Sunday, March 28, 2010

Joseph II Emperor of Austria Bust

I have begun painting a bust from Michael Miniatures of Joseph II, Emperor of Austria (1765-1790). I have been following the releases of this company for a long time and have been very impressed with their choice of subject matter and the work of their sculptors, Aaron Brown and my friend Matt Springer as well as a few others. Although these subjects aren't always my first choice (They don't do Romans you know) I do appreciate the detail and challenge of recreating the lace work or in this case a portrait painting.

This release is one of the companies earlier efforts and is really quite nice. The kit consists of two pieces, the bust and the turned support. Clean-up and assembly were therefore fairly straightforward with only a bit of work required that would be considered normal on any kit. I always like that as I take far more joy in painting than assembly.

After priming I began work on the face. I have assembled a series of in progress shots so that you can see the progression of my efforts to this point.

I began by mixing W&N Burnt Sienna with a bit of Prussian Blue to grey out the tone and lightening with Titanium White. This lightened flesh mixture was applied to the face and after sitting for a few minutes all excess paint was removed leaving a stain of color over all. I began mixing White, Cadmium Yellow Medium and a bit of Yellow Ochre as a highlight mixture and applied this to the larger planes of highlighted flesh, cheeks, forehead, nose, chin, ears, etc. As you work the highlights you get tighter and tighter with your work while at the same time increasing the amount of white in the mix. That being said you never use pure Titanium White, and after awhile you will experience diminishing returns on your efforts. This is the time to stop as continued work simply muddies your flesh. This is always the hardest thing to learn while working with oils as so little paint is required to achieve the desired results. (first photo)

The next step was to Work some Payne's Gray into the flesh around the chin to indicate the shadowing of facial hair. After that was completed I worked some Alizarin Crimson into the cheeks, top of the chin and tip of the nose to replicate the blushing complexion in the portrait painting. Both of these steps are done while the flesh is still wet. A bit of the Crimson was mixed into the edges of the eyes and on the lips. (second photo)

My earlier flesh highlight mix is now used on the dry face to further draw out highlights (third photo). Again once dry I began working on the shadows with a glaze of Burnt Umber. I also began work on the eyes by lightening the whites of the eyes with Titanium white glaze and applying a basic pupil/iris with Burnt Umber. The lips were further developed with Burnt Umber shadows and Crimson + White highlighting (fourth photo).

In the next step I worked on the details of the eyes by painting the iris first with Greenish Umber then adding a bit of Yellow Ochre in the center and lighting blending the edges of these two colors. Finally a dot of Mars Black was placed in the center to delineate the pupils. I also began laying in the hair, working on planes of color, highlight and shadow. Mars Black, Titanium White and a touch of Burnt Umber for warmth were used in this mix. (fifth photo)

In the final picture I have refined my highlights with Titanium White and Cad Yellow Medium, touched the eyebrows with Burnt Umber and White, and finally refined the eyes with Lamp Black for the pupils and a pure white "touch light" or reflection to give them some life. I have also painted the neck scarf and a portion of the color as well as the hair ribbon. These touches help frame the face so that I can be sure of my tones. Getting rid of all the surrounding white will effect how your eyes see the face you have painted. When using a white basecoat your face will always appear to dark until the outlining areas have been painted. (sixth photo)

I have included a picture of the painting that this bust is based on so that you can see how this piece should progress and where I have drawn my ideas from.

Joseph II Painting by Joseph Hickel (1736-1808) reproduced by the kind courtesy of the Cramer Museum.


  1. Looks great so far. Lovely bust.


  2. Hi Jim

    Thanks for this little SBS. Very useful! And a nice result too of course.
    Btw, you're very busy at the moment ...


  3. Thanks guys, glad you like it so far. There are a lot of fun little details to tackle and I have a personal deadline to get it done for someone so other things may slow down. Yes Johan I am busy but I have a short attention span sometimes and with the oils it is nice to have other things going while something is drying. ~Jim

  4. Jim, Great face. Have you ever tried zinc white? While it makes a color lighter it will not make a red as pink as titanium white will. ~Gary

  5. Thanks Gary, I'll try it sometime. I think the background has contributed to the strength of that color in the photos. It doesn't look like that in real life. I may flip the background back to the blue for the next go round. ~Jim

  6. Looking great, Jim. I never had the patience to wait for oils to dry. I guess that's what pushed me to try acrylics. Keep up the great work, buddy!

  7. Thanks Matt, I have no patience either. That is why I paint so many figures at once.

  8. Everytime i look here you surprise me ... thanks for the joyful time i have when reading here! The tut about the face is brilliant! Keep on happy painting! Regards Roman

  9. Thanks Roman, I'm glad you enjoy coming here as much as I enjoy visiting your site. The jacket is coming along and will be the next installment. ~Jim