Saturday, June 26, 2010

Avoiding Temptation...

Diva (16x12)

After a long figure painting session, we asked our tired model if she would strike a pose or two for photos (with the heels that she couldn't endure during the pose she held earlier when we painted...). The temptation of course with photo reference is that you have the luxury to return to your frozen subject over & over whenever you like, usually resulting in too much detail and an overworked piece in the end (if you ever get to the end!).
So, I tried to stay away from too much detail by using the edge of a #4 brush for the smallest areas -- the idea is to keep more freshness to the brush strokes & paint texture. Another trick many painters use is the 'time limit method'; set an equivalent amount of time on the clock that you would have under a live figure model condition and quit when the buzzer goes off.

Rehearsing Young Dancer (16x12)

This was done from a black & white photograph, so I stuck to a limited palette (it's very difficult to invent convincing colour) but the mood reads better like this anyway....again, avoiding extraneous details that are tempting with smaller sized brushes.


Without small brush work, this painting has a fresher and more spontaneous feel than if I had noodled the details with tiny brushes. I'm not a great painter, but I have learned that a well placed heavily-loaded larger brush stroke will read as detailed as a multitude of smaller, finely finessed brush may take a few tries, but the end result will have a fresher look to it.

Oswego Homestead (16x20)

Last but not least, this piece just received the Purchase Prize award at last nights"Chronicles Invitational Exhibit" at the Lake Oswego Festival of Arts. The Festival selects one painting annually into their permanent collection that chronicles the history of the town of Lake Oswego, Oregon.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Say "NO" to Flesh Tone!

Lindsey (8x6 0il)

Figure studies are done quickly -- just long enough to capture gesture, shape, colour. Something to consider when working quickly in an editing mode is the use of exaggeration of colour and contrast. Often in figure drawing studios, the lighting is less than optimal so improvisation is helpful if you know what to push...

(12x9 oil pastel)

Think in terms of temperature, not colour. The phrase "Skin tone" has a premeditated effect on your choice of colour so I try to not use it. "Flesh tone" is even worse (not to mention prejudice) -- it immediately conjures up pinks where greens, violets, and a variety of unnameable grays & browns are much more accurate. Skin (of any race) has a unique, absorbing surface and is always visually effected by it's surrounding light and background colour.

Sue (12x16 dry pastel)

In most cases (especially with lighter skin) the larger the form, the grayer it appears/ the smaller the form, the redder (or warmer). Blood runs closer to the surface on small forms; the nose is redder than the face, the face redder than the head, the head redder than the torso, etc. Exaggerating the temperature of forms helps define them while adding interest palette-wise. Extremities such as wrists & ankles, fingers & toes, ears & nose, knees & elbows have a warmer tint compared to broader parts such as thighs, torso/back, etc. By keeping the larger, broader areas of the body cooler and the smaller parts warmer, you will have a more convincing palette of colour in your studies as well as your finished works of the human figure.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

On the EDGE...

Study for Betty Carter (16x8)

Edges -- there are several kind; Soft, Hard, Broken, Lost... Without a variety of edges, a two-dimensional painting will appear either out of focus or as flat as flat can be. Edges of course turn objects in space, and give the illusion of space itself as well as make the subject of a painting relate to it's background plane. Edges also create texture, energy and movement...

In this study sketch, all of the main edge categories are present -- mostly created without much thought by painting rapidly with little investment. One of the joys of painting this way is not worrying about the outcome -- it's a "study" not a final product, so there's plenty of bandwidth for mistakes along with happy accidents -- stuff you leave behind or carry over to the next version. Her cheek on the left side of the picture has a soft to lost edge -- this soft edge turns the curve of her face away from us. Conversely, the drop-shadow of her lower lip casts a hard edge on her chin. Those edges create form. Other edges present in her hair, dress and even the edges of random strokes in the background express energy & movement...

Banjo Player study (detail 16x12)

Broken edges are interrupted lines, either skipped along with repeating staccato-like strokes, scrubbed in with a coarse brush or achieved with a dry brush technique (thicker paint, dragged on lightly). Sometimes a wet-into-wet squiggle will suffice for a broken/soft edge as with the banjo player's shoulder -- this also creates energy within the composition.

Lost edges are just that -- they don't really exist where you know an edge really does. These edges are atmospheric tricks of the eye where the value of one shape runs into the area of another shape without any defining border. These edges are often found within shadow shapes because of the lack of defining light, but can also be used (or exaggerated) in the light areas as well to create moody effects or to help in unifying the subject with it's background. A lost edge gives a receding effect to a shape adding extra dimension to the picture plane, but of all the edges, this one should be used the least -- too many times or in too large an area it can read more gimmicky than believable. Back lit objects have a halo effect of soft and lost edges and are a good exercise to render along with hair or folds in clothing and when studying edges.