Thursday, February 18, 2010

Setting up the palette-

     As I set up a new palette today, I thought I'd share the paints I use. After several months my palette ends up looking like this-

    I can still use it but when I add more paint on top of what is here, the dried layers underneath tend to suck the oil out of the new paint, leaving it too dry to work with. As shown here I usually work on a sheet of 16" x 20" glass with a 2" rim around two edges made from masonite. This rim serves to "corral" the paint, keeping it from taking over the surface. Before I did this, the paint would creep into the center mixing area little by little over the weeks, until I had a mixing area of about 5 square inches to work in. 
   You can see this masonite piece clearer below;
    This palette is smaller than above, 12" x 16" and I have used plexiglas because I will be traveling with it. A piece of beige paper is placed under the plex so that I can see white paint clearly and judge values better. The masonite piece is treated with 2 coats of shellac or the oil in the paint will be drawn out by the porous surface of the masonite. The colors I use vary slightly but these are the basics: from lower left- Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Viridian, Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow Light, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red Light, Cadmium Red Medium, Alizarin Crimson, Terra Rosa and Burnt Sienna. This whole palette is sitting inside the Masterson Palette keeper which has a soft plastic lid which snaps on to help keep things air tight and prolong the working time of the paint.
   Keeping the cool colors on one side of the white and the warm on the other is a good way to organize. Whatever way you decide to layout your colors always do it the same everytime, so that you can get what you need fast.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Head Study: General Grant

    Does this character look familiar? I wasn't lucky enough to have the original pose for me but I did see someone taking on his likeness at the Civil War reenactment at Spring Mountain Ranch near Las Vegas last spring. These types of affairs are great for getting some wonderful reference photos to paint from. Whenever I see a renaissance faire etc. advertised I am in the car with my camera.
   I began this like the previous head study, with a general tone on the canvas. This time I used the shadow on the face as the guide to determine the general color because the majority of the face is in shadow.

   The colors I used were Cadmium Red Medium, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Viridian Green, Cobalt Blue and White. I started working around the image, massing in one color area against another, always asking myself is the shape darker or lighter than what it's next to?  Is the color warmer or cooler? Everything is relative and depends on what it is next to in order to appear as it does. This can go a long way in your freedom to manipulate something the way you want it. For instance if I wanted his face to look really red, I would surround him with a green (the compliment) background.

  Going into the shadow shape on the face, it's a matter of breaking it up in to subshapes, going one shade darker in the crevices with a mixture of Alizarin Crimson, Terra Rosa and Viridian. Getting the sense of sunshine is a matter of adding some warmth into every light struck area.

    He's getting tidied up somewhat here. This is the time I really need to slow down and ask myself if I have missed anything that is important or have included something that really doesn't add to the effect.

  A few minor details and that's it!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Head Study

I am focusing on painting the head for this month. I want to try and cover as many face types as I can, old, young, male, female etc. This is the study I did today and how I went about it.

First I look at the face to decide what the general skin tone is. Is it a orange/peach tone or pink or maybe gold, also could be more violet. Her tone was a warm gold made up of Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red Medium and white. With a palette knife a mix is made than loosely brushed over the surface with no regard for the specific face.
This are several benefits to starting this way. The first one is to get rid of the white canvas and initiate the surface. It's always daunting to stare at a blank white canvas. The second is to tone the white down so that the other values can be judged more accurately. Another is this creates a surface with a little slickness that will help the paint to move easier. At this point I took a paper towel and wiped most of the paint layer off so that it wouldn't be too slick to work on. It now looks like the image below.

I am using Raw Sienna and a #1 soft hair filbert to draw in the structure. Continuing the drawing looking for the placement of the cheekbones, shape of the chin, how the hair sits on the head, thinking of all the hair as one mass, one shape. The head is slightly angled down as well as to the left. These subtle things are very important to getting things to look "right". 
This face does not have a strong light and shadow effect on it which means I have to look more carefully to see where the modeling in the forms happen. The sides of the face turn backward toward the side of the head, the nose turns downward on the sides as it turns into the cheek etc. I want to go as far as I can without putting in actual features. This is almost like carving the face out of stone, but using paint instead. I'm adding some Cadmium Red light with white to the cheeks, more Yellow Ochre with a little Viridian Green to the contours on nose and under eyes. the hair is Burnt Sienna, Terra Rosa and Burnt Umber.

This is the time to slow down and start refining the transitions between things. 
Also soften the color and always keep making corrections in the drawing. Getting more specific with the features I start shaping the eyes and mass in some color to the mouth with more Cadmium Red and white.

Getting closer to finish, it's just a matter of breaking the larger shapes into smaller ones until you have gone far enough. There is way more in real life than you would ever want to put into a painting. At some point it gets boring and the freshness is gone if detail is taken too far. It's up to you to use your judgement  concerning how far is enough.

Here's where I felt I said all that I wanted to say about this image.