Remembrance -Painting Stages

by Lisa Larrabee

Have you ever spent countless hours on a painting only to find yourself stuck?  I assume that every artist has been there.  At the stage below, I was at a loss as to how to proceed.  I liked how the light through the trees had greater intensity than on the figure.  I was also happy with how I painted the repeated figure's face in the negative spaces between the branches.  However, it didn't quite feel right, and I could not put my finger on it.  (Looking back, it seems quite clear!)

I moved on, but it continually nagged at me.  Finally, after a long break, I decided what I needed to do to finish it.  I typically never go back and work on an older piece, but this one demanded it.  I had just finished a few landscape paintings, and had rediscovered an amazing tonalist landscape painter, Brent Cotton.  With new momentum and inspiration, I felt I had the tools to overhaul this piece.  One element that was clearly missing was the sunlight ricocheting, adding deep warm color to the trees and branches.  With that as a starting place, I was able to make some dramatic changes before repainting the figures in relationship to the new hues and values.

I wanted to share this example because we all get stuck.  Oftentimes, the solution is to back away and return with a fresh perspective.  Get some feedback, and let go enough to be willing to make the changes once you realize what needs to be done.  In the end, I finally felt that my painting realized it's potential.  It just took awhile.

Scottsdale Biennale Finalist, Wee Gallery of Fine Art 
Meritorious Entry, Richeson 75 International Figure/Portrait 

~ Lisa


New Day -Painting Stages

by Lisa Larrabee

New Day  
Oil  9" x 9" 

artist Lisa Larrabee

Richerson 75 International
Figure/Portrait finalist

What is more tedious than painting baby blankets and caps with tiny pinstripes?  Painting the negative space around the pinstripes!  Once I had the idea, I just had to try it.  It presented a big risk, though.  If it came out too stylized and distracted from my babies, I would have to paint over it regardless of how long it took to create.

 As the fabric came together piece by piece, it became clear that I needed to lighten the values.  The second layer involved brightening each section as needed.  Shown here, the caps and bottom right corner have yet to be adjusted.

Due to the tedious process of painting the negative spaces, there was little room for error along the edges where skin met fabric.  This, and the tiny size, required that I lay in my underpainting for the figures with much more detail than I have in previous portraits.

This painting stage shows the completed underpainting for the portraits.  Colors are close approximations and the values are a little on the dark side to allow for the highlights to be built up.

I tried several techniques on this painting that were new to me.  First, the detailed negative space painting.  I think I found a nice blend of stylized realism that compliments the portraits.  Second, I referred regularly to the photo reference on my computer monitor (instead of a print) to enlarge details and see more luminous color.  Finally, I experimented with glazes in order to capture the fragile translucence of newborn skin.  I created this painting for me, and I set very high expectations.  I pushed myself further, and I must say, I absolutely love it!  I hope you do too.

~ Lisa



Welcome to my blog.  This is a new experience for me, but I am excited to share my thoughts, artistic suggestions, and painting process with you.  Those of you who are familiar with my website, Larrabee Art, will have noticed that it just underwent a major transformation.  One change is that I no longer have included a section for stages of my paintings.  That is where this blog comes in.  I will be including painting stages of a selection of pieces, share some of the process (sometimes the struggles), techniques, inspirations, etc.  Who knows exactly where this will go, but I hope that you will join me on this journey.

~ Lisa


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