Diana Probst, Cambridge Artist

Self-Portrait in Oils, day 21


On what was the last day of serious painting, I set up to paint the tiles, and ended up by finishing all but the final tweaks, of which there may be none. The first thing to do was set up the perspective on the back wall:

Close-up of canvass showing background with string stretched across to provide static lines of perspective

This was not something I could do by eye, and I taped taut thread across and up and down the canvas. An iPhone is a very bad image-maker for this, but the principle can be explained. On the left side, the spacing was further apart than on the right, so that the lines between tiles would recede towards a vanishing point – this is what tiles do if you look down the length of a swimming pool. I was simply making it explicit with the thread, rather than relying on my own guesswork as to where the grout would go. For the verticals I did the same, keeping each line vertical (a minor error in itself, but one that the human eye will forgive) and made them closer together as I moved to the right, but kept them in parallel.

Once I had them established, and had tested a couple of methods for painting the tiles, I painted the whole background in nearly the same colour, with only a slight gradation towards cooler colours towards the right. There was very little alteration in tone. Then I used the thread as guidelines for the grouting. I put on pure white and muddied it by the action of the brush, going back and forth a little. This muddied the white down, which is usually a lazy way of creating an off-white, but in this case was perfect because I wanted to suppress the differences between the tile and the grout. As something in the background, the tiling cannot be allowed to draw the eye too much.

To put the moulding on tiles, I used pure, rather thick Naples Yellow Pale, on three or four corners of each tile, and blended it in until it looked like light on raised parts. The tiling had dealt with a couple of small muscular bulges, and had filled in the near shoulder so that it popped out, towel standing free of the background and T-shirt. I did a bit more work on hands, hair, and the blending at the edges of the towelling, and then sat back and stared for a while.

I have a few tweaks to make, but nothing is currently On The List. So for a while, this is what I stared at:

Picture of artist in T-shirt, rubbing hair with green towel And after all, why not?

Click on the picture to see it in far more detail. Thank you for following this series.