Showing posts from August, 2014

Choosing a colour scheme

"How did you choose those colours" is something I'm often asked, and I struggle with the answer each time. It seems to me that colour choice is only partially conscious and deliberate - generally for the first 10% of the painting - and then colour and all other choices become reactions to those first few marks. One thing leads to another.

That's why the first marks are always the hardest.  I spend a lot of time studying my reference, live or photographic, for ideas about the initial toning colour, the colour of the drawing/block-in, and any elements that will be singled out for special colours notes (in this case, that was the bum).

This painting was done from a photo and the colours were very cool and neutral overall, mostly yellow greys with the warmer flesh tones being orangey-red.  The reference suffered from lack of contrast and colour variety with the background drape being almost the same colour as the majority of the torso.  So I stood in front of the white…

Layering and abstraction

An experiment in abstraction and layers, this painting pleases me.

I use a lot of construction lines when I begin a figure painting; they help me to place the figure and get decent proportion and they also make the big, empty canvas feel less like virgin territory and more like a painting.  In this piece, I decided to leave and emphasize those initial marks.  I liked the way they broke up the space and emphasized the triangular nature of the child's pose.

The layers were applied over several sessions, each one a translucent mixture of greyed colour, often complementary to the one beneath it.  When each area had achieved a sense of complexity and depth from this application method, the overall effect was one of subtle and luminous neutrals.  I liked it, but I also really like colour, so then it was time to revisit the painting and selectively add hits of colour, creating the life and spark that satisfied me.

I saved the most intense chroma for the lower left quadrant: the bucke…

Simple,strong, and wrong

This little figurine is a teaching tool; not for my students, but for me.  She`s a replica of Degas` `Little 14 year old dancer` and she`s caused me no end of mischief as I`ve struggled to interpret her in simple terms despite her complexity. The fewer marks that I make, the happier I am with a painting, and this figure invites me to overwork every time.

Yesterday was no exception as I found myself rendering the folds of her dress and the features of her tiny face.  Luckily, I managed to avoid the usual pitfalls by switching to a larger brush and simplifying everything that I could.  The multiple folds became 3 or 4 large ones and her face, thanks to the clumsy inaccuracy of the brush, became a suggestion without being precious.

My biggest struggle was with the legs which I`d slapped on with confidence in an almost-correct position. They weren`t right, but they were `good`.  Robert Genn in his blog `The Painter`s Keys`once referred to it as `wrong and strong`, and it caused a real …

Limited palette

This study was done in a limited palette of perylene black, cad yellow deep and alizarin permanent plus titanium white.  Unlike the Zorn palette (yellow ochre, vermillion, ivory black and white), this palette uses high chroma versions of black, yellow and red.  The black, though it has a definite green bias, acts as a blue.

Our brains like complimentary colours and will create them for us given a bit of encouragement.  The orange in the sand and on the boy's torso and cheek are enough to allow the viewer to interpret the black and white mixture as blue, the compliment of orange.  If an actual blue were placed into this picture it would relegate this mixture to plain old cool grey.  Here's a piece of paint cropped inexpertly from the child's hoe.  Out of context, it looks less like something that you'd call blue, although, if asked to mix it, you'd probably start with a blue and diminish its chroma with complimentary orange and some white.

Limited palette work shar…