Step by Step- Nosferatu by Jed Leiknes



Hi! I’d like to give you a little rundown of a painting, if that is okay. Let’s begin!

Tonight’s project is a larger portrait of Nosferatu the vampire, or at least his broke cousin Ron. Their dads are twin brothers. I started with a stretched canvas, which I believe was 36×24″ in size. Using sap green, burnt umber and raw umber thinned down with turpentine, I laid down a quick background knowing that later, the overall hue would continue to show through my paints as I built them up, forever giving our boy a bit of a sickly pallor.


I begin sketching him in with brush and the same two or three thinned-down paints I used for the background. WhiIe i try to stick to shapes and shadows initially, I am kind of pulling the imagery out of my head so I’m guilty of doing abit of contour linework. As long as I’m not leaving those flat borders around things later on, it doesn’t bug me all that much. As I go, I begin wiping out spots where I think light will hit. Things like nose, cheekbone, forehead all get hit with a bit of turp and then wiped off either with a rag or in my case, some incredibly cheap paper towel that has a tendency to crumble after a bit of this.

Once I’m fairly satisfied with the overall shape of my dude, I’ll take another quick go at the background with the same three paints. Between the initial backdrop, the sketch and the second background pass, the only difference has been brush size and the amount of turp I use.


At this point I’ll begin scaling back the amount of turp I use with each stage, and increasing the amount of medium I incorporate into my pigments (While I typically use Galkyd, for this project I’ve been using small amounts of Liquin. Each does their job and well, for me it’s a matter of what I’m trying to accomplish in a given painting). I’ll then get to blocking midtones and shadows in the face. I’ll continue using my sap green as well as a bit of Alizarin Crimson and adjusting with my raw umber and a quick-dry white; I’ll also tend to use Payne’s Gray and even venetian red. I don’t have a solid rhyme to what goes where, and tend to mix paint on the brush. It’s lazy and undisciplined but it also gives a piece a fun bit of energy. At the end of the day however, it still boils down to an awareness of value
and hue. Saturation can come later.


Before too long, and while the paint is still fairly wet, I’ll begin refining shapes and maybe even jumping ahead to texture… the two tend to even each other out as I go. For Ronsferatu, I wanted to give the guy just this incredibly dry, cracked skin. Keeping a basic sense of where my light source is, this is probably where I have the most fun. As I go I may hit opaques, refine AND add texture all at once. It’s a bigger piece so I’m after getting the underpainting where I want it, I’m just sort of moving paint around as I come to an area.


With time running out and precious minutes of sleep being ignored, I decide to focus specifically on the mouth for the rest of the night, taking care not to get too cartoony and flat with my shadows and highlights. It’s the easiest thing in the world to just blast a piece of art with sharp white highlights. But by the end of this, there
should only be a few distinct areas where pure white is used.

Next time we’ll hit the top of his forehead, sort out a background and think about glazing. Thanks for reading!




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