Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Color Games Part III

Just because you use a specific limited palette, it doesn't mean your paintings will have similar looks. Especially if you have all three primaries represented, we can mix all kinds of in-between colors and values and as a result, two studies painted in the same three colors +white, can look very different from one another.

Both studies I'm posting today were done with a limited primaries palette of Transparent Earth Red / Yellow Ochre / Payne's Gray / Titanium White.

In the example above, the colors are very pale and except for the leotard, the values are pretty light.

Easy to make a good starting point for a skin tone (the lit side) with TOR and Yellow Ochre and White.

For the shadow side of the flesh, It's the same mix, with less white, and teeny bit of the blue. (Payne's Gray) to cool it down and desaturate. There isn't anything else on the palette, so it is what it is.

Payne's Gray and White make a nice blue-gray, which is my starter puddle for the shadow colors in this painting. Here and there, I tried to vary it by adding a little Yellow Ochre, or the TOR, or white, in varying amounts. 

Losing edges entirely in the shadows made an interesting–and still identifiable–shape. I even lost edges in some light areas. You can see that it doesn't affect the recognizability of the visual elements. 

If two shapes can be combined by losing the edge in between, they become one shape. One shape is simpler than two shapes. If the recognizability is maintained, simpler is better. It's like using one well chosen word to describe something, rather than two. 

The second example uses the same exact set of colors, but it looks very different from the first.

Over-all it's much lower keyed - the lights and shadows are both darker in value.

The greenish tone is achieved by mixing blue and yellow (of course!), that is to say, Payne's Gray and Yellow Ochre. There's probably a little white in there too, to lighten the value a bit.

Unlike in the first painting, where I pushed the flesh-tone-in-the-shadow toward violet by adding enough Payne's gray and white into the mix, in this painting, the shadow side of the flesh is still very much in the Orange hue range. That is to say, it's just a darker brown. I used the same Payne's Gray to neutralize the same mix of TOR / Yellow Ochre / White, but not enough to alter the hue of the mix.

You can see a lot of variations in the shadow side, and again, they're just varying amounts of the same limited set of colors.

It's amazing how much range you can get out of just four tubes of paint, and none of them very intense, either.

Do you have a favorite limited palette? Do you find it limiting or liberating? Do your paintings start looking similar? or can you get a good range out of it?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Color Games, Part II

So in the previous post I showed a few examples of painting the figure using different sets of primary colors out of the tube. If that's too easy or too conventional for you, here's another tweak on the color game; use only two colors plus white.

In these examples, I tried complimentary colors; Red / Green / White for the first one, and Blue Violet / Yellow Orange / White for the second example. You can see they're of the same pose.

The Red / Green was a little easier because it allowed me to mix a pinkish color for the skin tone, as well as a very dark color / value for the clothes by mixing red and green together. I had a full range of values to work with, and easily shift from warm to cool within a mixture by adding more red or more green. The red is Cad Red Medium, and the green is Viridian.

The drawing is not as good on the second one, and the colors were more difficult, too. Mainly because with this set of colors, I couldn't get a very dark value. It meant that I had to compress the value range quite a bit and put everything in med to light range.

It does make it feel more atmospheric - one of the effects of dense atmosphere is that the values become lighter and the range more compressed.

I can't remember what the blue-violet color was, exactly. I think the yellow-orange might be Indian Yellow, but again, I'm not sure. It didn't matter enough for me to remember, I guess. After all these are just games we sometimes play in the studio.

When you go to a figure session and you're just not inspired by the pose (or whatever), this might be a good challenge to try, to get your enthusiasm going again. Try it with friends and see how similar or different your results are. I think you'll find it eye-opening!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Color Games

I host figure painting sessions at my studio once a week, where artists can come and paint from the model. The model is sometimes nude and sometimes clothed - I try to mix it up. Usually we have one long pose (with breaks) so there's plenty of time to study the figure.

In these sessions, my aim is just to practice. I'm not trying to do a gallery-bound painting because the poses have to be based on what works for a roomful of people viewing the model from different angles. That has to be the priority. I can't just have the model pose based on a concept that I may have for my own paintings, because that usually only gives us a limited range as far as good angles go. 

For example, I may want a reclining figure, but then some artists will end up with extremely foreshortened views. That may be exactly what they want, but usually, nobody wants that. 

So as I said, these are practice sessions for me. I may do a portrait study, or a value thing, or I may focus on a particular approach, or may be I'll do an anatomical study of feet, say. It all depends on what I'm in the mood for and what I feel like I need to work on more.

Sometimes, I like to set up challenges for myself, and this color game that I do is a great example. Basically, I take myself out of my comfort zone by using colors I don't usually use. I may ask to borrow a red, a yellow, and a blue from the others in the room - to make sure I'm getting colors I don't have. 

The painting above is done in Phthalo-zinc blue / Hansa Yellow / Brilliant Pink / Titanium White.  These are colors I don't own, and therefore very unfamiliar to me. But if you have the primary colors and white, you can pretty much pull it off. Theoretically, anyway.

All three images I'm posting here are from the same session. You can see that they're the same pose. So I spent may be 45 to 50 minutes on each one.  Fairly quick and sloppy attempts but like I said, they're studies and I was specifically interested in color games, not in finished paintings.

For No.2, I believe I had Cerulean / Indian Yellow / Alizarin / Titanium White. It's not quite a scientific comparison because I wasn't trying to match colors or anything. I was just trying to work with unfamiliar colors.

I could easily have mixed a much more intense green with Cerulean and Indian Yellow, or matched the background green in example No.1, but I didn't even think to try. 

This last one has more colors. I think I used colors from both No.1 and No.2,  and tried to push the intensity a little bit.

It's a fun exercise. When I do this as a demo, I do it to make the point that it doesn't really matter which tube colors you use. If you have a few different colors, you can do a believable figure painting. It's not about specific ingredients or brands, and it's not about recipes. 

I get questions like "which blue did you use?" and I answer "Ultramarine" (or whatever I was using at the time) but then  I follow up with "but I could've used Cobalt, or may be Prussian or Phthalo, Cerulean...Paynes Gray..."  

In the beginning, it's probably a good idea to stick to one set of colors and really learn how they behave when mixed with each other. And you do start to have favorites. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but if you really want to learn color mixing and how color works, exercises like these are really helpful because you are forced not to think in terms of recipes and formulas, but focus instead on color relationships. Get good at that, and you will have a lot more control and freedom!

If you live in the Sacramento area and would like to come to my studio to join our (uninstructed) figure painting sessions. (or short-pose figure drawing sessions on Monday afternoons) , just email me at terry@terrymiura.com.   The sessions are $12 /person

As of this posting, I also have a couple of spots open in my weekly figure drawing / painting classes. I don't often have openings, so if you've been thinking about taking my classes, this is your chance! Please email me and I'll be happy to answer any questions!