Painting Workshop with Artist David Chen
Today’s workshop was was the last for this year painting nudes. For this workshop we painting a seated male model. The main aim in this session was again to understand skin tones and how they include many more colours than the usual reds, yellows and white that many of us may initially use as well as the different proportions and colouring of a male model in contrast to that of a female.
Of course there are issues of race to consider as well when thinking about the colour of skin. We humans come in a beautiful array of skin tones and colours. From the darkest black I have seen on one stunning lady walking around the city to the very palest I have also personally seen on an albino person years ago. So considering all these differences, we worked on the model in front of us, who was a athletic and well toned young man who provided us with some extremely good poses for our initial one minute and three minute sketches.
As David said, the colours involved in skin colour depend on where on the body we are painting, as the blood vessel being closer to the surface changes skin colour, the amount of flesh and body fat under the skin and how warm the person is also changes colour. We also tend to reflect the light around us, so under a warm light our skin colour will look different. Males usually have more muscle mass to females and veins can be more obvious on the arms. We also need to consider things like beards or shadow of facial hair, the brow and the Adam’s apple in the throat. Men also have a very different waist which can be set lower on the body and the general frame can be heavier.
So when loading up our palette we should think about blues, greens and lilacs. Places on the face have different subtle colours, from yellow tones on the forehead, to redder on the cheeks and more blue/green on the chin – especially for men. As we work our way down the body colours changes as well, from cooler colours on the breast area – even on men, to warmer colours as we work our way down the legs to the feet and similarly down the arms to the hands.
As part of the workshop we were also to think about the surrounding colours of the drapery and couch the model was sitting on. Just because certain colours are there, it doesn’t mean that we should stick to them. If we are following the dominant colours of tonal theory which I have also been talking about in recent blogs, we should think about whether the colours we are looking at are going to work as a painting. David also wanted us to experiment a little today by changing the background, altering the colours and creative cropping for a unique vision from each of us.
With this in mind my background colours were altered and simplified as well as the foreground. David reminded me that with the addition of an earth colour to my background and some cool red would warm it up from the dark blues I was using, making it more interesting. I also added cadmium red to the bottom foreground for added texture and interest. This was reflected in the hair of the model which even though brown, was livened up with red and some yellow ochre on the lighter side of the head.
Other points brought up in the workshop were:
- Think about subtle middle tones and greys. The Impressionists made great use of these for the beautiful paintings we admire so much.
- Watch your saturated colours, you need to make sure they don’t take over a painting. You can knock these back with an earth colour.
- When a colour is too dominant, knock it back with a complementary colour. For example viridian green in with cadmium red.
- Less is more. Don’t get too carried away with fiddly detail. You can leave stuff out.
- Detail and edges can be softened when working your way away from the focal point, with only a few defined edges.
- Dont be afraid to add highlights and light touches to help areas stand out, even if they aren’t there in real life. As long as they look correct.
- Try these mixes for darks instead of black or a single colour: cobalt blue and raw umber, permanent crimson and viridian, Prussian blue and burnt sienna. Try varying the proportions for cooler or warmer colours.
Results for the day
I was so pleased in the paint on critique that David does at the end of the session. David told me I have improved a lot during these workshops. He said my understanding of anatomy had improved and he thought I had done a good job today. I know I have a way to go as I have only been concentrating on the human figure seriously for a couple of years, but it is reassuring to see something resembling the model when you are done for the day.
Below see the finished workshop painting. Note that is not the goal of a workshop to do a completed painting ready to hang, it is the process that we aim at not a concluded piece. (The canvas was 16×20 inches)