Learn from Michelle

In the Style of Laszlo

The highest scoring print is the most complex to create, right?


If you've read my article on the making of "He Loves Me Not", you know that it received a "perfect" score of 100.  If you haven't read it, click HERE.  Most competitors assume this is because it was the most complex image in my case (that mysterious 13th element, yanno?).

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

My biggest struggle (and thus my biggest growth) was with this quiet little painting...

"In the Style of Laszlo"
Score: 86, General Collection

I am completely fascinated by Phillip de Laszlo's brushwork.  I love the semi-transparent washes he uses on his backgrounds. I have spent months studying the way he suggests the form of his subjects with loose, gestural brushstrokes.  I made these two techniques my top priorities with this painting.

There wasn't a single Laszlo work that I attempted to emulate with this painting, but rather bits and pieces of three of his paintings (sorry - a couple of these are pretty low res)...

Gorgeous and masterful brushwork, am I right?

Even though Photoshop clone techniques would have simplified the painting of my subject, once again, I set out to challenge myself by creating a freehand piece of art for this entry.  I used a stock image as my VISUAL reference (there was NO cloning from the photograph) and I made adjustments to the subject to fit my vision. 

Despite how it looks on my working images, she's not naked 😂 I cropped off a strapless dress to get what I needed.

As always when I work freehand, I began by toning my white canvas and then I started with a simple sketch...

The next stage for me is what is known as a "value study" in the art world.  I created a rough value sketch just to get my composition mostly in place.  I made an intentional decision to alter her facial structure slightly...

Now comes the fun part - building up the colors 🙌 And unlike "He Loves Me Not", I had the presence of mind to save during the color building process on this piece...

The farther I go in the process, the more refined my subject's form becomes...

I actually broke my own protocol on this image.  I typically start with the background and work toward the foreground when I paint.  The tools required to pull off the translucent paint so commonly used by Laszlo on his backgrounds was one of the most difficult things I've ever worked to create.  Reducing the painting layer opacity just wasn't quite right.  I had to find a different way.  Days and days of struggle in that single area of this painting!  But I'm absurdly stubborn and eventually - I got it!

I also decided I had made her shoulders too broad and reworked the camera left shoulder...

Now came the second big hurdle of this painting - the gestural brushstrokes that indicate the bodyline of my subject.

I'm fairly certain I ate an entire CASE of chocolate 🍫 feeding my stress while trying to figure out how to pull this off in a digital format. 

After lots of trial and error and scads of oil paint used to build brushes over and over and over, I finally hit on just the right combination 🙌

I added a couple of random, opaque strokes of blue to the background (my ode to Laszlo's first painting above 😉) and worked on refining the skin tones a bit more, bringing in more of those gestural brushstrokes...

But then, I realized...

I'm an idiot. 😂

I had her camera left shoulder correct the first time.


I had to rework it AGAIN.

I was seriously thankful at this point that I was working digitally and not with oil on canvas.  What a mess that would have been!

I also decided the brushstrokes that indicate her bustline were not quite right.  So I reworked and refined those as well...

Here are some close crops of the final piece...

Those shoulders nearly killed me but I'm SO glad I reworked them again!

Love, love, LOVE those gestural brushstrokes 🙌

This image came together so beautifully printed on canvas.  Most importantly, I had so many "ah ha" moments with my Photoshop painting skills during the creation.

Never stop striving for something new!  You may surprise yourself with what you're able to create.

Happy painting!

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