Tutorial: Painting A Little Van Gogh

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Little Van Gogh is from a series of Weeble/Little People paintings that I’ve been working on since late 2020. This was an easy one that I knocked out in about 3 days. I used Atelier Interactive Acrylics for this one, and painted on a cheap canvas that I purchased from Michael’s Arts and Crafts stores. Also used was a #2 Winsor & Newton University Round synthetic brush. 

I thought that this would also be a great opportunity to write up a tutorial for the website. But I do want to warn you, this will be a long one, with lots of pics. 

Supply List

You can find these items art most major art suppliers and Amazon. Purchases using the Amazon links in this article help to support this website, thus keeping it free. Here’s what I used:

16 x 20 inch stretched canvas [Amazon] (You don’t have to use a stretched canvas. Any surface that can handle acrylic paint will work.)

• A bottle of Atelier Slow Medium [Amazon]. A few drops mixed in will do the trick. Interactive Acrylics dry really freakin’ fast!

• A #2 Winsor & Newton University Round brush [Amazon].

• The following tubes of Atelier Interactive acrylics: Cadmium Yellow Light [Amazon], Yellow Ochre [Amazon], Prussian Blue Hue [Amazon], Cadmium Red Light, Red Black, Titanium White [Amazon], Phthalo Blue [Amazon], Mars Black [Amazon], Permanent Sap Green [Amazon], and Green Black [Amazon]. (Mind you, some of these colors can be mixed.)

• Get yourself a spray bottle filled with distilled water to keep your paint wet.

Research for Little Van Gogh

Research was as easy as looking for inspiration on a Duck Duck Go image search. But the important thing was that the Van Gogh self-portrait closely match a Weeble cowboy. Shortly after, I roughed out a small thumbnail using just a pencil and watercolors. 

Actual Van Gogh self-portrait
Source: PaintingandFrame.com

Thumbnail in Sketchbook

The thumbnail was quickly done in a sketchbook, using good ol’ fashion pencil and watercolors. (I painted these last year during my visit to Corpus Christi, Texas.) What I wanted to accomplish was to help me determine my colors, composition, etc. Keep in mind, I kept my thumbnail simple. Later on, I’ll use this as my base, to further refine, in Corel Painter [Corel].

Original thumbnail of little van gogh painting, done in watercolors.
Original thumbnail of “Little Van Gogh” in watercolor and pencil

Refine in Corel Painter

This is the point when I want to refine my thumbnail sketch and start working out important details. The more I figured out things early on, the less I’ll have to think about it when I’m actually painting on canvas. 

I scanned in and enlarged my thumbnail. Then use it as my base in Corel Painter. I’ll create a new layer above my base to paint in the background using Oil and Sargent Brushes. Then I’ll create a new layer above that to paint in my foreground subject. 

In Painter I wanted to simulate what it’ll be like when actually applying paint to canvas. I want to get as many mistakes out of the way as possible. Since I’m spoofing a Van Gogh self-portrait, I’ll use a copy of the original to help me figure things out. 

Roughing It on Canvas

I normally transfer what I have in my rough to canvas via pencil. But even with the lightest of pencils (H8 graphite), there’s still a ton of smearing that occurs. This time around, I took a risk and used a cheap color pencil. It honestly worked out alright. Color pencil on canvas is very much erasable and I can create a pretty clean image on canvas.

A rough sketch of a weeble cowboy in color pencil on canvas.

Starting with the Background

One of the rookie mistakes that I’ve made when I first started painting poorly, back in the day, was falling in love with my foreground subject and painting the background last. But what would you like to get excess paint on and potentially screw up? Your subject? Or your background?

Ideally I’d like to do neither, but since I’m not God, I’d rather fudge my background. With that logic in mind, I started with the background, utilizing my main color, which is a mix of Red Black (Pigments PR112, PBk7). and Prussian Blue. I brush that mixture into the corners. Then in a circular pattern/motion, I brush in straight Prussian Blue. 

For the lighter shades of blue, I’ll mix in Titanium White. The reddish spots were created using Crimson with a touch of Red Black.

  • step 1 of background of Little Van Gogh being painted.
  • Step 2 of background of Little Van Gogh being painted.
  • Step 3 of background of Little Van Gogh being painted.
  • Step 4 of background of Little Van Gogh being painted.

Working the Body

I’ve decided on my faux Van Gosh, I’ll start from the weeble body up to the stetson. On the body, I took some artistic license and outlined the body with a lighter color that I used in the background. Actually, all of the colors that I used on the body came from my background colors. 

Remember that almost black color made from Red Black and Prussian Blue? I used that on the outside of the body, which will be the darkest. After that, straight Prussian Blue. Then a lighter color. Another lighter color. Finally a blue that predominantly made of white.

The bandanna I painted white as a base. Then I dab in a toned down Brunt Sienna under the head. I also tried to dab in some blue to the far left. I’m not sure if it’ll work out or not. Finally I brushed in some Red Black right under the head.

A demonstration as to how the weeble body is painted.
Click to enlarge.

Working on Little Van Gogh’s Face

Vincent Van Gogh didn’t use beige on the self-portrait the I’m attempting to spoof. He used a few yellows. So I’ll start by dabbing in Yellow Ochre. Not very pretty so far. Then I dabbed in a Cadmium Yellow mixed with some Titanium White. To maintain the handsome weeble features, I painted in the eyes, nose, and mouth with Black.

I cover the face in Red Black for both the shadow areas of the face and the under shadow of the hair. Soon after, I’ll layer on white, orange, yellow, and yellow Ocher.

  • Step 1: I dabbed in Yellow Ocher across forehead and lit side of the face.
  • Step 2: I dabbed in yellow where the highlights are on the face.
  • Step 3 More dabbs to the weeble head.
  • Step 4: I created shadows across the face using reb black paint.

Once that layer dries, I dabbed and stroked in oranges and reds for the beard, hair, and the shadow-side of the face. I’ll also add in spots of blue and green on the face.

Before you know it, I’m also working on the hat, starting with the under-colors. (Yes, I just made that term up!) I started with the darkest color. Then I dabbed in the greens. Finally I dabbed in the white, grey, orange spots, and whatever else.

On the triangle thing that represents the bandana, I decided to dab in yellows, greens, and Prussian Blue.

  • I started the hat on weeble van gogh with greens.
  • I added more red black to the shadow area of the hat
  • Added yellows to weeble van gogh's hat
  • I dabbed in whites to finish the cowboy hat

Final Dabs on Little Van Gogh

At this point, I’m wanting to wrap things up. I do some touching up to the face and hat. In the bottom right-hand corner, I painted in my faux Japanese-imitation stamp. (Which I screwed up anyway.) The original ideal was to use my Molotow Grafx Art Masking markers [Amazon] to mask out the kana, copyright, and signature. Then I painted over it with various muted colors. (The bigger one has a brush tip. The Smaller one had its tip replaced with 0.3mm marker tip.) When that didn’t work, I glazed over it with a diluted blue. That sorta worked. When I peeled off the masking fluid, I realized how messed up it was. I went over everything with a Jelly Roll pen [Amazon].

The final step of the "little Van Gogh" painting.
Click to enlarge.

Honestly Little Van Gogh was one of the easiest of the Weeble/Little paintings that I’ve worked on thus far. This has been my second serious attempt at using Atelier Interactive acrylics. And it has been a much more of a positive experience. To keep up with my mis-adventures, follow me on Instagram @chrishilbigdotcom.