Trying out a new method for this reproduction of Boccaccio Boccaccino's Gypsy Girl that I saw in an exhibit in Paris. It is a small painting and I doing it life-size. Click on the link to see the original. I made a black background with burnt sienna first, let it dry, then used white pigment on the back of a true-scale photocopy to trace the outline onto the canvas.

The technique involves painting in shades of white. One places a glob of white paint on the palette, and has some diluting medium. Starting from the brightest parts of the painting, you apply the white and when there is little left on the brush, you draw it over the less bright regions, or use a diluted form of the white to make the "shadows". Once the whole painting is down in black and white, then colors are applied. I am not sure how, haven't learned that part yet.

It is hard to paint after a long day of work. I felt like a righthander trying to write lefthanded. it is better to paint when rested. one is more successful, one can see better. So after two hours (so slow!) I left it there with the left eye all right and the right eye looking bizarre.

Second session. I said the right eye needed work, so the teacher proposed using a cache, and painting upside down, to see things better.

When working in white, while the painting is wet, you can use medium on a clean bursh to 'take off" paint and essentially draw dark lines through the white you painted. Once dry, as here, you can't so I used dark paint (terre de cassel) to reintroduce shadows. Turning the painting around, back right side up, I was happier with the right eye, but now the left eye needs work.

So I put the cache on the left eye, and then turned the painitng upside down to work on it.

Teacher says 'Hmm. That left eye looks too open'.

So I lowered the lid...

Then I reintroduced lines over the lid.

I had a few minutes left, so I filled in some of the neck. Next time I plan to work on the node, make it look younger, and define the mouth. End of second session.

Not quite sure what to do, my teacher suggested that I paint in the scarf and work from there.

Then I began work on the shirt.

But then painted over the first lines I had begun, when my teacher suggested that I lay down the highlights first.

In the fresh paint of the shirt, one uses a fresh, clean brush, loaded up with medium, to "erase" in the lines and creases.

Time was almost up, each sessions lasts 2 and 1/2 hours but it takes me a while to get into it. So I sketch in the head scarf...

And laid down the white for the bright red cloak that will come. Red is a transparent paint, so to make it bright, it needs an (opaque) white base.

Time to put in some color!

Dabbling about with the blue scarf...

I chose a different red for the cloak, closer to the photo I have in my iPhone of the painting than this postcard...

I dappled the red of the cloak by pushing a soft brush into it point down, like a sponge, I wanted to get the texture of felt that I saw in the original. Also did the same for the green inner coat.

Looking again at the original photo, I saw that that scarf was bluer so I added more color to the scarf. This will have to be moderated next time I paint. End of the evening.

Frustrating evening, started during the face, teacher says "start with the eyes", so I give the pupils some light blue gray tint; Eyes look dead until you add the final little white dot, but one must resist.

Then I tried adding skin tones. Skin is three colors: red ochre, raw sienna, white. I have to ask each time, but someday I will learn.

The face was too white. the teacher said I should add the red ocre and raw sienna directly onto the canvas, but I have a hard time dosing.

Face still too white, the teacher showed my how to make the skin smoother by showing me on the neck.

Tired to smooth out brushstrokes. Not too successful, since the underlying white and terre de cassels were not smooth enough to begin with, so now everything is bumpy. Frustrating night....

The face was too pale, so I add in more fleshtones: raw sienna, red ochre, white.

I worked on the scarf, darkened the blouse, but I still need to define her left shoulder better.

Continued working on the face and the neck. I need a new long, thin paintbrush to do detail around the eyes....

Heightened the color of the face and neck. Made eyes greener. painted in dark curls of hair on neck.

Added in gold threads in the scarf, the necklace, the headband, the little white dots in the eyes, redefined the left shoulder, added in the dark curls of the hair on the left shoulder. I will finish next time with bright hair highlights.

Working on adding more light into the face, the secret is Zinc White which is more transparent than Titanium White, added to the red ochre and raw sienna.

I used a long pointed brushes that I just bought for the curls, first done in raw sienna.

Added over another layer of yellow oche curls, added a fold to the green vest, highlight dots on the pupils. I see that the skin is still too white, the nose shadow too pointy, and the reds of the face too disparate, but I am done with the painting. It is like my piano playing, only just good enough, and I see the limits of what I can do.

After about a month, the colors start to fade as the paint dries. After six months, the paint is dry enough to varnish the painting which bring out the original colors. But...

But, Irene's uncle said, comparing my painting to the original said the shadows weren't deep enough on the face. So here, I deepened the shadows using a wash of medium and burnt sienna. I also tried a wash of cassel earth. The Cassel earth (very black) wash was a mistake. I also applied a bit more red ocre on the lips. I think that the the tone on the right side of her neck is the right one, maybe I will reapply this tone, but I still can't seem to get deep shadows, maybe I am too afraid.

Final product

Click on a picture to expand and read the corresponding description.

GREGORY GREFENSTETTE

Painter Portraitist Artist