Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rembrandt and Dirty Tricks

-By Justin Gerard

I will now show you a trick I stole from Rembrandt when he wasn't looking.

I begin with an extremely tight drawing, paying careful attention to the lines and proportions and expression.  I spend months and months of meticulous, precise draftsmanship to achieve the desired design.

I then destroy all of that and apply thick coats of paint like I am on fire. I also make sure to mangle the color.

I then eat my drawing, fall into a deep depression and curl up under the table and weep while playing recordings of whales and sounds from outer space.

Finally, I take a lousy digital photo of the painting. If there is one thing I am good at, it is taking lousy digital photos.

This is where Rembrandt's tricks come in.  Rembrandt had a curious habit of stopping a piece that was giving him trouble midway through and doing small studies of his painting to try and fix the issues that were troubling him. By doing this he could light his way forward without further savaging his painting. (see Rembrandt The Painter at Work from University of California Press for more on this.)

In my case here, I began to have doubts about my initial direction with color. I had originally been thinking the orange and green of mid day, but as I got into the painting I felt more and more like I really wanted this to be at night. So instead of possibly wrecking everything and having to rework it later, I took a digital photo, (HA! bet you wish you had one of these Ernst) after which I then applied a quick treatment of color in Photoshop (my native tongue).  This new comp, based on my current painting, is then used to guide me through to the finish and prevent me from losing my mind or trying to eat my own hands.

 12" x 16"
Oil on Masonite

I hope Rembrandt will forgive me for this little thievery.


  1. Oh you gave me a chuckle. Thanks for the post and thanks for your awesome sketchbook. I'm in love with your Ents.

  2. Well said and great work, Justin. Great humor, too. Thanks for teaching me. And I'm sure Rembrandt forgives you. ;-)

  3. If this illustration thing doesn't work out, you can always give comedy a try!

    Thanks for the great post!

  4. Great post! Sometimes I do it too and feel like i'm a terrible painter, but now i'll think "hey, i'm painting like Rembrandt and Justin Gerard. Awesome!"

  5. Your a strange egg Gerard, but i enjoy your art and your humor!

  6. I will be searching Amazon for recordings of whales and sounds from outer space. That is clearly what I have been missing.

  7. Boy, the weeping under the table struck a cord with me. The trick to that is spreading plenty of newspaper out and a scalding hot bowl of soup under the table BEFORE you start the painting process. That way, you can really capitalize on your weeping time by avoiding the need for breaks. And the soup will cool to the perfect temperature.

  8. Very cool ent! Am I the only one who thinks he looks like Craig Ferguson?

  9. I'm not seeing the Craig Ferguson, but I really like the result, nonetheless! Great color choices; super anthropomorphizing.

  10. amazing oil paint. I am taking your computer away.

  11. It would be instructive to see the comps you used

  12. I'm no Rembrandt. But, I've found, taking pictures with my phone during the WIP, I see thingsThat are not Obvious full scale.