Sunday, November 20, 2016

Figure Painting Workshop

I ran a figure painting workshop in my studio this weekend.  We had a full class of six students - the maximum I want in my studio so they're not falling all over each other.  The workshop ran for four hours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

I divided the effort into two parts.  On Saturday, the students worked on a monochrome painting of the figure.  This was a value study done in only one color.  A painting done this way is often called a "grisaille" (pronounced "griz-I").  Grisaille means "gray", and a grisaille painting is technically in black and white, but since we used burnt umber or other colors, I prefer the term "monochrome".  (Okay, enough nerdiness, on to the rest of the story ...)

On Sunday, the students took the monochrome painting and went over it in color.  We focused on skin tones, warm and cool tints, reflected lights, shadow colors, background colors, and matching the values of the colors to the values of the monochrome.

Dividing the painting process this way might seem roundabout, but it's actually easier for many artists, including me.  It separates the decisions associated with the composition, drawing, and light/dark values from the decisions associated with color, warm/cool, reflected lights, and intensity.  The idea is to use a simple approach first to make the fundamental decisions about the composition of the painting, and then gradually add more light/dark values and then color until you get something you can consider done.  (Or until it's so badly messed up that you throw it away.  One or the other.)

I had a great time with the students.  This was the first time I'd put on this particular workshop and I didn't know how it would go.  When you have good students, it always goes well.  They all seemed to thoroughly enjoy the class as well.  I paused the painting process a couple of times each session so we could see each other's work, talk about what was working and not working, get the students to talk about what they were experiencing, and compare notes.  All of them had different approaches.  By talking about their issues, and about what they saw in each other's work, they could learn a lot more than if everybody was doing the same thing.

So here are a few images from this weekend:

Some of the students, hard at work ...

And here are their paintings:

I'm proud of the way all six of them developed over just two days in the studio!