Nice Turnout for my Portrait Presentation to OSA

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Whew! Everything went swimmingly for my presentation yesterday. I appreciated the overflow crowd in OSA’s main hall. I gave a whirlwind overview of how to develop your inner artist, develop artistic skill, market your work, sell your work, and use positive energy generated from that cycle to spin the next cycle…circling back with renewed confidence and enthusiasm to further developing artistic skills. I did a demo (under the slant mirror on the stage so people could see) of laying out a limited palette of colors, mixing flesh tones, & mixing “black.” Then I did a quick painting demo of roughing-in, from photo reference I took a few months ago. I enjoyed the process more than I thought I might, and look forward to similar opportunities that might come along in the future.

Rosey again, different pose

Practice portrait of Rosey by Steve Eichenberger, acrylic on corrugated cardboard bicycle carton, 9-1/4 x 13.

I enjoyed the process on this one, which is part of my goal in keeping things loose: to have fun painting!

( 1/5 addendum: I e-mailed a high resolution jpg of this to Rosey, who is currently in NYC, and she replied: “Hey Steve!! This is awesome. I look simultaneously angry and proud. I love it. The loose style captures something really great. I showed this painting to my sister, and some friends — everyone has been so impressed! My sister said, ‘Whoahhh…that’s so badass!'”)

DPW Challenge 111130

Acrylic on corrugated cardboard, 13-1/2 x 15-1/2, by Steve Eichenberger.


<—Photo I took last summer at Portland Saturday Market.

For this challenge, I tried to loosen up on brushstrokes as in this self portrait by Theodore Gericault —>

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Step by step

DPW Challenge

Portrait by Steve Eichenberger, acrylic on corrugated cardboard, 12.5 x 24.

Done in response to this week’s DPW challenge to emulate an artist we admire. This is my second exercise in as many days to experiment with the look and feel of some of Egon Schiele’s 500+ works.

Thanks to friend/neighbor/photographer Willy Paul for permission to use a photo he took of his wife, Kris, for me to use as painting reference. Achieving a likeness was not my focus, but rather to experiment with the broad white accenting strokes, black outlining, unfinished areas and so on that Schiele often uses.

DPW challenge

SOLD via Etsy

Very quick sketch in acrylics on corrugated cardboard, 12 x 16. This week’s DPW challenge was to try painting in the style of an artist we admire. I started out “thinking” Egon Schiele, but then forgot all about it much of the time I was painting… It served as a good “loosening up” exercise.

Positive Step!

Started this one yesterday, finished tonight…well, I might still work on the background, but I think the face is done. And I am pleased with the step toward looseness it represents in my experimentation!

I had a color experiment in mind too; I saw in a color mixing book the wonderful neutral greens that result from mixing ultramarine blue and yellow ochre, so started with them. I don’t usually like or use greens, so this was a good learning experience for me in that regard too.

In the slideshow below, the first one (the one that’s different from all the rest) is actually a completely different painting. I was struggling to get a likeness, painting out and re-painting various features, when I realized I wasn’t having fun. So I set it aside and started over using bolder color, less deliberation, and choppier strokes with almost no blending. Definitely more fun! Adjusting position/size etc of features was much easier as the entire image was freer, looser, more fluid.

It’s hard to quantify how well I did on the likeness…but for such an impressionistic rendition I’m OK with it.

I don’t like the background, may work on it some more later…or not…also want to keep moving forward to see what comes out next!

I scrounged some bicycle cartons today from a bike shop near my studio, so I have plenty of “canvasses” to work on. I’m motivated to make as many paintings as I can before April 1 when I open my studio for First Friday Artwalk. I don’t expect a big crowd, but it’s a nice motivation nonetheless.

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My thanks to Bill Wadman at http://www.365portraits.com/ for permission to use his photo as practice reference.

Keep clicking through several screens on the above image to zoom in close to see the brush strokes (the final click should show a magnifying glass cursor).

