The human figure is one of my favorite subjects to capture in a painting. This is a young model I hired to pose for many photos. Previous to the photo shoot I wrote down all my ideas for paintings.
At a yearly art show a guest came up to me and blurted out, "I know why you paint your subjects up close, you're an intimate person." I didn't know what to say, so I replied, "Your right!" Then I went home and gave it some thought. I realized that I am drawn to paint my subject matter (no matter what it is), in a more intimate way.
This sketch on the canvas was loosely drawn at arms length moving from the photo to the canvas with a brush and burnt umber. I have no plans yet for the background but I know it will be darker (in shadow) simple and painterly.
My model was wearing white so I could see subtle colours and values directly as well as reflected. I used cerulean, cobalt blue, quinacridone red and white with more intensity to create more contrast. The highlights on her skirt were first cool with a hint of warmth. Her flesh is blocked in in a warm tone with some cooler Alizarin on the bottom part of her arm. When you look closely at your subject you see so many different colours. It makes for a much more interesting paintings when you push the limits a little where needed. Within her hat I saw warmth a coolness as well as reflected light. The first transition was a warm one and then I painted the cool sky reflections in. Her hair was painted dark to light, transparent to opaque.
I enjoy the thinking and decision making process of painting . The hunt for hidden hues can be fun and surprising!
The next step was to do a tonal wash to make sure I have a strong value design. Burnt umber is thinned, scrubbed on and wiped off. I'm even more excited about this piece at this point. The cloths line and angles of the shadows lead the eye to the main subject. Now hopefully with colour, contrast, value and edge control I can emphasis the focal point, the light on the girls hair, hat and skirt. It's always a balancing act. I know what I want this to turn out like....now to make it happen.
The laundry was painted with complimentary hues in mind. Across the colour wheel from blue-green and green are red and red orange so it was my choice to include these in the towel she was hanging closest to her. The darker towel accentuates her golden hair glowing in the sun. Things may be altered later as needed. I'm not sure if the lighter sheet will pull the eye out of the painting or not. Once the background is in I'll alter it if needed.
Debbie Milner Lively- AFCA
I've been a professional artist for the past 20 years. I can say the journey has been amazing!