Saturday, October 30, 2010

Speed Painting a Model

24 x 36

I recently hired a model to come into my studio and Alice Helwig and I painted her. We had her for 3 hours, which seems like lots, but is nowhere near enough time. 

The good thing about the time constraint, however, is that I didn't have time to think, tweak, or fuss.  I had a big, ambitious canvas in front of me and, if I wanted to make the session worthwhile, I had to fill it with enough information to be able to finish the painting after the model left.  It was speed painting!

The first thing that I did was quickly draw the basics of the pose with a thin, brownish colour.  Then I switched to a big brush (size 12) and roughly slapped on all of the darks in the composition: shadows on her skin, dark drapery, hair, lips, eye sockets, everything.  

Right about then I was cursing myself for not toning the canvas first; it would have reduced friction on the brush and would also have meant less painting for me in the long run because there wouldn't be any pesky white canvas to cover.  But it was too late to backtrack and so I sped on, using big bristle brushes to cover the canvas in a hurry, and without the commitment of the definite marks that synthetic brushes make.  I love the quote by John Singer Sargent: "Start with a whisk and end with a broom."  It sums up the rough, sketchy work that happens under the dashing, dramatic marks that finish a painting.  

Next I blocked in some basic warm skin colours for her body and draped a cool, greenish tone over most of the shadows and the places where her form was turning away from the warm light.  I kept the shapes big and loose, ignoring any small variations like the little hit of orange light at her clavicle and her facial features.  

Then I blocked in a background to kill the white and got down to the business of painting with creamier, more distinctively-applied paint.  My favorite part!

The light in the studio wasn't this dramatic as there is no direct sunlight coming into the space, but I had a warm light on the model, and I exaggerated its effect on her body.

When the 3 hours were up, I had enough on canvas to finish the painting later.  Her body was done and the face was roughed in.  The eyes were closed, but I found her face too blank that way, so I repainted them open later.

This was great fun to paint.  I'll do it again, though I might go for a less ambitious size of canvas, or hire the model for a longer stretch.  

1 comment:

SKIZO said...