Big & Small

This was a challenge for me because of its size — about 3 feet wide. I wasn’t attempting a likeness, just trying to get proportions reasonably in the ballpark since I was working far larger than I’ve ever done before.

This one taught me I don’t like working small! Face is only about 2-1/2″ tall. I used teeny tiny brushes. Not that happy with the likeness either, although for having just recently started trying to do likenesses I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.

My thanks to Bill Wadman at http://www.365portraits.com/ for permission to use his photo as practice reference.

Lyle Lovett

Acrylic painting of Lyle Lovett by Steve Eichenberger (click on image for close-up view)

Painted freehand looking at various photos from the web (below).

Thank you to Lyle’s management office for giving me the go-ahead to paint his likeness.

on 8×13 corrugated cardboard

It helped to have various angles and lighting to discern shapes and decide what characteristics seemed most important for a likeness.

I did a preliminary study which took longer than this one, but I don’t like it as well as this one so I’m not posting it. But it did teach me that doing a study first is beneficial; I basically had the features memorized, including what to “watch out for” the second time around.

Portrait Practice


Lifesize portrait, acrylic on 34 x 42 cardboard, freehand from photo reference.

Photo credit: Bill Wadman, 365portraits.com. Used by permission.

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First two slides: Practicing achieving a likeness. Not sure my “corrections” are better…maybe overcorrected. Will try again tomorrow, maybe split the difference.

My thanks to Bill Wadman at http://www.365portraits.com/ for permission to use his photo as practice reference.

3/6 update: I’m painting entirely freehand, just looking at the photo for reference…no enlarging, no grids. But I was curious which iteration I’ve done so far was more accurate, so I put everything in the computer and did some overlays. My conclusion is that I did indeed overcorrect. I’ll keep tweaking today. I think some good learning is going on.

3/6 evening: I did paint out and re-do a third time, splitting the difference, and I think it helped. May add a few final highlights and/or dark accents tomorrow. It’s my largest painting so far; lifesize figure on a 34 w x 42 h piece of corrugated cardboard that was throwing around the Watershed.

Literature about portraiture says a typical newbie mistake is to make all the features too large. In comparing my painting to the original photo I think I was too careful on this count; I made the features too small rather than too large, which in my opinion makes the subject look more mature. To me, iterations 1 and 2 look the right age for the subject, but they look perkier, more open than she does in the photo, as pointed out by a friend who came in my studio during iteration 2. I think I captured her more inward, slightly guarded expression in iteration 3, but in so doing aged her a few years vs iterations 1 and 2. Interesting how such seemingly minor adjustments have unforeseen effects…effects I can use on purpose in the future. (3/7 addendum: an artist friend had the opposite opinion about apparent age: he thought my portrait looked younger than the subject. Jackie thought the painting and photo look the same age. My first lessons in how subjective evaluating my work will be…)

One thing I liked right away about this subject is her sweeping jawline and the way it presents in the pose; my extra attention to this feature resulted in a bit of an exaggeration of that sweep, which I’ll chalk up to artist’s license.

More practicing on cardboard

To test myself to see if I could produce a likeness. 1 hour sketch.

Unfinished. Can’t decide what to put under his head. Someone suggested making him a dandelion’s head ;-)

Very fast sketch.

Quick sketch.

Quick sketch in box. My intention was to do the eye sockets in complete shadow, but I see from the photo I didn’t resist putting in some detail.

Painting on Cardboard

When I first wondered about painting on cardboard myself, I of course googled it…and now Google is sending some of you to *this* entry for info on ‘painting on cardboard.’ So here’s what I’ve learned from my experience with cardboard so far:

Artists have been painting on cardboard for over 100 years (e.g. this Picasso, 1900).

Cardboard’s main advantages in my opinion:

— It is non-precious. I find I paint more freely on corrugated cardboard than any other substrate. Even before I make the first brushstroke I feel like “this is an experiment.”

