In June 2017 I was able to attend a workshop with Jeremy
Lipking. It consisted of 4 days of portrait painting and
one day for an outdoor figure painting. The workshop was
hosted at the marvellous Mheer Castle, courtesy of artist
Menno Balm. Here are some impressions and quick notes I
took, of things that stood out or I wanted to remember.
The workshop started with a portrait demo during day one.
Jeremy would paint, explain what he is doing, and answer
questions. People could choose to watch him paint, or paint
along. During the first 2 days most people only watched, as
long as he was painting himself, fearing to miss out on any
of his remarks. (Did a lot of standing, as there were 18
gathered around his easel.)
Then gradually more and more started to paint. There was no
detailed plan as to what students should do or how. But
Jeremy is a very patient and calm teacher and took ample
time to answer all questions (and there were a lot of
questions during the demo) I wouldn't recommend his
workshops to beginning painters, because of the lack of
structure. You have to puzzle together the pieces yourself.
But I feel that I still learned a lot from all the nuggets
of information I got from him.
Some things that struck me most about his way of working:
The colors he paints differ a lot from what is seen in the
subject. In fact during the entire week, I don't think he
matched a single color exactly to what could be observed in
the subject. He said that instead, he observes color and
tone relations only. Generally, he deviates a lot from
what is observed in the subject, to get a better painting.
Jeremy doesn't start with a block-in to establish
proportions and color/value relations. Conversely, he
starts with a small area and tries to get this exactly
right. Then he continues to move outward, like piecing
together a puzzle. He noted that working in this way,
sometimes errors do accumulate and he ends up wrong in the
end. In the small area where he starts to detail, he did
throw in a couple of notes to cover the entire value range,
as a reference.
I will now reproduce the notes I took in the order they
appear in my notebook. Sometimes the remarks I wrote down
are not entirely clear to myself, now I'm reading them back,
but I'll reproduce them anyway.
Lead tin yellow lemon
Transparent Oxide Red
Permanent Green Light (for landscape painting)
Brushes: Rosemarys Master's Choice
Jeremy noted that he is using approximately 2 values in the
shadows and 3 values in the light area of the head. In
cases where the light area is larger than the dark area, he
will use more values in the light area. When the shaded area
is larger than the light area, he will use less value
compression on the dark side and use more values there.
He said he visualizes a mental map of values, trying to see
the flat shapes of equal value.
Unit of measurement: distance brow-bottom of nose
Start: very light wash of black, thinned with mineral
No underpainting but lay in of small initial patch of color
representing the fore head. Next all light areas of the
face and neck are layed in similarly, where the colors are
judged relative to the initial patch (eg the nose area is
redder, the neck area is yellower). Entire initial area of
paint consists of 1 value with color nuances
He said he doesn't pre mix colors for small paintings like
this sketch, except for 2 puddles of a light and dark mix
made using his brush. For larger paintings he does use more
elaborate pre mixing.
He noted its better start a bit too dark than too light.
Adding light strokes wet into wet later is easier than
Measurements indicated by small horizontal lines: top of
head, eyes and chin.
painted as rough color patches are: front plane of the head
(reddish) area between brow and bottom of nose: purplish and
green, neck: yellowish
After rough-in of the single-value area, he paints on top
with a darker color, drawing the shadow side and brows. The
shadow color he uses is very warm: transparent oxide red. He
draws the brows and shadow area on the left side and
estabilshes the correct color/value relationships without
exact drawing. Then he exactifies the colors in the light
area, and moves on to the darkest value.
There seems to be too much glare on the dark side making it
difficult to continue there. So he decides to move on in the
light area instead. He adds a dark note for the hair on the
right side as a reference for tone first.
Jeremy notes that the darkest darks on the light side of the
head (eg the eye lashes) are lighter than the darkest darks
on the dark side. Though we would be tempted to paint them
both black. Taking this difference into account enhances the
illusion of the big form of the head moving from left to
He now checks the measurements again and marks the bottom of
the nose by a thin orange line.
Starts to paint over the initial lay in, with almost no
medium. He is defining the eye first in a detailed manner
with all features visible. But the details remain very soft.
What strikes me is that the edges of the planes in the face
are quite crisp.
Jeremy notes that he doesn't try to mix absolute colors, but
is looking at color relations within the painting and
When working on the planes of the face, he often uses a single
stroke to define a plane (or at least, that is what it
looked like to me.)
He notes that he often flattens the ridges of paint in a
brush stroke to reduce glare, but he is keeping the 2d shape
of the brush stroke in tact, not softening the stroke into
the surrounding paint.
When asked about the rationalae behind the shape of his
brush strokes, he notes that shadow shapes are more
important to him than anatomy. (anatomical knowledge).
Anatomical details are sometimes smudged later on, if they
are part of the same shadow shape.
