Tag Archives: oil painting

I'm excited to show you The May Queen (this is the piece I posted about last week). She is a companion piece to Jack in the Green and prints of both are available through my online store. Both original paintings will be at my IlluXCon Showcase table this coming Friday, October 20th (8 p.m. to MIDNIGHT) and Saturday, October 21st (6 p.m. to 10 p.m.). IlluXCon is being held in Reading, PA. Learn more on their site.

oil painting of the may queen in color sauntering down a gray drab city street by christine mitzuk
May Queen, 12"x16" oil painting. Click JPEG to view larger.
pencil drawing on duralar of may queen walking down drab city street
May Queen, approximately 9"x12". preparatory drawing. Click JPEG to view larger.


oil painting of red yellow orange wyvern hunting a caterpillar among branches
Wyvern Hunting, 11"x14" oil painting

Lunch or dinner?

I finished this piece back in May. Wyvern Hunting is now varnished, framed, and ready for display at Gen Con. Loose prints area available through my online store, and I will have both loose and matted prints with me for sale at Gen Con.

Read on for a peek at some of the process.


This piece was initially inspired by a photo I took YEARS ago on a trip in Arizona.

photo of bird in a bush by christine mitzuk
This photo I took while on a trip in Arizona inspired my Wyvern Hunting painting







pencil on vellum drawing of a wyvern type dragon sitting on a branch staring at a caterpillar by christine mitzuk
An initial idea for Wyvern Hunting. Pencil on Vellum.

Here's a VERY early version. At this point I decided the gesture and design of the creature needed something more. I decided the "lying in wait" pose wasn't interesting enough, it needed to be more dynamic so I thought about how some birds sort of waddle down a branch and how their heads and necks move in relation to their bodies.

As part of the process for this piece I went on a "field trip" to a local reptile shop. They kindly gave me permission to take photos, without flash, of their critters. I found this extremely helpful because I could then study a variety of reptiles from different angles.

pencil drawing on vellum of wyvern type dragon hunting a caterpillar by christine mitzuk
Pencil drawing on vellum

I did studies of skulls, scales, and various animal skeletons in an effort to better understand what might be going on with my Wyvern. Then I came up with this version.

Something wasn't quite working. I'm thankful for the input I received at IlluXCon from an artist who specializes in creatures. He suggested a few body mechanic changes and suggested I create a maquette. (A while back I posted about the maquette I created for this project).

pencil drawing on vellum of wyvern type dragon hunting a caterpillar by christine mitzuk
Pencil on vellum.

Here's the final drawing. I created a line drawing on Canson Vidalon Vellum, scanned it in for later use, then completed the drawing with values on the other side of the vellum.

(The drawing is currently available for purchase. Contact me with inquiries).




drawing of wyvern type dragon hunting a caterpillar among branches by christine mitzuk
Wyvern Hunting drawing on vellum (various pencils used: graphite, white Conté, and Creatacolor Nero).








Digital color added to scanned pencil drawing of a wyvern hunting a caterpilar
Digital color added to scanned pencil drawing

This time around, I made a few digital color studies. They helped me get the color idea in the ballpark and then I just decided to dive in and paint.


Nature is one of the best places from which to gather reference. I've been working on a piece that is set during twilight. Using my memory, I made several attempts at a twilight color and value scheme in color studies but the look and feel just wasn't coming across. I was trying to get that feeling of the gauzy, dusty, purplish-blue light that seems to cover everything in certain twilight situations I've seen here in Minnesota.

I needed more information. I needed to do some studies from life.

oil paint studies of a creature in twilightA toy dinosaur of similar color to the creature in my painting made a great stand-in set up outside at twilight. The three attempts all happened on different nights with relatively clear sky because there's only about 30-45 minutes to study the general twilight lighting I wanted.
First attempt: Painted all in natural light outside. Toy, canvas, and paint all under the same natural light. When I brought everything inside, the painted study looked like the toy in regular light.
Second attempt: Painted from memory, and using the first study as a guide for shapes. I thought dusty purple was the way to go for the light parts but it still didn't look right.
Third attempt: I set up outside again. The toy was in natural light. I purchased a two-headed LED music stand clip-on light to shine on my canvas and palette. The packaging doesn't list the Kelvin temperature of the light. To me it seems to be a fairly neutral "white light" if not maybe shifted a little cool. Either way, this made a huge difference for my twilight study. I was able to separate what I was seeing on the toy from what I was painting. I like this third attempt the best and will be using the information I gathered about values and colors in my imaginative piece.

