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!

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