23 June 2009

Reilly Method Painting

I just finished an introductory oil painting class called "Reilly Method Painting from Life" taught by Erik Gist. The class introduces the novice to painting using a limited palette of 3 colors (cadmium red light, cadmium yellow deep, burnt umber) along with titanium white and ivory black. Ultramarine blue was also in this palette, but I never used it.

Before each session students pre-mix a series of 5 values for each color using black and white. The strategy is to combine pre-mixed hues of the same value to achieve new hues of that same value. These final hues are then applied using the corresponding values on an underpainting (below) and observation of the live model as guides. Flesh tones are burnt umber warmed with red and yellow or cooled with gray of the same value. Purples and greens come from mixing ivory black with red or yellow. A good reference on this general approach is The Fine Art of Portraiture: An Academic Approach by Frank Covino. He describes this method in great detail, but using a larger palette and 9 values instead of 5. I found a copy at the library, worth searching out.

Erik is a good teacher. He's very positive and supportive and talks about the process during most of each class, so you pick up a lot if you listen. He painted Vicky's nose. I learned a lot, especially about muddy and chalky color and the value of re-touch varnish. Also learned not to save the background for last. And that I better be determined, because I've got a lot of work ahead.

Vicky 2009, 16 x 12, oil on canvas board

07 June 2009

Long-Pose Head Drawing II

Today's post is another long-pose head drawing in graphite, drawn from life. I used the same methods as described earlier, except that for this portrait I toned the paper with charcoal powder in all areas I wanted to darken. Charcoal powder is messy, but I think the graininess enhanced this image of the battle-weary warrior. My 3 goals here were to draw a decent portrait from life, experiment with lost edges to add interest, and render the metal helmet convincingly. The advice I received for rendering the helmet was to use straight, hard edges and shapes around the highlights to push texture and brilliance; avoid curvy and organic.

This model is actually a nice guy named Adam who doesn't seem like the warrior type, but is a master leather craftsman, armor enthusiast, and owner of Loveduck Leather which specializes in "historically influenced leather and archery goods". Good model, too. You may recognize him from an earlier charcoal head drawing I posted.

I think I'm coming to the end of my graphite work, maybe posting one more portrait from this class. I plan to focus future effort on charcoal drawings and on oil painting. I've decided to start my oil painting life with Richard Schmid's palette. I've been reading Alla Prima lately, along with David Leffel's book Oil Painting Secrets from a Master. I recommend both highly. I'm finding as a beginning painter that my lack of color knowledge is slowing me down, so I plan to do Richard Schmid's color chart exercises during the upcoming break.

Adam 2009, 12 x 10, graphite and charcoal on bristol board