Lesson #1: Prime, prime, prime!
It's important when using oils on wood that you prime the surface. Over time, oil degrades wood and paper, so you need that primer as protection for the wood. This I knew and I did apply a couple of coats of clear matte medium to protect the wood. What I didn't fully appreciate was the importance of preparing the surface for me, specifically. If you look closely at the image above, you can see the bumps and roughness in the surface of the wood. I didn't realize how much that would distract me. I swoon for super smooth painting surfaces, so the texture of the wood bothered me.
So, in short if you're working on wood with acrylics and you like rougher surfaces and texture in your work, don't worry about priming. Jump right in! If you're using oils on wood and like texture, a couple of coats of gesso or matte medium should work fine for you. But if you're a lover of glassy finishes like me, sand, prime, repeat ad nauseam.
Lesson #2: Use a good reference photo (or model if working directly from life).
This was my reference photo, which wasn't absolutely terrible, but didn't provide me with what I needed for this picture. Had I been striving to recreate this picture, it would have been doable, but to recreate the patterns and shadows of the face in muscle and patterns, I should have used a clearer, not so blown-out picture.
Lesson #3: Get out of your comfort zone.
This experiment was pretty far out from realistic portraits of everyday objects and their reflections and that was great for me. Try a new painting surface, subject, or technique! You'll never know your own style unless you explore. Who knows, it may turn out even better than you imagined! Or it may turn out that it's not your cup of tea at all. Either way, the experiment will be a success.
So what about you? Learn anything new lately? Discover a love of a different subject or technique? What have you been experimenting with? Let me know about it!
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