— It’s free! It’s abundant!

— I can work on an oversize piece of cardboard, and “crop” my painting with a knife after the fact.

— It’s already manufactured. I’m repurposing something that would otherwise be recycled or discarded. Zero carbon footprint.

— It’s immediate. Cut, paint.

— I like the way it takes paint. (I use heavy body, artist’s grade acrylics.)

— It’s fun to see what graphics may already be printed on it (see this painting for example) that I can leave visible.

— It’s lightweight.

— If it gets beat up a little on the edges or corners, who cares?!?

The best cardboard for painting is double thick; two corrugated layers sandwiched together. To find the best stuff, think of large/fragile/expensive items, and go to stores that sell them — electronics, bicycles, appliances. I’ve found that local bike shops are happy to save me their bicycle cartons.

Take a box cutter along to cut down the cartons for easier transport (as a courtesy I also haul away the leftover scraps and recycle them myself, so I don’t leave a mess for the shop owner).

Large Home Depot-type stores tend to bale their cardboard immediately, unfortunately, although I did score a refrigerator box at Lowes by being there at precisely the right time once.

Keep your cardboard stash dry, don’t store in a shed or humid environment. Avoid cheap pulpy cardboard (such as cartons for tools from Harbor Freight ).

For relatively temporary works (years, not decades) just paint right on the cardboard. It will be absorbent, which can be annoying or useful depending on your medium and intentions. Bare areas will be subject to fading, especially if displayed where sunlight strikes it.

To make it much less absorbent but still retain its cardboardy look, apply thinned down acrylic medium before painting on it; do both sides equally to minimize warping.

For more permanence, prime both sides with house primer, gesso, or acrylic medium. Give both sides an equal number of coats to minimize warping.

For grunge appeal, you can purposely tear off the top layer here and there to expose underlying corrugations, and/or leave some of the arrows, ‘this side up’ labeling, hand hold holes, big copper staples, UPC codes, and other original artifacts intact or partially painted over.

Tip for hanging  cardboard paintings: 

Easy hanging method: glue scrap on back, insert picture wire down through one corrugation and back up through another, twist wires.

Cut scrap of cardboard and glue onto back of painting as anchor for a hanging wire or string. It’s surprisingly strong, and is in keeping with the cardboard theme. You can also make hang tags, title placards, portfolios to transport your cardboard masterpieces in, and so on, all from cardboard. Once you have large sheets of it laying around, all kinds of uses start popping up.

You can “reverse engineer” how to make a cardboard box by looking at an already-made one, draw a layout on a big panel, cut/score it, paint it, then fold/glue/staple it into a sturdy decorated box that will last for years with reasonable care.

I painted the self portrait (below) on cardboard, as well as the following paintings:

http://steveeichenberger.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/positive-step/

http://steveeichenberger.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/big-small/

http://steveeichenberger.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/lyle-lovett/

http://steveeichenberger.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/portrait-practice/

http://steveeichenberger.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/more-practicing-on-cardboard/

That’s it for now…I’ll add more if I think of something else.

Good luck!

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Following is my original entry under the heading “Painting on Cardboard” :

Self Portrait February 24 2011, freehand from a b/w photo I took yesterday

Acrylic on corrugated cardboard, slightly smaller than life size (area shown is 13 x 15, panel is 19 x 27)

Using just two colors of paint: Burnt Sienna and Unbleached Titanium White

We had a “snow day” today, many Portlanders stayed home from work. This painting is what I did with my snow day. No my hair doesn’t have snow on it, that’s just the color it has decided to be now that it’s grown up.

I enjoyed the process.

The product, however, is way more conservative than I’d like…it’s a baby step along the path of moving stylistically to where I’d rather be.

This is the  most recent practice project in my current fling with attempting likenesses. I think the painting probably looks better than the subject, but since it’s a self portrait I’m not keen on posting the reference photo just to prove the subject looks worse than the painting.