I was about to varnish the entire image today, but I knew deep down I wasn't ready yet. There are parts of this piece that I am not happy with and I want to resolve them. It would be like quitting before you took your last turn, because once you varnish, it seals the surface. Sure you can paint over the varnish, but that defeats the purpose.
Varnish is used for two reasons. One is to protect the surface of the painting by creating a protective layer and the other is to unify the surface (it re-saturates all of the colors and gives everything an even *shine* - it eliminates the "dead" spots that can occur when oil paint dries. Not all artists varnish- it can be an aesthetic choice.
The above photo is a detail of a varnish test I did on the top left corner of the painting. You should be able to see a clear line of where I varnished and where I didn't. The deeper "dark" color has been varnished. It makes this color very rich. trust me.
So instead of getting out my varnish brush, I took out my usual brushes and got out some new paint and I repainted the face again today - for the final time. 4th time is a charm. It is a major focal point of the piece, so if it isn't good enough, the rest of the piece will suffer (and I like the rest of the piece). This is the final paint job. I am happy with it. I was not hitting the right marks in it before. I wasn't following the form nor keying the right values. When I say repainted it, I mean the whole thing. not just the ear or the cheek. Now I am happy with it. It is very cohesive.
My new flesh tones that I mixed up were much more accurate than the previous batch - plus I didn't over brush or "noodle" it to death. Lay it down and move on - I should make a giant sign to hang in my studio. If you overbrush and overwork, you kill it. You loose all sense of energy and life in the brushwork, and worst of all you muddy up the color. I will apply a simple glaze to accentuate a few parts though.
I used my new batch of skin colors to add some much needed form to the fingers as well. They seemed a little flat and simple before. A little extra modeling here and there...
so here we are today. I'd say I'm about 96% there. All I want to do is tweak a few of the objects and throw a little glaze on the figure and we are ready to varnish.
I'll talk about the varnish in the next post.