Colors used: Permalba White, Winsor Yellow (PY4), Gamblin Quinacridone Magenta (PR122), Gamblin Manganese Blue Hue (PB 15:4), Gamblin Napthol Scarlet (PR 188), Winsor & Newton Permanent Green (PY 138, PG7, PW6), Utrecht Ultramarine Blue (PB29). The first two studies I used pretty much all these colors. The third attempt I used primarily the white, yellow, magenta, and manganese blue hue.

While searching the internet for tips on plein air painting at night, or nocturnes, or plein air at twilight, I found James Gurney's post about painting at night http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2014/09/night-sketching-in-alleys.html. Thanks Mr. Gurney! He lists several different little lights. I ended up going to my local music store and purchased a portable, battery operated, dual-head gooseneck music stand light.

oil painting plein air box with canvas on board and light shining on it
My plein air set up with the clip-on dual-head gooseneck led light


random oil paint textures on prepared birch plywood
The random textures I started with. Oil paint on prepared birch plywood.

In my efforts to loosen up and trust my imagination more, I decided I need to strengthen my creative intuition, trusting my gut and follow where my imagination takes me instead of putting on the brakes too soon and following the "rules". I think it's important for me to have a blend of the judge and the playful art monkey. A blend of rule following and exploration.

Inspired by a landscape I saw at the Minneapolis Institute of Art by Max Ernst titled "Landscape with Lake and Chimeras" c1940 (I think it was this one). The description next to the painting pointed out that it was "created by putting paint down, sticking a sheet of glass or paper to it and then removing the sheet to make 'unexpected textures' ". Surrealism and Dadaism were two of my first artistic loves so rediscovering an artist from that era feels lovely. Being at MiniCon this weekend and seeing Jon Arfstrom's work again, I realize that some of his imaginative works also had a hand in inspiring me to do this. Hopefully I'll have more on Jon Artstrom at a later date. If you haven't seen his work you're in for a real treat.

A few weeks back I had leftover paint on my palette and was feeling adventurous so I put some paint on some prepared boards, added a little solvent, and then stuck a sheet of glass on top. I decided to make them color themes (reds, yellow+green, and blue+black+white). I smushed, tipped, and twisted the glass-board-paint stack. What I ended up with were some very interesting textures.

This week I took some time to explore and follow my intuition instead of going through the planning phases. Here's what happened. I'm calling them Foundlings. These three will be with me for sale at Spectrum Live next weekend in Kansas City, MO (hopefully dry). I will be set up at Artist Table #14. Stop by and meet the Foundlings.

Edit: these and a few more will be with me at the IlluXCon Showcase 2017.

oil painting of a blue and black winged lynx-like beastoil painting of a strange caterpillar monster belching flamesoil painting of a smoke puffing red demon dragon monster watching and waiting





Lines for study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov
Lines for study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov

Doing a study of a masterwork can be a great way to learn. I have been in awe of the handling of color and value of many of the paintings on display at The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis, MN so was thrilled to receive permission to do a study there. To get the most of the experience I applied some advice a teacher/mentor gave me to this museum study: go with a question you want answered. My question or goal: To better understand how to handle value and color. How did a lot of the Russian Realist painters paint with value and color so masterfully?

For the time available to me, I could choose only one painting for study (to clarify, my time was not limited by the museum but by other factors). I requested permission to study the painting “Milkmaids, Novella” 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov 1918-1993. So my question became, “how did he handle the values and colors in this painting?”

Grayscale study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov
Grayscale study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov

Another mentor suggested that I draw or trace the masterwork I'll be studying BEFORE I go to the museum. If I were to draw on site I would have spent several extra days on just getting the drawing correct. By preparing the drawing before I went to the museum, I could use my limited time to really focus on exploring that main goal of better understanding value and color.

I did two studies, one just focusing on the relationships of the values so I painted it in grayscale. Then I did a second in color. One of the challenges was that the original piece must be nearly 8'x4', and my studies were merely a fraction of that. I wasn't going to be able to get all the blending and nuanced color and value changes. Instead, for the grayscale version I focused on the relationships of the values, and the large value shapes. For the color version I focused on the color relationships (their hue, temperature, value, and chroma). A lot of the color in the original was created by overlapping strokes, or strokes with multiple colors in them so my version was more a study of the larger impression or appearance.

Color study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov
Color study of "Milkmaids, Novella" 1962, by Nikolai Nikolaevich Baskakov

Note: This was an excellent learning experience! I would like to give special thanks to The Museum of Russian Art and the head curator, Masha Zavialova, Ph.D., for allowing me to do this study.

I'm not quite sure where it came from. The idea arrived, and delighted me with its silliness.

I pretty much followed my usual process on this one: drawing, reference, value studies, color studies, paint.

