Oil on panel, 12"x16"
I've continued to study Robert Liberace's approach to color. I went back through his DVD and my notes to try to understand, in a systematic way, what he was doing and why it worked. That's the way my brain works: it has to be logical and systematic, rather than intuitive, before I understand it. Once I understand it, it can then be intuitive.
What I came up with, in a nutshell, is that the basic skin tones in the lighted area were warm colors, slightly neutralized so they're not too intense. As the planes of the face turn away, they shift to cooler colors. The intermediate shadow (the dark line between the lighted and shadowed areas) is definitely cool. Robert uses green or greenish blue and I've seen other artists use something comparable. The shadowed areas are basically green. Then there are the reflected lights. These are in the shadows but are light reflected from something nearby. They contain the color of whatever reflected them. A purple shirt, for example (as in Robert's DVD) reflects purple light. Skin tones generally reflect red or orange. Highlights are basically white with a touch of whatever the color of the light source is.
At last night's life drawing/painting session, I had a chance to put those theories to work. I put aside my normal selection of colors and went with a much more varied one with purples, magentas, stronger yellows, and greenish-blues. I started with umber to sketch the figure and put in the shadowed areas. Then it was on to the brighter and more varied palette. The result is Bobbi, above. I'm quite happy with the way it turned out. The figure feels full and rounded, the colors are brighter yet not overpowering, and the variety in colors is interesting in itself.
I was also more careful in my brushwork. I put down some pretty heavy strokes in places so that the strokes would help define the form. Sometimes they were blended into surrounding areas, sometimes not. I made a conscious effort to hold the brush toward the back, rather than closer to the ferrule, as it keeps me from getting too tight, and also focused on using a lighter touch, trying to "dance" my brush across the canvas.
One final change was to put my palette between myself and the easel. My normal stance has been to have the easel in the center, with a small table on the left holding paper towels and other random supplies, and my taboret (which is really a Sears rolling tool chest with a glass top) on the right. But this had a couple of consequences. One, it allowed me to stand too close to the painting. I studied that yesterday and found that I stood maybe 12" from the canvas, and sometimes even closer. By standing further back, I could get a better idea of the painting as a whole. Two, it put the color mixing surface far away from the painting. I had a triangle that my eyes would bounce around: subject in the middle, palette down and to the right, and painting up and to the left. By putting the palette in front of the painting, this triangle is much smaller. And it prevents me from standing too close. Last night's arrangement was a bit of a jerry-rig to test the idea and it worked, so now I'm looking for a more permanent solution.
So it's experimentation time. I'm having fun and learning a lot. More experiments to follow.