Saturday, May 31, 2014

Figures and heads: Practice exercises

Here are some previous posts that are concerned with the figure as a subject. They focus on seeing in layers, and on knowing when to be careful/carefree. No surprise there.
Look them over and see what stands out for you to practice. This coming week the Tuesday morning class and the Wednesday afternoon class will have models. The Wednesday morning class and the Monday night class will work on self- portraits, with a model the final week. I think.

Well, that was weird. Try going online and looking for a few well lit nudes to paint from. You'll see what I mean.
Here are a couple of images that can get you started seeing the figure as a sequence of layers.

In this figure the warm side and the cool side are the same value. How would you approach painting that?

Try painting the whole figure as a single color silhouette. See if you can get used to starting from the inside of the form and working toward the outside edge, instead of drawing the profile and then coloring it in. I know nobody's watching, so you could just draw an out line and fill it in, but really, try it the other way, at least a couple of times. Use your brush to make shapes rather than lines.
Make some of your silhouettes in a very pale wash. Remember the tendency we saw in the portraits to make the first layer too dark. Better to make it too light. Well, best to make it just right, but too light leaves plenty of room for the shadows to contrast sufficiently.
Next, paint the shadow shapes as a layer by itself. The idea is to get used to seeing it as a separate layer that you can hold in suspension while you focus on the lights.
Finally, put the two layers together, adding a few accent darks where they are needed (creases, hair, eyes,. etc.)
Remember, it is not necessary to have a flawless figure present right from the start. When you are applying the first layer, you still have 2 or 3 opportunities to clarify the edges and proportions. Putting in a background can be a powerful tool in this regard.
Have fun, and don't spend all your painting time on the web.

Here are a few images that might inspire you to make more general statements in the figurative work we'll be doing for the next two weeks.
Kim Froshin

David Park
Richard Diebenkorn

These paintings are based more on shapes than lines. Even in the Diebenkorn if you took away the lines, the figure would still be fully present, much as it is in Kim Froshin's exciting painting. An edge, rather than a line can make a more convincing object in space. 
Take another look at these three images with the relationship between the figure and the ground in mind. There's a big opportunity here for defining shapes, and it can come late in the sequence of layers. Be sure to take advantage of that from time to time.
So, your homework? If you can get someone in your house to hold still, great. Otherwise, look for photos online, or in magazines that feature distinct shadows on a figure, clothed or not. Keep the drawing to a minimum. Paint shapes!

 Layers: Shadow Patterns on Heads

Look for a photo of a head that features a strong shadow pattern. Imagine it as a series of layers: First, an overall pale wash to represent the illuminated skin tone, into which color variations of similar value can be placed. Then, a shadow pattern, which can also be given soft edged variations, and, finally, the few darkest darks, like pupils and nostrils. 
If you prefer, try working in monochrome, so you won't be distracted by color. Remember to choose a single color rather than a mixed one, and make sure it's a color that can get dark enough to represent the deepest darks.

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