The Complexity of Skin

Over the Shoulder
14 x 11
I heard someone say that skin was iridescent, and he was absolutely right.  The more you look at it, trying to find the right colour to mix, the more colour you see.  It's a muted version of hummingbird feathers.

That's why the Impressionists sometimes painted skin in small, many-coloured marks laid side-by-side, or layered brokenly, wet over dry.  They were trying to capture that complexity of local colour as well as the modifying effect of light on that colour.

Painters in the tradition of Rembrandt tackled the problem with glazes and scumbles, building rich, glowing surfaces without pure, bright colours.  Like glazes in watercolour, the more thin layers of oil that you apply, the richer the result becomes.

This painting attempts to capture the complex colours of skin in an alla prima painting and with large, swift marks.  While I love the Impressionist tradition, I have more of an interest in large, flowing brushwork so I'm always trying to honour the light, the complex local colour, and the bold marks when I paint.  On bad days, I achieve one or two of these goals; on good days, I manage all three.

This piece does, I think, achieve all three goals.  There's a strong sense of the bounce of colour and light and I worked hard to keep it loose and painterly but accurate.  I'm pleased with the muted colour harmony, something that I've been working on a lot lately as I've gotten a bit tired of high chroma.

Like every painting, there are things that I'd change, but that's for the next one.

Happy painting!


Gaye Sekula said…
I love the gesture of this painting and the colors are just beautiful. Your description of the color of skin is poetic; a muted version of hummingbird feathers. I love this painting.
Thank you, Gaye for this lovely response to my painting! You've made my day.
Congratulations on the AWA finalist position. Your painting of the old man deserved the honour.