Fleeting: Final Painting Stage

I want to make a point about lighting for other artists and students.  Unless you have a studio with amazing north light (and don't need to paint in the evening) you will have to rely on artificial light to paint.  I have used a mix of OttLite Natural daylight bulbs and GE Reveal daylight bulbs in my studio.  OttLites were recommended, but I found them very hash to paint under.  When I posted my last image, the color was adjusted to closely approximate what my painting looked like in my studio.  However, in the daylight, much of the warmth was reduced (even though I was using "daylight" bulbs).  I replaced the two remaining Reveal bulbs with OttLite bulbs to finish my piece.  It was difficult to adjust to the harshness at first, but the following morning my painting looked the same in the daylight as it had in my studio.  It may be difficult to notice a difference in the photographs, but it is noticeable in person.  I also bumped up a few of the brightest highlights.  I can now officially say that it is finished.  I hope that you enjoy it.

~ Lisa


Fleeting: A Painting in Progress -stage 4

The process of finishing this painting has become a balancing act between the tree and the figure.  I played with more contrast and harder edges on the figure, but decided that I was happiest where the two were more harmonious.  I most enjoy the repeating patterns of the arms and branches.  I had felt that it was finished, but on further reflection in the daylight, there are some additional changes I want to make.

~ Lisa


Fleeting: A Painting in Progress -stage 3

As I worked on the figure, drawing issues became more apparent.  I spent much of my time measuring, checking and rechecking the proportions.  I think it is pretty close so it's time to move on for now.

~ Lisa


Father's Day

3 a.m.  
Graphite and white pastel on toned paper
artist Lisa Larrabee

Happy Father's Day to my husband, Greg, the father of our amazing twin boys.  All my love!

~ Lisa


Fleeting: A Painting in Progress -stage 2

I had a lot of fun bringing some color into the landscape.  At this stage I discovered that the Eucalyptus study that I started with proved to be invaluable.  It is still at an early stage, but I was capturing the essence of what I wanted very quickly.

~ Lisa


Fleeting: A Painting in Progress

I have typically shared my painting stages as an overview upon completing a piece.  Instead, I am going to share my process while I am in the midst of creating my current painting, Fleeting.

The inspiration for this piece is the Eucalyptus across the street from my house.  I loved the color of the light hitting the leaves and the pale bark of the branches.  I stepped out my front door and took some photos for future reference.


I began by creating a small (14" x 11") color study of the Eucalyptus to work out colors and techniques that I wanted to use on the figurative landscape.  I hope to keep the warmth and softness of the study on a larger scale.

I knew that I wanted to use loose draping fabric and bring up an arm (or arms) to create repetition with the branches.  Once I had shot some photographs, this pose jumped out at me and altered the overall direction I had intended for the piece.  The narrative began unfolding and I had to shift focus to the right.  After composing and editing in Photoshop, I was ready to proceed.  I used a sepia hard pastel pencil to draw directly onto my toned panel. 

 Lines only give a hint at how accurate your drawing is.  I painted in values using a mix of burnt sienna and cobalt blue thinned with a 50/50 mix of Gamblin Galkyd and Gamsol (OMS).  With the shapes of the shadows blocked in it is easier to see where to make corrections.  I also intend to paint some of the landscape through the figure, so I wanted to set my drawing before taking a looser approach to the landscape.

~ Lisa

La Primavera: Painting Stages

La Primavera
Oil   24" x 18"
artist Lisa Larrabee

This painting is of a mother, pregnant with her second child, interacting with her young daughter.  I took photo references very informally in her home, where her daughter was more relaxed.  Blooming magnolia trees were added in Photoshop to create the more symbolic setting of springtime and renewal.

I began this piece by toning a 24” x 18” museum series gesso-board panel with a thin wash of burnt sienna.  Once dry, I used a blue toned transfer paper to accurately put my drawing onto the board.  So as not to lose the accuracy of the transfer, I carefully began blocking in the face and branches in oil using only brown and white.  I continued with key elements like the hands and face of the girl.  In areas where the values were too similar to the background, I painted some darker values into the background to help keep the value relationships aligned.

I decided to paint the background in sections so that I could work the colors wet into wet in order to keep the edges soft.  I started with carefully placed blue shapes so that I would not need to try and paint the lighter flowers over the top.  This section was somewhat experimental for me.  I painted back over branches and used a large soft brush to periodically soften shapes and blur edges.  I planned to bring the rest of the background to this level of completion in order to make more informed decisions about how to paint in the foreground. 

You may have noticed that my style for blocking in this stage changed from how I began.  This is because I took a break from this painting to complete a landscape, but part way through I wasn’t excited about it.  I took a chance and completely repainted the landscape.  I also started experimenting with galkyd gel.  This allowed for some translucency while still holding brushstrokes.  I loved painting with it!  It made me excited to get back to this painting.  Whenever possible, I choose to loosely block in the whole painting instead of one piece at a time.  It allows me to get a better sense of how the entire painting will develop. 

While painting the background, I realized that I needed to soften it because it felt too busy.  I scumbled over most of it with titanium white cut with Liquin impasto.  I used white to brighten the background, but also to diffuse the edges because it is opaque and covers what is beneath it.  Even though the background was not finished, it was developed enough to move on to other areas in order to bring the painting into balance. 

I painted the foreground branches and let them dry so that I could block in the shadow color for the flowers very loosely.  The color was tricky because it looked green.  I kept rechecking the color and trusting that the reason it looked green was because so much of the red-orange from the under-painting was visible.  Once I adjusted the color of the dresses, the flowers began to feel more accurate.  Saying that color is relative is an understatement.

 I pushed my value range as went over different areas, primarily by adding more light values, but also by repainting over some key branches.  There was a lot of walking away from the easel to see how each change affected the entire piece.  I feel that it all pulled together and captured what I had envisioned for this painting.

~ Lisa