Monday, December 10, 2012


Color relevancy and the limited palette

 2 hour study from life--Limited palette.

 Colors used:
Titanium white -Utrecht
Yellow ochre - Rembrandt
ced red medium - Rembrandt
Ivory black - Gamblin 

I find December a great time to step back and rethink a few things. The first order of business was to scrape down my palette. I wanted to reset my thinking on color. So I decided to give the "Zorn" colors a try again. I have worked with this set of colors at different times over the past ten years. So I was excited to give 'em a try again. 

When you have the model in front of you and the clock is ticking, there's a lot going through your mind. One of your comfort zones is to grab for your "typical colors" the ones you're use to and start mixing. But what happens when they're not there...and the clock is ticking! You have to rethink everything and fast! 

But just relax and remember, values are king, so dont throw the baby out with the bath water here. And just keep thinking and observing warm and cool...and of course don't forget to squint. Simple right? It's simpler than you think and exciting. Don't think about trying to get "that" color you see. Instead ask yourself what temperature and value is that color relative to everything around it, and mix according to that rule. You'll be surprised by what you can do with so little. I'll stick with this limited palette for a while, I really enjoyed it.

So next time you paint, give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Final thought--it's all about relevancy.

"Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things." --Edgar Degas

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The good, the bad and the ugly #1

I call them- The good, the bad and the ugly. Referring to my sketches of course, not the models. They're full of mistakes--but hey, they are what they are!!!

 15 minute- On gessoed drawing paper- 7x10. Focus: I wasn't too concerned with proper proportion or detail, I was only after the gesture. Surprising how the eye can fill in the missing parts.

10 to 15 min- Hahnemuhle drawing paper coated with acrylic medium to seal the paper from the oil- each is 7x5. Focus: These are fast and fun to do. You only have time to get the basic shapes--dont forget to squint!

 1 hour- On Centurion linen- 10x8. Focus: I was after shapes and proportions without an preliminary drawing. Train you eye to see proper shapes.

1 hour- On gessoed drawing paper- 10x 6 Focus: I simply wanted to see how far I could push color. Values are the foundation for the structure.

 1 hour- On gessoed drawing paper- 14x11. Focus: With this quick portrait I was after a tonal feel, so I limited the color and kept the paint thin.

 45 min- On Centurion linen- 8x10. Focus: I was after the simple separation of light and shadow. I had some fun putting down very thick paint on the light side.

 45 min- On Centurion linen- 8x10. Focus: Sometimes we just dont have time to finish--it is what it see, no hear:-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Step by Step of Essence of Lavender 30 x 24 Oil on Linen

Palette colors
 The palette that you see on the right is out of my travel box. Many times instead of squeezing color out on my studio taboret, I just clamp this palette down, and can use both surfaces to mix color.

 So from left to right:
Raw umber, transparent oxide red, Sevres, blue, ultramarine blue, quinacridone violet, peylene red, cad red light, cad yellow dp, cad yellow lt. titanium/zinc white.

It's my basic double primary palette, with a Quinacridone violet and a warm and a cool brown thrown in.
The two blobs of color to the left are just palette scrapings left over from the previous day.

 Step 1:
For many of my paintings, particularly undraped figures, I will do a separate drawing that I can refer back to. But in this case I started the charcoal drawing directly on the white ground of the linen. After many changes of both placement and proportions I ended up with this drawing…it’s certainly nothing fancy. I start with the paint by applying color to the light side of the figure using a mixture of white, cad yellow lt. and perylene red with a small amount of sevres blue (sevres blue is a Rembrandt color which is thalo blue and white). I want to keep the paint thin at this stage, so I use a generous amount of OMS to thin the mixtures.

 Step 2:
I continue to apply the basic flesh tones over most of the figure. I also mass in the general tones of the background, keeping them toward the warmer side and not pushing the values too far light or dark. As I work into the darker flesh tones I add some transparent earth red to the mixture. I’m paying particular attention to the grouping of the overall tones, trying to keep similar tones massed together, so at this stage I can get a feeling of where the painting is going.

 Step 3:
“Wow what was I thinking?!” was my first thought the next day. I was still happy with the figure but I felt that my background was too broken up and didn’t seem to make the best design. My tones weren’t as grouped as I had thought they were. I didn’t really want to scrape the panting down, but that little annoying voice kept telling me that I’d be sorry if I didn’t. With some trepidation, I went for it, scraping and wiping down most of the surface, fortunately the painting was still a little wet from the previous day, so the paint came off easily. I then proceeded to change the elements in the background, focusing on simplifying the design. With a few changes of furniture I was able to facilitate a simpler triangular design that focused more strongly on the figure. I then reestablished the figure along with the new changes in the background. The changes took most of day but it was definitely worth it.

 Step 4 and 5:
The next day I started working in earnest on the flesh tones. The figure is being lit with a cool north light, so I add sevres blue and quinacridone violet to the basic mixture of  yellow, red and white to give the flesh a cool tone on the light side. On the shadow side I keep my mixtures warmer by adding transparent red and cad. red light to the mixture. I’m not thinning the paint much. I enjoy putting the paint down thickly on the light side and a little thinner on the shadow side, that way there is more interest in the paint layers. As I apply the paint, I want to just put it down and not move it around too much. I will do some blending with my fingers.

Step 5: (Continuation of step 4):
You can see the flesh has taken on some fun color change-ups. It has taken me all day to work this stage.

Step 6:
This is the finished painting. I know it made a big jump to this stage. I got so into the painting I forgot to shoot it along the way--sorry. This stage represents two days work, but really all I did was to continue to resolve the flesh tones and shapes and give the edges some variety. I work all around the painting, trying not to spend too much time on any one spot. At some point during these last days I decided to move the bedspread and reduce the white sheet. It helped to get the dark against her shadow side so that the values didn’t jump too much; it added a solid feeling to the left side of the painting. 

Black & white and reduced value illustrations:

I like to show my painting in black & white to illustrate the organization of the shapes and value masses. I used a lot of color in the painting, but look at it in black & white, it seems very tonal—I think it reads quite well.
Now let’s look at it in two values. I used Photoshop to reduce the image down to two values only, notice the grouping of shapes. It makes for some abstract shapes (there is no face), but I feel it is well balanced.

Here it is in 3 values. It takes on more reality, it looks like a person. I think it is important how the middle values hold the painting together.

That's it, Thanks for looking.