13 October 2009

3-Color Chalk Drawings

Today's post includes some 3-color chalk drawings I did during the break. I've wanted to experiment with this method since seeing Robert Liberace's drawings at the Arcadia Gallery last May. I like the illusion of color produced by this monochrome palette, partly due to the colored ground, but also because the viewer fills in the colors, which makes the results so interesting.

My purpose in this portrait of my 12-year-old niece, Molly, was to convey the innocence of adolescence. Her gaze is direct and open. She is lit from her right by indirect sunlight, from her left by reflected light. The shadows are warmed by an overhead incandescent light. This warm-cool drawing forced me to observe temperature shifts and the interaction of light with the form. Especially important, the locations of the core shadow and the reflected light, which define shapes on the shadow side. I started painting this same image in oil a few weeks back, not very successfully. I was getting ahead of myself with the brush, wasn't really seeing the image until I paused and did this drawing study. The final painting will benefit from this extra step.

The method is straightforward. Briefly, I toned some smooth bristol board with a mixture of ochre and ultramarine blue watercolor. Be sure to tape the paper down first. After drying, I laid in the basic outline freehand in black charcoal, then gently went at it, substituting red for warm colors and black for cool colors. I used the following pencils: Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencils in sanguine (#670) and black (#750...for darkest darks), Prismacolor Verithin Black and Tuscan Red colored pencils for fine details (careful, they leave a waxy sheen), General's Charcoal White pencil for heightening, and my trusty Conte 1710 charcoal pencils (B and 3B). I smoothed the darker areas with a cotton swab because toning left the paper rough and grainy. I did not fix, I've heard that changes the color of pastels.

Prior to drawing my neice, I did the master copy below of Peter Paul Ruben's portrait of his infant son "Nicolaas Rubens Wearing a Coral Necklace". He chose images with minimal shadow, using white heightening and half-tone to model the form, both here and in the portrait of his wife, Isabella Brandt. Beautiful images, full of emotion. Robert Liberace also tends to choose high-value subjects for his 3-color pencil drawings.

On a related note, you may have read of the recent discovery of a 3-color chalk drawing by Leonardo, originally thought to be by a German artist. Authenticity established by the presence of Leonardo's fingerprint in the upper left corner! Good stuff. I'm always looking for fingerprints on paintings by the great masters. My obsession is vindicated. Maybe we should all be leaving a fingerprint or 2 behind on our work.

24 comments:

  1. Thank you, Susie, for your visit and comment. Molly has such a sweet face, it's hard not to do a decent drawing of her. Ah, youth.

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  2. you and your neice seem to have similar smiles:) i agree with you about doing these studies before the actual painting in oil. personally i ahve also found it sooo useful. and to do such this piece and in your break, just wonderful... you've captured so much more than just here features. r.

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  3. Rahina, Thanks for your comment. I'm always amazed at how much we miss on first inspection of a subject. The art student's job is to learn to see the non-obvious, which, for me, is much of what's placed in front of me. These drawings are great training tools for that.

    I'm happy you sense something more in Molly's portrait then just the physical presence. For me, capturing that elusive spirit signals a successful portrait. Again, thanks for your visit. Best regards.

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  4. Fantastic! I try this days to draw with "sanguina" (sorry, I don't know the word in English) and I think it's a very, very difficult tecnique. You are a great master however :-) Congratulations.

    Sorry for my poor Englis, I'm wraiting you from Spain. Greetings!

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  5. Ana, Gracias por sus amables palabras. Mi español no es muy buena también. Le agradezco su esfuerzo. Sigue intentando el sanguíneo. Con el tiempo se trabajará para usted. Saludos cordiales.

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  6. Nice copy of the Ruben's drawing.

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  7. Thanks for large size when clicked on - I appreciate both art and explanations.

    Wonderful work.

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  8. Hello Candace!
    Your works are amazing!Glad I saw your blog! Truly a learning experience and very inspiring!
    Best regards

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  9. Well done! lovely picture.

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  10. Great drawing Candace!

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  11. Hey, Erik. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. I'm counting on your figure drawing class this term to help me improve.

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  12. Great job on these. I'm always amazed at how "much" color one can achieve with that method. It's classic--for a reason.

    Did you ever see the documentary "Who the [bleep] is Jackson Pollock?" I'm no Pollock fan, but man is it funny. And shows how snobbish and obnoxious those at the top of the art world can be. (True story of a "redneck" woman who finds a real Pollock...probably.)

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  13. Candace ... i am really touched by the beauty of this post . thank you very much !!

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  15. Caio, I'm glad this image connects with you...an official success. Thanks for your visit and comment.

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  16. Jala,

    It's a very friendly technique. I like black&white, but that extra color really turns up the energy.

    I'll look for the the video you mentioned. I'm reading 'The Art Spirit' by Robert Henri right now. Good book. It sounds like some of his appeal was his independence and disregard for the powers that be in the art world of the time. Interesting stuff. Regards.

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  17. Very interesting blog. I like the study from Rubens, and the color studies in the earlier post are informative.

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  18. Beautiful drawings and really interesting blog about your work.

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  19. Charles, Thanks for both of your comments. Also, my compliments on your beautiful work; inspiration and aspiration for me. Best.

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  20. Cecca, Thanks for visiting and commenting. Warm regards.

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  21. Hi,

    I really like these kind of portraits.
    It seems to me that the lesser colours one uses, the better one tells a story.

    Kind regards,

    José

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  22. Jose, I like your way of putting it. Limited color can really set a mood. Thanks for stopping by.

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