Adventures in flesh tones!

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on here, and a lot of great things have gone on since “Microcosm”was completed! I took a 6 session figure painting class with a fabulous local painter, and she had us work with a limited palette that I’m still using and really enjoying. The more I work with it, the more levels I unlock, and it’s really exciting! It took a little while for me to start mixing greens out of it, I admit, and it was awkward at first since I’ve been using a ton of colors, but now that I’m past the hump of initially feeling limited,  it’s not limiting at all. These colors are the following – Titanium white, yellow ocher, Winsor Red, Winsor Yellow, Ultramarine Blue, Transparent Red Oxide and Raw Umber. It took me a bit to mix the red oxide and umber together for a warmer brown, which I am embarrassed by. That took me several uses to figure out. Burnt Sienna is really important to me, but you can totally make, no it problem! For flesh tones, it’s still a little strange for me still not having Viridian Green available for neutralizing colors, but I’m getting the hang of the new green, and getting into some lovely greys as well.

Another school of thought on the limited palette is that it’s great to have both a warm and a cool version of the primaries, and with this palette, you just do the work yourself. Yup. No Alizarin Crimson. No Cerulean Blue. MIND BLOWN. The conclusion I’ve reached is that I LOVE THIS PALETTE and I’m going to keep using it for a good while longer and keep learning new things from it. I’ve been mixing paint for a long time now, but I’m getting a lot from this exercise, and wish I had started using it years ago. The great thing about painting? You keep learning FOREVER. I love that.

Here’s two of my latest with this palette. The first one is titled “Communication No. 1 (Bells, Birds and Pistons)”.  I originally was going to put pistons in there, and then agonized over the meaning. I wanted to lighten it up, and went with a bell. Now Pistons still need to happen, and ta-da! A series is born about the different ways we communicate vocally. The pirate painting is totally in progress here, and not finished yet. I’m calling it “Trophy”. See what I did there? It makes me happy. That peacock print chair that she’s sitting on makes me really happy too. Don’t mess with this lady, or she’ll take over your ship. I really love the possible narratives this piece offers.  I’ll get more into it once it’s finished. I am in a serious rush to get it done for drop off for a show and will likely make a larger version I can take my time with. The model has amazing 3/4 sleeve tattoos on her arms, and I’ll paint the whole thing over again just so get those in there. I’ll probably make the background wooden slats too, for a boat feel.

I have to admit a secret, which is that I’m addicted to monochrome under paintings now. Is that a bad thing? I don’t know! I have a wee bit of an issue with proportion at times, so the two layer underpainting process really helps me get that settled while only concerning myself with value. I can refine where things go and then once stuff looks correct, I can move into the glorious world of color. I’ve been hoping to break the tedious underpainting thing and work quicker with more wet on wet, but the transition is looking slow. The downside is I don’t always see things until it’s too late if I’m working thin, and then I’m stuck with the issue. That’s really bad!

Then I threw a wrench in the works completely, and took a three day workshop with a super famous dude in portrait painting. Everything about it was different from what I’ve been doing. It was really useful, and kind of overwhelming. He uses a huge palette and doesn’t premix. It’s madness! Sometimes I spend as long as 30-45 minutes mixing those fleshies. Why? I DON’T KNOW! Most importantly, I got from it this nougat of wisdom – keep the features loose for as long as possible. Get into the details once every thing else is looking correct. Sure, this seems obvious, but in practice, personally, it’s actually difficult to do. It’s also a totally different approach, since I have been working with the monochromatic underpainting for so long, but then I realized the gem – IT STILL APPLIES.  *Getting into details too fast is why my proportions wind up biting me on the butt all the time.* Bad habits are hard to break, but this is my new mantra, and I’m excited about it.

So now I’m in a space in my practice where I’m trying to adopt new stuff from both methods of working, and it’s a little confusing. The best way to sort it out is to just keep painting and keep those key concepts in mind. Next experiment when I get a chance – the famed Zorn Palette! Stay tuned!

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