|Portrait of B and K (color study), 8x10", oil on linen|
As the artist, I also want to know the final painting will succeed. And I like working through color choices and composition on a smaller scale. I'm not comfortable starting out cold on the big canvas. I refer to the color study often during the painting process, and if I want to make changes towards the end, I try them out on the study.
Here's how I paint color studies...
I start with a pencil drawing, spray with fixative, then paint over with a fast drying pigment (burnt umber here, but it could be any pigment...experiment). Using a pick-out technique, I work up the value relationships at this stage.
I use Rublev Oleogel medium to thin the burnt umber. It gives paint a creamy flow and transparency, and doesn't slow drying time. Better than just thinning with turp, and probably healthier.
Next, I add colors in big strokes...experimenting with color choices.
After the colors are in, I work up edges and add a few key details...not too many.
This is ready for client approval, then I can move on to the big painting.
More information on color studies...
Here is a collection of color studies by students from Studio Incamminati, known for it's color emphasis, and carrying on the traditions of Henry Hensche.
A good book on learning to see color through color studies is How to See Color and Paint It by Arthur Stern. A classic, full of great studies.
Here's a cool little color study by Anthony Ryder, from Underpaintings, via David Gray's blog. And another link to a color study demo on Ryder's website.