Friday, September 4, 2015

This edited version of a guest blog by Instructor JaFang Lu originally appeared in her newsletter at

During my recent summer workshops, I had to work with a number of very dedicated and talented artists.  Here, I am sharing some images, process and exercises that my students went through in the Form and Color Portrait Workshop I taught at Studio Incamminati, School for Contemporary Realist Art.
A student of mine happened to have a camera with her on the last day of the workshop and lent it to me.  I was able to snap some pictures.  I missed the opportunity to take photos of paintings/studies in progress and what students did earlier in the week, however, this turns out to be the only and most well photo-documented workshop that I've taught so far.  A fact that strangely surprised me.

Although photos rarely come close to representing the artwork and are sometimes even deceptive, the experience of writing about this workshop made me realize how helpful it can be to document the process with images. In looking through and selecting images for this post, I am surprised by how much I forget (and am reminded of that by seeing the images I took then).
Because images were taken on a point-shoot camera, shot under difficult lighting sometimes and by me, I only published photos that are clear and, believe me, I've eliminated many blurry and glarey photos with students' consent, so not everyone's work is represented here. This was a five-day workshop. It focused on structures of the head and utilization and calibration of value-color relationship to recreate the effect of light on form.  All exercises are designed to enhance students' understanding in these two areas.

Image 1
Image 2
  Image 3 - value shifts,
 plane changes
Part 1 - Form Study: Open and Closed Grisaille
Each day began with a lecture and demo on the topic/exercise that we would cover that day. Every new exercise built upon the concept obtained in the previous exercise/s.  Gradually from doing these studies, students understood the concepts I talked about - and showed in the demo - through their own hands-on experience. In form study, our focus was on:
  • Understanding basic structures of the head
  • Obtaining general proportions of the model/person
  • Using value relationship to recreate the sense of form
The demos above are 10-20 minutes of closed grisaille.  Image 1 and 2 show different stages in closed grisaille - from a simpler to more complex value system and resulting in the more three-dimensional form of the head in Image 2.  I then proceeded to talk about major planes of the head and how value shifts correspond to plane changes in Image 3.

Part 2 - Color Study: Limited vs. Full Palette and Cool vs Warm Light Effect

Once students have a better grasp of the structures of the head, we moved into color study. Initially we used a limited palette of 6 or 7 colors. Above is a demo I did of a model with a fair complexion under the warm light. When students became familiar with this palette, we moved into the full palette of around 22 colors. Students did 2 studies of the same model/pose, one under the warm light and one under a warm light with a cool colored filter. In this case, we used green. For this exercise, I had demoed directly on a student's canvas to save time. At the bottom of this newsletter, you will see images of my students' studies on this exercise. 

Part 3 - Bring it together

Usually, in a five-day workshop, I would do a 2-3 hour evening demo, where students can see how principles taught during the workshop can be incorporated in developing a painting. Above is the demo I did of Carol under the warm light. She has darker complexion than the model in the image shown in the previous exercise. In the demo, in addition to getting the basic proportions and structures as accurately as possible in the time allowed, I also wanted to show the model's complexion as well as the temperature of the lighting (warm).
Here are some of my students' studies of these three stages.

Closed Grisaille: From Simpler to More Complex Value Planes



Color Study:
Limited Palette Color Study


Warm vs. Cool (Gel) Light Color Study


Full Palette Painting

Images of 2 full palette paintings in earlier and later stage.


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