Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Light Side or The Shadow Side?

Whenever painting in a group environment most people rush to the center of the room like they are on line at the deli counter and a prize awaits them in the middle. I take a number and get out of the way and use the same line of thinking when painting with others. I've already seen artists with their backs up against the far wall of a classroom and yet the sides and profile positions are empty. Take a number, get out of the way.... and so I choose the sides or the profile positions. (I like the corners in restaurants too, I can see more of whats going on.)
Now the choice is which side. Usually, if the monitor of the open studio has a half a brain (don't assume they do) the model will be looking forward and the light will be off slightly to one side. Why? So that everyone in the room gets at least a profile. If the model is looking to her left or right then everyone on the other side will be painting the back of the models head. And as for clever lighting arrangements, and difficult drapery backgrounds........If there were a different model each week, but you set them up in the same pose with the same background, most of the artists in the room would still struggle. Painting from life is hard enough....I don't need to make it harder...But back to the point.

Based on that lighting set up there should be a light side and a dark side. I choose whichever is most interesting to me that day.

The painting above is a typical example of the shadow side. This is a two hour study done in Raw Umber and Foundation Umber which is a creamy off-white. When working on the shadow side I quickly try to mass in the darks and then go after the "bands or strips of value" trying not to blend. It is a great exercise to place the right values in the right places in one or two strokes. I place the deepest darks first and then slowly work my way up to the lightest lights.

This painting of Alex was painted from the light side. When working on the light side you usually see more color and less value. I like to paint these with almost the same approach. I still start with the deepest dark and work my way up, but now I have to concentrate on the different colors I see. I try to use color without overstating it. "A touch of purple", a greenish color, a hint of red in the cheeks". I try to avoid bold colors out of the tube because I don't usually see them on a persons face. (Actually I did see it once when a student of mine fell asleep on his palette and didn't realize it.)
This painting above is a mixture of the two. It was painted on the shadow side, in full color. Nothing changes in approach. I still use the "bands of color and value". When I put down the deepest dark first i leave it on my palette. I look for the color one value lighter than what I put down and place it next to it on the palette. If it is lighter on the palette it will be lighter on the painting. I keep doing that using the palette as a guide, testing my strokes on the palette before placing them on the canvas. Of course there may have to be adjustments along the way. Things I missed, errors, etc. I just go back to that area, make the necessary corrections and move on.
The above painting was a three hour study, although I spent too much of that time on the hat. I titled it "Green Hat" for obvious reasons. Yes, when I was very young I had a stuffed bear named......."Bear"... sue me.

"Sepia Study" 16 x 20 Oil on Canvas 2008
"Alex" 16 x 20 Oil on Canvas 2009
"Green Hat" 20 x 24 Oil on Canvas 2007.

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