Thursday, December 3, 2015

Beginning to see the light

by Chris Brizzard
Level Two Student

After about 20 weeks of practicing open grisaille figure painting, our level has now entered a new stage - adding the light. This is a pretty big deal, as I think most of us have been waiting a long time for this. Last week, our instructor, Darren Kingsley, did a demo and walked us through the initial process. Our poses for this stage start at an hour each, and we are to divide that time in half: 50% for the grisaille and 50% for adding the light. As this is a black-and-white painting class, we are still using our mixture of two parts Ivory Black to one part Burnt Umber for the darks. You can see how Darren has laid out his palette below: (Note how thin his mixture for the darks is.)

Even though this is an exciting new phase for us, there are several caveats Darren reminded us about:

  • Don’t get caught up in smaller shapes and sub-forms. It is still critical to check the overall proportions and gesture and to make the big shapes as good as possible, not more complicated. Believe it or not, this is the most important stage of all because it sets the foundation for everything to come. As such, Darren told us that he is consciously not over-drawing in this phase, but rather keeping it strong and simple as much as possible.

  • Don’t let the legs fall behind the rest of the figure. This is a common mistake as we tend to focus more on developing the torso or other areas, like the head. All parts of the figure need to be developed together.

  • Keep your paint mixes thin. This applies to both the dark and light mixtures. We are working on the principle of “fat over lean” in oil painting, so it is important that the initial layers of paint be thin so that subsequent layers can be added on top. And “thin” does not mean adding turp to your mixture either. It should be dry and thin, not wet and thin. It may be helpful to wipe off any excess paint from your brush with a paper towel before applying it to the canvas to keep the paint application on the thin side. 

The mixture for both the darks and lights is thin on the palette.

  • Don’t create a third value where the light and dark shapes meet. This is important because the goal for this phase of the painting is to create a figure that has been divided into flat value shapes of light and dark. In addition, there should be no sharp edges where the light and dark shapes meet. We are still pushing the shapes around in this phase, adjusting the gesture and proportions of both the light and dark shapes to get the figure more and more accurate - not more complicated.

Even though we have moved into an exciting new phase of figure painting, it is not a miracle cure or anything. If the gesture doesn’t work and the proportions are off, no amount of adding light is going to fix that. So we still must focus on the basic principles that we have been practicing from the beginning and that can be summed in Studio Incamminati's motto: STAND BACK AND SQUINT!

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