Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Painting the Person You Care About (part 2)

This is me in the middle back row with my pastel and portrait students from Chestertown Art League in Chestertown, Maryland last week during my workshop there.
On the Second and third days of our Pastel Portrait Workshop it was necessary to keep students on the track in using the method I use with my pastel portraiture. The beginning of the workshop the steps I teach are pretty much the same for each student drawing the likeness of each of their models. Then, after we use our darks in nupastels one after the other. First the darkest green #298 called bottle green (can't imagine why in heaven the makers of nupastels cannot name their individual pastel sticks a real pigment name  to make it easier for artists to relate to all other mediums when painting) This has been this way since I was 10 yrs. old and that was 56 yrs. ago. Yes that's right readers Nupastels have been out there and being used for at least 56 yrs.  Then the following step is to use the darkest reddish color called Cordovan #353 and finally the darkest blue if needed to darken and cool down colors in the darks called Spruce Blue # 305. These darks are used just like oils or acrylics in working from dark to light. They are used to sensitively redraw the lines, angles, shapes that you see in the portrait and continuously correct what you see . To get a genuine likeness of the particular person you are drawing or painting, you must study with your eyes, over and over again. The likeness or image of the person will get better and better as you do this and your ability to be a good draftsman will increase two fold. There are general rules for drawing and painting good portraits (good heads and good features) but it is what you see that breaks those rules that really gets the likeness the artist desires to create. The living breathing individual with features drawn just like the original human being.The life in the eyes is very important to me. It is the soul of the subject and it is there that intrigues the viewer.
The students learn to make judgements on what they see over and over again and their work becomes as individual as the subjects themselves. The marks the students use in pastel also become individual and have personality to them. After awhile you can see the personal techniques in that artists and how they choose to work and see color, value, and color temperature. It is exciting to watch this all happen. For each student their are times that are frustrating, questioning and doubt however each time the student goes back to their work they have a good solid system of working to help them achieve a solid portrait or any painting of any subject for that matter. Good results come from a good teacher, a good reliable method of working, a student willing to listen and work and study. Also needed is inspiration, determination, and practice. I believe in working with archival supplies and having a process that is tried and true for over many years.
My students this past week were determined to make the most of each hour that they worked with me and to accomplish the most possible. They achieved so much in such a short time.
This is Barbara and Mary working on their underdrawings in Nupastels

Barbara is shown here layering her darks and always keeping the drawing acurate.

Bonnie is studying her darks in the models and establishing them with the darks (green, red, and blue) as she makes her decisions always staying with that likeness.
Holly is meticulously working on the color applications, keeping the drawing likeness of her chosen subject constant and being bold with her choices. The eyeglasses actually assist the artist by giving more lines and shapes to compare everything in the portrait to. The intensity of color that Holly was able to apply and the varied temperatures of the colors (warm and cool) within the darks, middle tones and lights of the portrait brought life to the subject. The teeth had to be set into the mouth and not project out too much. They had to take on the look of the flesh without making the teeth too gray or white-ish.

Marj and Holly carefully studying their model's images and building one color after another to blend the values used to model the forms.

Mary, the professional plein air painter in pastel has quite a likeness in her granddaughter's portrait and is studying the differences in color from two different photo printers and her grandgirl as well. Her delicacy and stroking of pastel made for a very sensitive portrayal of her subject. This way of working was so contrary to the way she works plein air.
I loved watching her discovery of elements used and the system she was now mastering.

By the fourth day all of the students were nearing completion . The anxiety of finishing (what ever that stage really is?) was evident as time was almost up.
Soft pastels were not used and the building up process was filling up more of the surface. The soft pastels used were my Girault set as well as some pieces of sets that the women artists had. Barbara even had a set of Sennelier Pastels (my choice for a soft finishing set). They were all cautious to not completely fill up the tooth of the paper too soon. I could see that by the last day, each student had studied their subject so often that they truly had a likeness that could not be denied and they learned to make independent important choices as they went step by step finishing their portraits.

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