After having layed in the nose, the area of the mouth still
looks flat. I noticed him putting a series of lighter valued
vertical strokes on top of this area, starting in the center
and moving outward toward the edge of the face, so that less
and less paint is deposited toward the edges. That kind of
added some dimensionality to the area.
I noticed he was making small, very saturated colored
touches here and there. When I asked why, he said that this
makes the painting look less 'monochrome'. The skin tones
itself often consist pretty much of light and dark versions
of a single color. I noticed he often adds the bright
patches in places where there are specular reflections,
hence suggesting the color of the light source. But not
always: a narrow rim of bright green was painted near the
shadow of the hair cast on the skin.
About his medium, Jeremy noted he prefers to use walnut oil
as opposed to linseed oil, because of the 'texture'. He also
uses poppy for slower drying.
I asked him about working from photo references. He said he
uses a large Xpple monitor. The color temperature of the
monitor and photos is not matched to his studio lights. He
said he is only looking at color relations on the screen.
The direction of brush strokes is not important, except for
preventing glare. He chooses a brush stroke direction only
for practical reasons (eg following an area of single tone),
not to enhance the form.
When re-working an area that is dry, he starts with laying
in a region of new color, and paints into that. He doesn't
oil out the area.
Notes on the design of the hair: the flat 2d shape is most
important, but he also looks at 3d design elements like
strands of hair wrapping around the head into the
To get a soft edge between the hair and background, I
noticed he takes some background color and paints that
partly into the wet hair area.
At some point, he noted that he was shifting from 2d flat
shape thinking to 3d thinking. Eg: the red collar on the
left has a straight pointy shape. He modifies the shape
slightly, so it bends to the right near the end. This
enhances the suggestion that it is wrapping around the neck
moving away from the viewer.
A remark that I just picked up: value compression needs
simplification. (kind of figures)
When rendering the forms around the right eye area, I
noticed him using a tiny brush and making a lot of small
strokes (especially in the bags under the eye) The eye
lashes were simplified to a single dark area, but he used a
lot of tiny, tiny vertical strokes to paint the area.
After having layed in the mouth at an earlier stage, he now
returned to this area to improve the form. He said he is
viewing the entire mouth area as a single unit, consisting
of a left, front and right plane. Using additional dark,
middle and light values on the left, middle and right plane
he now improved the form. I had the impression that he was
now no longer looking a the model a lot, but more at the
effect of the added values to the painting itself. He also
noted he was seeing to it that the planes of the mouth and
surrounding areas look more connected. I didn't quite get
Small changes can often clarify the form: eg the hilight on
the nose which appeared as a round dot in the model, he
chose to paint as an elongated form on the intersection of
the front and bottom plane of the nose. Painting the hilight
shape along the entire intersection, better suggests the
change of the front plane to the bottom plane than using a
small dot hilight.
A note about the nose: he prefers to keep the values of the nostrils high because the actual value is too distracting.
He sometimes removes/smudges details. At a certain point, he
simplified the entire front plane of the head by softening
that entire area.
A small compositional 'trick' he introduced in the hair he
called a 'window'. This is an opening in the subject,
through wich one can see the background, like eg. an open
door in a landscape painting. This way the composition
doesn't turn into a single block. In this case it was just
a strand of hair that wrapped around in a circle, creating a
port hole to look through.
I noticed him making a lot of variation in brush strokes:
-long, continous strokes (eg along the edge of the right cheak and neck
-waving (moving the brush left and right quickly while holding it at the outer end)
-rolling the brush over the surface
-rows of very small touches
He said he is using Cremnitz white almost exclusively
because of the texture / different handeling (different from
At a certain moment he said he wanted to return to the area
under the nose to make it 'turn more'.
To observe colors he said he sometimes gazes at the area
directly next to the area of interest. But also he squints
to observe colors when the light is very bright.
He noted that when an area is too dark, it is usually
preferred to make another area darker instead of adding
light. (to preserve color?)
The last day of the workshop we painted a figure in the open
air. I made just a couple of notes this day.
Jeremy used entirely different colors than were seen in the
subject: blues/purples rather than the greens of the wheat.
The effect was that in the end, the figure looked warm,
though he didn't start with particularly warm colors in the
He talked about the tones of trees near the horizon: they
seem pretty dark but really aren't. To judge the actual
tone, one can view them while holding up a dark object (eg
finger) near the eye, viewing the object and the trees
simultaneously. The finger then looks much darker than the
trees and one can see the trees are actually very light in
When placing the model in the wheat field and thinking about
the composition, he was looking for darker patterns in the
field. The moving wheat creates random patterns of darker
tones. In the final composition he painted the patterns so
that they lead up to the model.
In the clouds he used a lot of vertical strokes of different
values. He said that he was looking to suggest 3d forms in
the clouds this way (box model).
All in all about the workshop I dont have anything to add to Jeremy’s words
You can find another set of notes in Wouter Tulp's blog: