Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Have Scraps, Will Study
I hope everyone survived the first leg of the holiday season without injury? We had a very low-key Thanksgiving this year. Just the way we like it.
It's been a few weeks since my last post, and that's a big gap in frequency for this blog. Not that I haven't been busy, but I don't really have much to show you. I've started on several paintings, some of which are duds, and it seems I've hit a block or something. Not a big block, but a speed bump of sorts that I have to work through.
Sometimes, when I get into these little phases of un-inspiration, I just do studies and exercises to keep my chops working, or experiment with mediums, supports, color theories, or what have you. I have a lot of scrap pieces of linen lying around, and they're perfect for doing these studies.
And so, while I have nothing really great to share with you today, I'll show you a few of these doodly oil studies on scrap pieces of linen.
The one at the top is painted on a really smooth portrait linen. I was trying out a new "dark" mix, which is Transparent Oxide Red + Prussian Blue. I typically use Ultramarine instead of Prussian for my dark washes, but I wanted to get a little green going and see what would happen.
Also, this is an exercise in forcing contrasts and lost edges between the figure and the background. If you'll notice the value of the figure against the value of the background and how the background is modulated to increase or decrease the contrast, you'll see immediately where I intended to pop an edge or to diffuse it. Even on the lit side, I did not want to have the same amount of contrast all the way from head to calf, so I've used a hierarchy of contrasts to force the focus to the figure's butt and thigh.
This is a simple figure-ground picture, but the principle works the same way for complex compositions too. The point is, you have to orchestrate your values and edges and all the other available tools to force upon the viewer your point of view.
This study shows a backlit situation. One way to tackle a backlit figure is to keep your focus on the shadow side. In order to do that, you have to key it up quite a bit because if there's not enough ambient or reflected light in the shadows, you can't see much. And it's not often that you have a focal point where you can't see much.
Now if you key up the shadow side, what happens to the light side? It needs to be even higher in value. As this side approaches white, color saturation becomes much less. (you can't get any saturation out of white) I've just indicated a very high value light in this case. Simple shapes, no modeling within the lights.
Because the shadow side is keyed up also, I needed to figure out a way to introduce arbitrary darks if I wanted some punch. That's where the leotard comes in. It allowed me to use some dark notes, and consequently, the picture now has a full range of values, even though the shadows are keyed up.
Here's an example of what would happen if I key up the shadows, maintain a light background, but don't use any arbitrary dark notes. Still works. Dark notes are not necessary if your intent is to keep everything light and airy. My point is that it all depends on what you're trying to communicate. One is not better than the other just because one has a full range of values and the other does not.
Now, if you're in my class and I tell you to use a full range of values, and you're the first person to throw my words back at me, I'll buy you a beer after class, OK?
All these were done in about 30 minutes to an hour, and for reference, I used 10 minute drawings. The drawings were done from models - I don't know how old they are. The drawings I mean, not the models. Huh. I should have posted the drawings alongside each of these paintings. Why didn't I think of that? I'll do that on the next post.
So don't throw away your scrap canvases and old drawings. Make good use of them by doing studies. Make sure, though, if you're doing studies, you know what you're studying. That is, have a specific problem to solve, or at least a specific intent to explore. Otherwise, your brush mileage doesn't count.
Posted by Terry at 7:29 AM