Friday, February 19, 2016

Finding the differences

Model in a fancy chair
16 x 12
We had an excellent model in last night's figure drop in.  She has an expressive, long limbed body that relaxes easily into a graceful pose and made it look natural and interesting from all angles. Pretty amazing for a first timer!

While it was easy to see her as a shape with a lit side and a shadow side, I really enjoyed trying to discern the subtle variations of the value of the light, temperature, and colour on her body and spent the evening trying to recreate the sensation of those subtle differences.

Because every colour in flesh is hard to figure out, I always look at the set up and start with something that I can easily determine.  In this case, it was the red flower pinned in her hair.  Once I have a single piece of accurate colour, I can relate something else to it, asking myself " is it warmer or cooler than that? Lighter or darker?  What colour could it be based on?  Green, blue, red...?
This constant questioning means I paint slowly and examine each new mark for its honesty and whether or not it supports the relationships that I'm seeing.

I spent ages on her forearm, noticing that it was slightly dimmer and cooler than the bright light on the upper arm because it slanted back from the light.  I tried a variety of purples, greens and blues to show that effect, finally settling on a greenish cool.  But I could as easily have made a case for purple over an alizarin based red, or a gentle swipe of red over green.  There was a fascinating world of colour in that one forearm.

Her knee also held a staggering array of warm and cool and colour variety as it turned away from direct light, picked up reflected colour from the ceiling, and went from bony patella to soft thigh.  It's amazing I got anything on canvas for all of the time spent looking, thinking and mixing.

In translating each of these moments of noticing into paint, I pushed the colour and temperature as far as I could, not to create drama for its own sake, but to allow the viewer to see the changes as well. Non artists glance and see global colour (beige skin, bright highlight, dark hair...), and I think it's a privilege and pleasure for representational artists to show them how we see the world.  It's richer, deeper, and more subtle than any quick glance can discover.

Happy painting!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Finding models

18 x 24
Self portrait with red scarf
14 x 14
Painters are always looking for people to model for them - for cheap - and I'm no exception.  While I go to a weekly figure drop in and pay for the pleasure of painting from life, I also find other ways to procure a face to work from.  

My son has been a great model over the years because of his penchant for losing his favourite technologies and being too broke to replace them.  A couple of years ago I bought him a replacement phone, and had him work off the cost with regular portrait sittings.  We listened to audio books in the studio, and it was actually a great way to spend time together.  And we both got something out of the deal.  

This week, his camera vanished, so I'm happy to say that I have my model back!  Well, I didn't really want to buy another camera, but there you go.  He works for less than a professional model, and I figure I'm fostering his creativity by replacing the camera, so this is still a win for us both.  The painting at top was done in the time it took to watch an action film on my laptop, stationed on a tall table at his eye level.  Amazingly, he didn't take a single break, or twitch!

Aside from bribing my children, the other way that I get a model is to look in the mirror.  Though the model moves frequently, and squints too often, I do enjoy painting a self portrait and have many in the studio.  

I've heard of painters offering small paintings in exchange for sittings, and I may explore that down the road.  But, until then, my new camera owner will do just fine. 

Happy painting!