I recently had the honor of participating in a 5-day figure-painting class with Studio Incamminati instructor Stephen Early. As you can see in my studies below, the workshop began as our model assumed quick poses. The object was to quickly capture the gesture before she moved onto the next pose.We completed dozens of these, wiped them down, and kept going. Gradually we were given slightly longer poses, but still our focus was in seeing the form as outlined by shadow and light, avoiding detail. This is such a fun exercise, and just never gets old as each pose presents all new challenges in observing and drawing.
Next we moved onto portraits using the same principals. Notice we toned our canvases with a cool medium grey background that works so well against the warmer tone of the burnt sienna paint. The medium tone is a tremendous help in determining the relative value of lights and darks, but (in my opinion) only if your palette is toned the same medium grey as your canvas. Otherwise, if you use a white palette or a very dark wooden one, you will find that you are constantly adjusting the values on your canvas because they will be darker or lighter than they appeared on your palette (which is very frustrating)! I usually use the grey palette that came with my Soltek easel, but if you are looking for a larger mixing surface, the wooden palettes from Turtlewood are pretty awesome. I bought the one Dawn Whitelaw uses that is toned in the middle grey (a slightly greenish grey that beautifully compliments skin tones). And for anyone who prefers paper palettes, they now come in medium grey as well--who knew?
And finally we moved to color, working with bright backgrounds so we could study how those brights affect skin tones. Notice, in the bottom painting how much blue is in the shadow on her neck and on her forehead. It was interesting to see that more often than not, the colors in the model's skin appeared complimentary to those in the background. For instance, when we used a purple background, her skin appeared more yellow (sorry I have no photo to show this but I wiped that one down). Anyway, in this study, I could have gone with even more intense color in the shadows, but I'm still learning. Fun stuff, that is for sure. I do not feel it is okay to post other artist's work without their permission--but if you want to see much better examples of what I am trying to explain here, take a look at the studies posted on the school's website, as well as Stephen's work by clicking on the links at the top of the page.
"If you find yourself with a weakness, attack it...
don't develop a technique that avoids your weaknesses"
...Nelson Shanks, founder of Studio Incamminati