Posted by: Kate
After letting the drawing languish off in a back room for several weeks the concept is sufficiently ripe for me to go back to my discount lyre easel for a colour study. I have a policy of making my colour study, my preparatory sketch, and my finished painting the same size, which makes everything a whole lot simpler and I waste less breath swearing. The purpose of this colour study is to determine my palette, which, although it is usually only about five to seven colours, changes with every project. I like to know before I start the painting proper that my red will hit the right notes, that my cools are adequately represented by my black (I try to use neutrals mixed from black to stand in for my cools whenever possible), and so on. If I can't quite hit the right note in my colour study, I will have to change my palette a bit. Lately Dave has been talking smack about Cad Red Medium in favour of Vermilion, so I'm taking that colour for a spin in this study. The other colours on my palette are Titanium White, Ivory Black, and Yellow Ochre Pale. Raw Umber makes an appearance for the drybrush.
This is day one on the study. I like to think that day one should just be an attempt to turn the white of the canvas into something closer to what the finished colours on top of it will be.
After working on a painting right way up, it always ends up looking better upside down. I did a lot of this painting upside down so that it would look nice right way up. The flesh tones today have a much better range of warm to cool.
And I know colour studies are like newborns in that nobody finds them as interesting as the people who created them, but here is a close up that I think shows the exaggerated highlights on her nose nicely. At this point I was happy with the colours and ready to move on.
I played around with composition and lay-out in Photoshop before creating tracings from my drawing study and transfering them to my canvas. My preparatory drawing had tiny carny hands, so I slapped my sketch down on a photocopier and enlarged them. Why make things more complicated than they have to be? In the same spirit, the reason I use Photoshop is because thumbnails can be really inaccurate. You can make an arm a millimeter too wide and in the thumbnail it looks fine and dandy but when you try to translate that thumbnail to a full size piece your subject suddenly has big ol' thighs for arms. It makes it really hard to get an accurate picture in your mind of what the finished painting will look like. I prefer to do thumbnails in the earlier stages only. Now, I could have done a full-sized drawing and worked it out, but the powers that be seem to have decided that no drawings shall exceed the size of 20x30" or whatever the standard size of paper is. The little rectangle of white paper is a piece of 4x6" photo paper, which, in absence of a ruler, I used to measure out my canvas so that I could accurately place the head and hands according to my mock up in Photoshop. For some reason artist studios never have rulers (only tape measures) or regular pencils for writing with (only pencils sharpened to a maniacal point that snaps painfully when you try to write down a phone number).
I started with the eyes, which is not normally something I do, but in this case came easily because I had the colour study to guide me. I think she looks kind of like a pulp-novel barbarian priestess a la Frazetta here.
Here you can see that I have my colour study handy to help me. I have my laptop with the original reference photos out too, but I'm hardly looking at them.
Cue creepy clown music. Sometimes when a face begins to peer out of the canvas like this it feels kind of diabolical, even if it is a beautiful woman.
This is where I called it a day. If I had had more time (rather, if I had wasted less) I would have put a little more description into her fingers, probably indicating her fingernails. I didn't actually hit any of my darkest notes today, not even in the eyes. She has black hair, black clothing, and the background will be quite dark, which will make her white skin really pop. I will have to put in some of this before I rework the flesh tones again, but to put it in now would result in a lot of buildup of paint when really I would like to keep the finished look a bit transparent and washy in my darkest areas. I'm hoping this will keep them from looking flat.