Creating the portrait of Paracelsus - a visual diary
This portrait of Paracelsus was painted by an unidentified Flemish artist in the 17th century (possibly Jan van Scorel) copying an original portrait by Quentin Metsys (c.1465-1530) who was a contemporary of Paracelsus. Thus the original portrait may have been drawn from life. Two other copies exists, see here for details. I decided to paint this in a relatively small format as befits an intimate portrait (about 10 by 12.5inches). As this will be a relatively quick work to complete, not having great detail or requiring many paint layers, I will keep here a diary of my progress, just to show how I work. Begun 3rd February 2005.

Original painting by Metsu. When painting my version of this I will make the background colours more vivid, remove the reddish cast on the face and perhaps lighten the rather brooding sky a little.

Outline of the painting drawn onto the board. Corrected the spelling of 'Paracelsus'

First day of work on the face. More detail and blending of forms will be needed.

Began to work on the landscape background. When I put in the sky the colours will become more balanced. Perhaps I should have worked on the sky at the beginning as without darkness in the sky the tonalities are quite unbalanced. The next task must be the sky.

First layer of sky. The form and textures of the clouds are quite complex so will need a number of layers in order to blend the forms into a seamless whole. Then the overall tonalities of the sky will be darkened somewhat, but not as dark as in the photograph of the painting which I am working from.

Worked on the hair and his cloak. This ties the whole painting together tonally and allows me to see the areas that require adjusting somewhat in tone. The main forms are now established but this is just the initial layers of paint. Much overpainting will be required to model the forms more exactly. I will have to darken the sky with some overstippled layers and the face itself requires a lot more work. But one can now see the painting emerge.

Worked on the hands and the wooden bar. So though the picture looks complete in this small photograph, in reality there is much more to do on the details. Probably as many hours of work lie ahead as have already been committed. I stippled a translucent dark green glaze over some of the cloud forms in the sky and this reduced the too blueish tonality. I wish I could see the actual painting itself so as to assess the sky. It looks so brooding with the greenish gray tonality in the photograph I have of the original. Initially I thought this might be an artefact of the photograph but I now feel that this greenish gray tonality to the sky is appropriate. So I will stipple over a number of greenish glazes and see if I can get the right effect, and definitely reduce the blue.