22 August 2009

Portrait Painting with the Zorn Palette II

Another portrait using the Zorn palette. You may recognize the warrior Adam from an earlier post. Decided to use a photo reference of that pose for my second painting in the Portrait Painting Fundamentals class.

I used an underpainting again which, as I see it, offers many benefits for the beginner.
  • It starts your painting off right with correct proportions, shapes, and values.
  • As a value study, the underpainting allows you to consider what you are going for compositionally before you start pouring on the paint. Better than just diving in and figuring out the plan as you go.
  • Most important for me, I use the underpainting stage to closely observe how the light falls across the form; where to push the lights and darks and how to handle the halftones (value-wise). It forces me to take a long, hard look at my subject.
  • If you have a bad start or have trouble with a section you can wipe the canvas back to the underpainting and try again. Easy.
Regarding this painting, I didn't finish the clothing/chin straps because I needed to move on to other pieces. I followed earlier advice about rendering metal (hard edges and shapes around the highlights; no curves) which worked pretty well. The instructor advised me to add more contrast and red around the eyes and put more paint on the canvas, which I will do next time. The overpainting was done in a single 6-hour session.

On another topic, I'm passing along this article on Jacob Collins. Thought it was a good read. I stopped by the incomparable John Pence Gallery while in San Francisco a few weekends ago. Saw some of Collins' pieces there, which renewed my interest in his work.

Adam 2009, 12 x 9, oil on canvas board

06 August 2009

Portrait Painting with the Zorn Palette


The summer term at Watts started a few weeks ago. One class I'm taking is Portrait Painting Fundamentals taught by Meadow Gist. The class explores several approaches and palettes using photos and a live model.

This first portrait was painted from a high-quality (i.e. good contrast and strong shadow patterns) photo reference provided in class. Briefly, I pencil-sketched the image onto canvas board, fixed it, then prepared the underpainting. I used burnt umber, but a mix of ivory black and cad red would work too. Finally, I over-painted using the "Zorn" palette (cad red light, yellow ochre, ivory black, titanium white). The overpainting was done in a single 5-hour session. The Zorn palette has been used widely and discussed often. Google for more information.

The pencil sketch step seemed messy and unnecessary. Even with a fixative, I ended up loosing most of the drawing anyway when I added the burnt umber ground. My personal preference is to rough-in with a paintbrush before underpainting.

The next assignment in this class is to paint a portrait by the direct method, which means no preliminary underpainting. Big kid stuff, like taking the training wheels off a bicycle.

Nicky 2009, 12 x 9, oil on canvas board