Saturday, December 12, 2015

Honest looking and painting

14 x 11 -ish
Weekly figure painting is becoming a fantastic tool for exploring and learning.  It's out of the comfort and control of my studio; the cool, chiaroscuro lighting is different than anything I'd set up; my palette is shrouded in darkness; and I'm in a room with other artists.  There are so many new variables and I can't rely on my usual working methods and tricks to paint the figure.  I really have to look and I really have to think.  That sounds obvious, but, like any other learned skill, there are a lot of processes that can easily become automatic, and thoughtless over time.  A painter may always use certain colours for skin, or always make shadows a certain value or temperature, regardless of the reality of the model in front of her.

As a consequence of being off balance, I find I'm painting slowly, carefully, and analytically.  The pleasure of "the zone" is absent (hopefully only temporarily), but it feels like an education.

This week's model was one of my favourites because of her delicate, fair skin.  It reflects whatever light there is and shows the most subtle warm and cool tints.  I've been experimenting with different palettes having found that my usual chromatic palette is too powerful in this space.  This week I worked with yellow ochre, cad red light, cobalt blue, raw umber and white - both flake white hue and titanium.  (In a misguided moment, I began to put some of the chair arm on the left into the picture with what looks like ultramarine and cad red light, but I stopped myself after a couple of marks.  It was throwing off the whole colour space.)  With the exception of the red, these are mild, weak colours, and they seem to be just the ticket for the lighting conditions.  At least they work for this model.

The only problem with the palette is the lack of a dark pigment other than raw umber.  While it's excellent for darkening other colours, it is quite neutral and rather uninteresting.  I'm still mulling over potential darkening pigments that have a bit more character to them.  Perhaps I'll try a darker value red next time, Venetian maybe.  Black is also an option, but it has a tendency to kill colours that it's added to and I know it could easily overwhelm the delicacy of the other pigments.  The dark transparency of a low chroma green (sap?) might be useful... I think it's time to make some colour charts.   I'll try something new next week and hope to learn something new as well.

Happy painting!


Chris O. said...

I love it!
& I'd love to see more of your "sketches" from life.
I look forward to finding out what colour you chose for darks.

Ingrid Christensen said...

Thanks, Chris. This little painting has actually sparked a lot of thinking, which is a very good thing!