does a lot of sketches, color ideas and tests before he starts on the actual painting. Some of these studies appear to be fully rendered paintings themselves. JL states that he sometimes just gets carried away doing these studies, but mostly these studies are much smaller than the final painting, and he uses them to solve problems in advance.
JL creates a small hole between his thumb and index finger to look through. He isolates a small area in the landscape and goes back and forth between those two areas to judge color.
JL’s plein air paintings are highly idealised. In a way he uses the same technique as when he works on bigger studio paintings. He takes elements he sees and arranges them so he creates an appealing composition. He leaves stuff out as well as adding elements that aren’t there.
During the demonstration, JL stood up and went for a walk. After a while he stopped and saw some hills in the background. He walked back to his painting and painted those hills in, even though none of them were visible from where he sat.
In the same way he changes colors and composition in his painting.