Developing a Sketch

Bare Shoulders Study 12 x 9"

Bare Shoulders 20 x 16"

This painting was done from a 45 minute oil sketch that I did at the Zhaoming Wu workshop in the Spring.  The day was nearly done and I wanted to get in one more painting before the whole wonderful experience ended.

This is the first time that I have taken a rough oil painting, and used it as a reference for a finished piece.  I know it's common practice for artists to do this, but I've never felt it was right for me.  My style is a loose and spontaneous response to a subject and I've always felt that repeating it would make it stiff and lifeless.   I'm also someone who tends to prefer plein air pieces to studio work; I'm not about polish. 

But this sketch continued to hold interest for me so I thought I'd give it a go.  Mostly, I wanted to see if I could do something that was less monotonous to her shoulder and back area, and I wanted to tone down the palette.  The model had red hair and I had started the whole painting in such a brightly-coloured key that by the time I was doing the hair, I was practically using the paint straight from the tube in order to compete with everything else.  It felt pretty out of control. 

The biggest help on the revised version, was placing some lavender in her back.  This created the coolness that I needed and also acted to visually gray the figure because it acted as a near compliment to her peach-toned skin.  The power of using gray is something that is slowly making sense to me.  I've read about the importance of it for years, but it's only now appearing in my work.  I'm consciously trying to use it more.

From a more muted start, this painting went much better.  I could imply red hair with less pigment and her white top became more believable with gray-blue shadows rather than the strong blue I'd used before. 

This was so much fun that I think I'll revisit some plein air work and see if I can do a larger version and still keep the spontaneity.  It's nice to suddenly have a bounty of new projects to begin.


Ann Rogers said…
Lovely, am really drawn to all the colors in her skin.
Thanks Ann. I'm playing with the idea of monochromatic paintings right now but can't figure out how to narrow it to one colour! I'm a colour fiend!
Erik said…
Interesting read Ingrid, never tried this myself but I like the fact that it is possible to improve the design/colors/values of the sketch while maintaining the spontaneous quality as you have done here.
If you'd like to try a monochromatic painting, ultramarine and burnt sienna work really well since it's possible to vary the warmness/coolness of the grays by adding more blue or burnt sienna.
Dean H. said…
Thanks for the great insights, Ingrid!
Love the large negative shape and large (combined) positive shape.

At the very bottom of her white top, there's an area where the light is dramatically accented...Wonderful!
I'll try that combination Eric. Thanks!

And thank you for the comments Dean. It's interesting to see what people notice in a work. I think the triangular composition is one of my favorites. It makes for such steady, solid pictures.
Audrey Bunt said…
Great work Ingrid. I also have a hard time coming back to the same subject. But what I have found is a fresh start with a new approach can revitalise a previously ho-hum subject.It certainly worked for you here.