24 September 2013

Lessons from the open studio...working from premixed paint piles

Another technique I tried at last Saturday open studio...premixing piles of paint.  A simple, perhaps obvious, strategy...but worth a mention.  The practice of premixing has been around a long time, many artists do it in various ways. The main benefits: it saves serious time and improves value/color accuracy and harmony.

Here's one take on the basic idea...instead of mixing each brushstroke from scratch, spend the first 20 minutes of a 3-hour session carefully observing the model (or still-life, or landscape) and preparing paint piles for each of the large shapes in your painting.  You will regain those 20 minutes several-fold later in the session.

I was reminded of premixing recently while reading the James Gurney book, Color and Light, p 122. Gurney also offers a good discussion of premixing on his blog.  Read the comments on that post, too.  Good information there.

Here is a link to a description of how Sean Cheetham uses premixed piles.  I like Sean's method...several piles of "mud" for the light and shadow sides of his model...never used directly, but modified to match the quality of light on the form.  For Sean, improved color harmony is the major benefit.  

And one more link...to a post from Underpaintings, describing how Daniel Greene premixes.  Greene creates more elaborate value strings of premixes, but the idea is the same.

Michelle with downcast eyes, 8x12", oil on linen

I painted this portrait of Michelle using premixes for the light and shadow sides.  I saved major time, but the biggest benefit was the improved color accuracy.  Flesh tones are always challenging for me, but I felt this gave me a more realistic result.  And I used the extra time to work up brushstroke variety and fine plane changes, all contributing to a better result.

10 September 2013

Lessons from the open studio...using both a warm and cool white for portraits

Every Saturday morning, I attend an open studio, with the model in a single, long pose.  Before each session, I pick one or two goals.  Today I tried portrait painting with both a warm and cool white on my palette.  The cool white was titanium, the warm white was from Gamblin (I heard about it on Deb Elmquists' blog).  My theory was that a choice of white temperatures would help separate the lights and shadows, produce better modeling of the form, and speed my mixing time.

Chris, 8x11", oil on linen. 

Chris was sitting under north light, so the shadow areas of his face were warmer than the lights. The Gamblin warm white did a great job lightening mixtures for the shadows without cooling the hues down.  That made color mixing easier and faster, which gave me confidence.  When I'm confident, I mix bigger piles of paint and get more paint on the canvas...so this warm white was all good for me.  I expect it will allow me to complete the early stages of a 3-hour sketch faster, so I can give more attention to the finish.

It's a nice white, regardless of genre.  Gamblin recommends it for landscape painting.  Deb uses it for still lifes.  I like it for portraits.  It is a titanium white tinted with arylide (Hansa) yellow.