This 5×7 figure painting was begun at our Monday Life Drawing Class and developed as far as can be seen below. I completed it from memory in my studio. I would have had four hours to paint from this model had I attended last week, but I was too miserable with a cold to go.
I chose a 5×7 canvas because of the time constraints and didn’t attempt a whole figure for the same reason. It is difficult to paint loosely on such a scale. The canvas was primed with an acrylic craft paint in a medium brown. I often prime a canvas with a glossy Mod Podge, which prevents the oils from being absorbed into a matte ground and allows one to go for a finished product more quickly. To the Mod Podge I will often add a few drops of acrylic paint, a light green being my favorite. I learned these tips from Timothy C Tyler, who taught a Workshop in Rising Sun, Indiana a few years back. (More on that in a moment.) This canvas was primed with acrylic paint with no admixture of Mod Podge. It was more opaque than I would have liked and was also a matte surface.
This model was quite tanned. I found, when painting upon that opaque brown, that I was giving her skin too brown a tone. I could see it once I had the bluish white tones of the background blocked in. I think it was because the true tones of her skin looked too orange on that brown background and I instinctively toned them down, only to find later that I’d taken too much gold out. I had then to try to put the warmer tones back in. Also, her shadows were rather olive. I can only imagine that this was due to the cool tones of the walls, but that too tipped my palate away from the warmer colors. I would have loved to start over on this figure and use a canvas with a more familiarly colored ground.
These painting sessions are practice sessions though. We keep learning.
The workshop I attended in Rising Sun — gosh, how many years back was that? 2006? — was one of a number of workshops sponsored by Dick Blick called Art Now. I’ve googled Art Now and it seems to be a defunct program. This workshop was not only extremely fun, it was also a very productive experience for me. Tim is a good instructor. He taught me how to do hair. (I painted Girl Without a Pearl Earring and The Sun on her Face in the aftermath of that workshop.) He taught me how to paint reflections into a wet ground and how to leave the skin’s highlights for last. I wish he was still teaching within driving range. He offers workshops in Italy now.
We had four days, two devoted to painting a still life, two devoted to painting a portrait. On two of the evenings, we drove into nearby Cincinnati to visit the Taft Art Museum, which is a small gem, and a gallery where Tim was having a show. His painting of Persephone was particularly exciting to see.
A portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson by John Singer Sargent, Taft Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH
It was at the Taft that I saw my first Daubignys. Have I mentioned that I adore Daubigny?