Australian Fine Artist

Advanced Life Painting-4

Final 2015 Advanced Life Painting Workshop with Artist David Chen

Painting a Live Model in Warm Spotlight Alla Prima

The goal of this art workshop was to paint the model in a strong spotlit light. The light source was to the right of the model as I saw it and cast a shadow under the body. Our aim was to paint the body under strong lighting conditions.

Under these conditions, colours may be washed out so mixing on the palette to avoid a chalky look to the paint is very important.

We were asked to consider the shapes around the model as well as her body when planning the painting. We didn’t have to copy what we were seeing, rather look at it and decide what to keep and what to dismiss so that we created interesting shapes and tones.

Under strong lights, the background needs to be considered. Are you keeping it the same or darkening it up to help bring out the form of the model? Lost and found edges also need to be thought about to make sure that the focal point is strong and lesser or las dominant features are less emphasised.

Here are some of the tips David gave us when critiquing our work at the end of the session:

  • Even when painting a light tonal painting, start your painting with your darkest darks as you would any other painting.
  • Tonal variation is still required.
  • Remember to vary your colours as you move along the body.
  • Use colour to create the planes of the body structure.
  • Remember lost and found edges.
  • Remember lights against darks. Put them in if they don’t exist.
  • Try starting with blocks of darks before you do any drawing in of the shape. The lines can be used to join dominant dark areas to build up the finished form.
  • Remember that when you are creating a light tonal colour as you add the white you will lose the intensity of the colour so popping in some more colour at the end to bring that back will help. For example if you have made up a cool light yellow tone with several yellows and then added a bit of blue to knock it back, then white to lighten it, add some other yellow to bring back the yellow again whilst keeping the lightness.
  • Lighter toned paintings work better with more soft edges than a darker toned painting which has more contrast.

So, remember to create softer and harder lines, and lost and found lines in your work to keep it dynamic. Also, remember to vary your paint strokes to help keep the painting dynamic and ‘moving’.

  • Remove contrast
  • Soften edges
  • Try for subtlety rather than impact.

Personal Note: I am still only painting a few times a month at present due to study demands at university,  so I was less than pleased with my result even though David said i got it togther better by the end. I did give it a good try and it could have been a lot worse! (My quick pencil drawings at the start of the workshop were actually better than my painting!)

Below is my effort on the day and one of my sketches that I have gone over with pen to allow it to show up better on the screen. A few of the marks in the foreground and on the bottom half of the body are from David to help me understand where to improve, the marks behind the model and the background and most of the top half are mine without correction. Please also note that the object of these workshops is not a finished painting, but the process of learning. As human figures are my worst subject, I am always pleased when I make a little step forward in skill level.

nude-pen and pencil nude-light tonal on body


David’s workshops are in very high demand and many are booked out in advance, but you can go on to a waiting list as sometimes spaces open up. If you would like to go on the waiting list, you can contact David via his website:

Please mention you have been referred by Janice Mills.

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