Line Drawing and Value Studies This time I drew on tracing paper and did minimal values with the pencil. Then I scanned it in and broadened the range of values with darker darks and a few lighter lights. I was initially thinking this would be a blue sky with puffy white clouds.mitzuk-flying-turtles-values

Reference Some of the reference I used for this project included shots of turtles from our local zoo (and our doctor's office of all places). I also purchased a few toy critters to hold up outside so I could see what the value relationships might look between the light shapes, dark shapes, and background.flying-reference


Color studies I did a few in gouache on 300 lb watercolor paper and a few digitally. Once I got the color idea down in front of me, I decided I didn't really like the blue sky and puffy white clouds. Those colors and lighting situation didn't have much drama or story to compliment the more dramatic view of the turtles soaring overhead. I decided to experiment with sunrise or sunset colors and lighting. Perhaps they're on their way for a mission, or returning from one?flying-turtles-color-studies

Paint Oil on oil primed linen stretched over a board with bracers on the back.

oil painting on primed linen of turtles flying with propellars coming out of the top of their shells and wearing aviator caps by christine mitzuk
Flying Turtles

Come join the fun!

Enrich your summer by learning and playing with art. I will be offering 3 classes and one workshop for the 2016 summer session. All classes are held at the Minneapolis based art school The Atelier Studio Program of Fine Art. It is located in the Fisk Building on the corner of East Hennepin Ave. and Stinson. Free off street parking is currently available.

Registration information is at the bottom of this blog post.

Gesture Class is Back!

gesture drawingGestural Figure Study
Gain a better understanding of gesture of the figure. This class will mesh The Atelier and Studio Arts figure study methods. We will be drawing from a live, nude model. Students will explore what gesture is and ways to capture it through quick poses, progressively longer poses, and experimentation. Materials list will be supplied upon registration. Beginners welcome.

Starting TUESDAY, May 24, 4:15 - 6:45 PM
$200, 10 weeks


Illustration Class

digital painting of the astrological sign Aries by christine mitzuk to be used in Llewellyn's 2015 Astrological CalendarLet your imagination fly! During this class, students will develop imaginative pieces based upon a story or individual ideas. We will move from idea generation to preparatory work and on to final art. Emphasis will be placed on composition, and storytelling. Students may choose to work in the medium with which they are comfortable. Christine has experience to support watercolor, colored pencil, pen and ink, oil paint, or digital painting. Feel free to contact Christine with questions.

Starting Thursday, May 26, 7:00- 9:30
$170, 10 weeks


Portrait and Interior Class

Christine Mitzuk Portrait Class

Make your own magic! Learn to create portraits from Atelier trained artist Christine Mitzuk. Beginner and intermediate students welcome.

Students draw in charcoal and may progress to oil or pastels. Capturing the likeness is emphasized. Depending on what each student works on, color and techniques in oil and pastelare covered.

Starting TUESDAY, May 24, 7:00 - 9:30 PM
$200, 10 weeks

A Thursday class is also available, taught by Laura Tundel.
Starting THURSDAY, May 26, 7:00 - 9:30 PM
You are welcome to sign up for both (for $400) if you'd like more time to develop your portrait.

Illustration Workshop (1 week)

watercolor of hummingbirds singing in a barbershop quartet by Christine MitzukLet your imagination fly! Get a taste of illustration during this week long, half-day workshop.

We’ll work to develop a strong drawing for an imaginative piece based upon an existing story or your own idea.

Topics covered will include composition, brainstorming, thumbnails, research, sketch development, and studies for value and color. Emphasis will be placed on composition, and storytelling.

For the first class please bring a sketchbook, and your preferred drawing tools. If you have a laptop or other device with internet access, you are welcome to bring that too for reference research. If you have a specific project in mind, please contact me.

June 27 - July 1, 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM
$200, 1 week

Register for classes one of three ways:

Option 1: Call The Atelier at 612-362-8421. Main hours are 9am - 4pm Central Time or during evening classes. Please leave a message if you don't get a live person.
Option 2: Print out the registration form from the course catalog PDF.
Option 3:  Contact me and I'll help you out,

I've been told not to paint with regular cooking oil. It's isn't a drying oil. Instead of just accepting this I got curious.

raw umber oil paint test swatches to test drying time of raw umber by itself, with galkyd lite, with walnut alkyd, and with cooking oil by christine mitzuk
Raw Umber oil paint swatches to test drying time of paint, paint with mediums, and paint with cooking oil.

Yesterday I made a little test. I used Raw Umber oil paint (it's one of the faster drying oil colors on it's own). The brand I used has alkali refined linseed oil as the vehicle for the pigment. I used a piece of acrylic primed cotton duck canvas. As for thickness of paint, I covered the canvas so none could be seen through the paint but not so thick that I left brush strokes (except for one accidental spot on the Walnut Alkyd test swatch).

