20 August 2014

Color Study for a Portrait Painting Commission

A portrait commission is a collaboration between artist and client.  People want input during the design process, and they want to know what their finished portrait will look like.  Small oil color studies serve these needs.  Framed and viewed from a distance, a color study is a good approximation of the final painting.

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.


1 comment:

  1. Great composition!!!!! cosy and loving with just the right note of formality.

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