Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ego-licious? Perhaps...

An art painter colleague told me last year that I would be judged on my life painting if that was all I showed. At the time I had a bunch of head studies on the wall done during my teaching class, naively thinking students would want to see what they would get in class.

I had always thought people would know the difference between an hour and a half head study demo in a teaching situation, or not, and a finished portrait, but turns out the guy was absolutely right.

I then put up a few finished pieces and actually  had people come up to me at the school and say, wow, I didn't know you could paint like that! A kind of back handed compliment if you ask me. The skill of a painter is surely in his or her fast life painting. Can't most people do something fairly decent over the course of 100 hours?

Anyway, I am being a bit ego-licious here, sharing with you a couple of the more finished commissions that were painted this summer, all 30'X40" I hope you like.  I didn't get to the beach much!

My Top Ten Tips for Painting From Life! And then some..

Here is my demo from my painting class at The Los Academy of Figurative Art last week. Painting time about one hour and a half hours. And yes, that is my hat!

1. Paint a model that interests you. Ask yourself  'what is your point of view'? before you start to paint. Talk to the model. Bored sitter, boring painting. Engage!

2. Work on a dry mid-toned canvas and a mid-value wooden palette. Think value first, color second. Most of the story happens in the mid-value.

3. Work dark to light, general to specific, thin to thick paint, broom to needle, brush.

4. Simplify what you see. Three values for the light, two for the dark.  Keep the value pattern of light and dark separate. These two families hate each other and don't like to mix.

5. Think sphere. The head is an egg. Paint it round. Look for the highlight plane,  large mass of light, transition, turning edge, reflection, cast shadow.

6. Stick with a limited palette of colors. Learn what they can do.  They are your keyboard so practise how to play them. Look at the color wheel once in a while. It is useful. Play with color temperature around the light source, warm versus cool etc.

7. Make two soups on your palette. One for the light, one for the dark side. Alter the soup a little this way or that by adding slightly different colors into it.

8. Repeat color wherever you can. A dab of purple here, well, why not a dab of purple there. Leads to color harmony even if it doesn't make sense at the time.

9.Think of your three best friends: time, distance and a mirror. Judge your canvas from a distance rather than pressed nose; look at your work in a mirror to see its' flaws; and take some time away from your painting, ESPECIALLY when the model takes a break. Art school coffee is there for a reason. 

10. Imagine yourself a sculptor...carve out those planes. Know the structure of features so you can rely on that knowledge. Learn the anatomy of the head AND from the neck down. Draw, draw, draw in between painting from life.

Portrait Painting A-Plenty

What a privilege it was to teach so many talented people at my recent one-day portrait workshop timed around my show "Something Wrong About The Mouth"! I was impressed with the talent in the room.

The day started with a talk about my five-value system, followed by a show-and-tell of the old Masters and how they used values. Color harmony and skin tones thrown into the mix. Students then did a quick one hour study in black and white copying an old master painting using five values. I was a little worried how this would turn out but everyone did a great job...see the picture of all those great little heads.

I then did a one hour features demo from my favorite model Cassie followed by a one hour demo of her head. Yes folks, the head was painted in just one hour so don't bug me about the flaws.

Then the class got to work doing their own three-hour study of the model. BRAVO to all. The different styles were impressive but that is what makes painting so much fun.

For those of you that didn't make the show, that didn't make the artist talk, that didn't make the workshop, I could say shame on YOU! Instead I will post next my TOP TEN list for successful painting from life.