I painted the swatches about 2pm yesterday and checked them about 12:30pm today. Here's what they're like today.

Raw Umber Oil Paint, just paint. Dry to the touch. A little paint came up when I wiped the swatch with a piece of paper towel but not enough to see the canvas.

Raw Umber plus some Galkyd Lite (by Gamblin). Dry to the touch. No paint came up when I wiped the swatch with a piece of paper towel.

Raw Umber plus Walnut Alkyd Medium (by M. Graham & Co.). Dry to the touch except for the one spot where left a slight buildup of paint. That one spot was a little tacky and a teeny bit of paint came up when I touched that one spot. A teeny bit of paint came up when I wiped the flatter area of the swatch with a paper towel, barely discoloring it, but not enough to see the canvas.

a test swatch mixing raw umber oil paint with cooking oil to see if it stays wetRaw Umber plus cooking oil (I used a store brand I had lying around that's made from soybean oil). Tacky and wet. Quite a bit of paint came up when I wiped the swatch with a paper towel. I'm curious if this will ever dry so I'll check it again once a day for the next few days and then maybe once a week for a few weeks. Maybe results would differ if this were a different cooking oil. I still wouldn't recommend painting with cooking oil. We'll see what happens.

March 16, 2016 Update: I checked the swatch of Raw Umber mixed with cooking oil again one and two days after the original blog post.

March 10, 2016 (one day after the post). the paint was only slightly tacky to the touch and very little came up on a paper towel (only a slight discoloration of the paper towel).

March 11, 2016 (two days after the post). The paint was dry to the touch. Only a faint, whisper of color rubbed off on a paper towel dragged across the swatch.

This result is different than what I expected. I thought it would take weeks if not months to dry. Why?

The cooking oil ingredient is "soybean". According to "The Painter's Handbook: Revised and Expanded", by Mark David Gottsegen, 2006, "It [soybean oil] dries much more slowly than linseed oil but has been successfully incorporated into synthetic binders to ensure flexibility (see p. 79)". So soybean oil does dry but slower than linseed oil which I suppose would explain why this swatch dried slower than the swatch of just paint. However, I would NOT use regular soybean oil for painting. As far as I know, it isn't refined into a professional grade oil painting medium so I doubt if a painting created in such a way could be permanent. I want to be known to create quality, professional oil paintings so I will NOT be using this oil to paint with. I will stick with using professional grade artist oil painting mediums.

Mr. Gottsegen also writes about "semidrying oils" (which include corn, olive, peanut, and other types of vegetable oil"  and "nondrying oils" which include motor oil or castor oil (see p. 77). He points out that both these categories of oils are impermanent and should not be used for painting. I think he makes a very valid point that although these materials might be less expensive, "is your reputation worth the money? (see p. 79)."

If you want to know more about art materials, how to stretch your own canvas, how to protect and store art, artist health and safety, I highly recommend this book. It's my go-to resource for topics like this blog post. Gottsegen, Mark David. "The Painter's Handbook: Revised and Expanded". New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 2006.

I'm prepping for IlluXCon which takes place weekend in Allentown, PA. My newest originals, "Golden Dragon Eye", and "Voodoo Queen (Woman of Power)", are framed and ready for their debut!

Golden Dragon Eye (approximately 6"x6"), and Voodoo Queen (approximately 11x14") framed and ready to go.
Golden Dragon Eye (approximately 6"x6"), and Voodoo Queen (Woman of Power) (approximately 11x14") framed and ready to go.

You can see them in person this weekend. I will be in the evening Showcase Friday, October 23, 8:00 pm - midnight, and Saturday, October 24, 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm. In addition to these paintings, I'll have a collection of original drawings, sketches, and limited edition prints for sale. You will find me sharing a table with the wonderful Galen Dara.

The Showcase is open to the public free of charge and will take place at the Allentown Center City Holiday Inn.

You're welcome to stop by and say, "Hi!"


She's done! I'm exited to show this finished piece. I'll have the framed "Voodoo Queen (Woman of Power)" painting, and the pencil drawing with me at IlluxCon during the evening Showcase 10/23 and 10/24.

Oil painting on sealed and gessoed masonite board.
Oil painting on sealed and gessoed masonite board.

This time I did an underpainting with acrylic Raw Umber and then painted with oils. It warmed things up a bit for me, and acted as a great start on arranging my values in paint.

acrylic underpainting using raw umber by christine mitzuk a woman in a cemetery
Acrylic Raw Umber underpainting.