The Second of Five Workshops with David Chen
Have you ever noticed when you paint a subject, that it looks like a stencil sitting on top of the surrounds? Painting along the edges when we paint can result in the subject, in this case, the figure, looking like it is popped on top of the background with no relationship to it.
There is a place for edges, or clear defining changes of colour and tone in a painting, but suing them all through the work can result in somethign that looks ‘stiff’ and lacking in life or movement.
How to avoid this when painting, so that the model is placed within the context of the background and a narrative is created is something that we see in the examples of artists that we admire in galleries, and somethng that we can achieve if we work at it.
Relating to the Background and Context
There are a couple of methods that can be used to tie together the model with their surrounds. One is by using analagous colours and dragging them from one to the other. By taking a colout from a neighbouring area you will soften the boundaries. This can be done in the shadow areas, or in the light areas where highlights are on the body.
You can also soften areas of dissimilar colours (green and red for example) to create a grey tone that will soften the edges of a figure.
The best way to start this process is to begin with your darkest darks (as you would in most oil painting), and pull them into the figure so that they share a common colour.
By alternating from clear boundaries to softened ones, and dark against light, or warm against cool dramatic and ‘fluid’ effects result. After some practice you will notice that the whole painting is working together as one, rather than a subject ‘plonked’ on top of a bit of scenery with no realtionship to it. The look of immediacy, or capturing a moment in time will aslo be acheived by this method.
If you don’thave a model handy, this method can be used for still life painting just as succesfully. You may notice now, when looking at some still life paintings that areas will merge with the surrounding colours directing the eye to the focal point that the artists wants you to see. When painting the human body or portrait, the same principle applies.
I will put my painting for the day under here so you can see how I did. We had a fantastic model who did a lovely pose for us, but I wasn’t at my best on the day, plus I freely admit that nudes and still lifes are not my best subjects (I am working on that however!). David made several suggestions as to how I could do better with my painting, and a few of his marks are on this work. I also went back into it when I had the time a day later to see if I could take up those ideas. I am still not too happy with it, but at least it did improve a bit!