New Painting Technique - Portrait

portrait cs 5 detail.jpg

Portrait of a Girl – approx. 10” x 10” – Not Complete

Currently I am taking a figure painting class with Danni Dawson. This is my third quarter of taking this class. She is an excellent teacher as she constantly challenges me to try something else, to explore painting technique in another manner. The class is organized in a manner that guarantees continuous learning, there are class demonstrations, and she assigns homework and then follows up with class critiques. I am learning so much.

Since the beginning of this term, she has told me to move to the next level. She would say this to me but not really articulate what she meant, as she does not believe in painting by formula. Instead she believes painting is an unstructured experience and should be approached as a spontaneous reaction to the specific requirements of the given situation. I really value this method of instruction as it encourages each student to learn and discover at the pace they set for themselves, even though it has been somewhat confusing for me to figure out what she meant when she would tell me that I really needed to move onto the next level. I pondered this for several weeks, and may not truly understand what she means, but my idea of what she means is this. When painting I need to heighten my awareness in more than just trying to record what I see. So I am now working to develop my technique more while also striving to capture emotive qualities. I need to think more about how to paint a scene not just objects to be copied.

As I am working on becoming more proficient and "moving to the next level" I thought I would show some of the steps I am taking. This is my first painting where I have continued to work and re-work areas. Typically I paint in a very direct manner and do not paint over what I have already laid down, but I am working to improve my skills and to make the most of what Danni teaches.

So here are some different phases of the first two painting sessions.

1st Painting Session, 1st Step:
I sketched out the composition with burnt umber, focusing on the main shapes and the Barque line demarcating the light from dark. I then started to lay in the base light colors and mostly mixing on the canvas not the palette. Some areas were more red, so I laid down cad. red and white, where other areas I laid down a more orange color

1st Painting Session, 2nd Step:

By this phase I had worked the light and dark areas with the first layers of the base colors. I was refining the colors and values, still mixing on the canvas. My paletted had various puddles of color, cad. green and white, cad yellow med and white, cad. red and white, cerulean blue and white, and so forth and so forth... As were required I would mix these straight color mixtures unto the canvas, working very lightly with my bristle brush, bearly skimming the surface, but with enough pressure to lay down paint.

Second Painting Session, 1st Step:
Getting back in class, I re-assessed what needed attention. In order to have my paint go down with softer edges, I first applied some linseed oil to the face, specifically the forehead and eye socket area. I re-blocked out the eye sockets and placed the highlights down. Also working on the neck.
Second Painting Session, 2nd Step:
After spending quite a bit of time refining the light side, I started to lay down the cool shadow colors. Using a lot of cerulean and viridian, along with areas of cobalt violet. The warm/cool tension between the light and shadow areas is an important thing to capture, however as you can see in this step, if I only kept the cool colors in the image the painting would be too fractured. There would not be enough connection between the light and shadow areas.

Second Painting Session, Final Step of the Day:
Since the last photo the biggest change was that I warmed up the shadow side some using cad. scarlet, cad. orange, and white. However if I had just placed the warm flesh tones over the cool blues, combining these colors on the canvas would have turned brown (because orange and blue are complementary colors and when mixed they make brown). So before I could lay down the warm flesh tones, I applied a "transition" color over the cool blues. In this instance it was a deep value mixture of perm. rose and white. Applying the cool red on top of the blues and then following up with the warm oranges enabled me to add warmth to the shadow side without losing the cool values below.

I also deepened the values of the light side of her face, as I started to realize that the light side was getting too white and pale. I needed to add some more depth and color to the lighter side.

There are still two more class sessions to work on this painting, so I will continue to refine the painting and develop it more than I have ever taken a painting. As it continues to progress over the two classes I will follow up with another post. I am hopeful that I will not over paint this one, but alas if that happens I will chalk it up to a learning experience. Until next time, have a great week!