So in an earlier post I mentioned how I became really frustrated during the process of painting my Queen Nefertiti. Well I thought it’d be good to share what helped me get through it. It’s a little book I bought from Amazon by William F. Powell called Color Mixing Recipes for Portraits. I only bought the book years ago as a back up for when I get too stuck and can’t paint my way out of it, and finally I got to refer to it for the first time with the Queen Nefertiti painting.
The main part that I struggled with was the color of the skin. Normally I feel in control, but this time it just wasn’t coming together. I kept mixing muddy colors and then destroying them further when I tried to fix it. I think it was particularly troublesome for me because I wasn’t working from a subject or a picture, just from my own head. Honestly I don’t usually use these kind of color recipe books, because I don’t want to get too attached to using them as a crutch. I need a certain element of spontaneity when painting. The idea of using “recipes” where x paint+x paint+x paint= ycolor sounds way too technical for my tastes. And not to mention expensive! Who needs all of those particular shades of paint? Where are you going to store it? Is there REALLY a big difference if I just use an orange that I mix up versus the cadmium orange hue scarlet that the book says I need? I think I’ve made decent paintings with a lot less colors than some of these books mention.
All jokes aside, the book was actually helpful. I used it as more of a jumping off point and a visual aid rather than some kind of cut-and-dry resource. I took a break, came back to the painting with fresh eyes, and the book became my guide when I just couldn’t really think anymore. So the book, coupled with my own knowledge about color, allowed me to achieve much cleaner shades and tones for that particular painting. If you were ever curious about buying a color mixing book, I definitely think it’s worth it as a backup – especially if you’re already in school or taking private classes. If you’re just starting out and don’t know much about paint and mixing colors, these books can be a bit overwhelming so I wouldn’t recommend you get one until you get more comfortable.
Thoughts? Have you used any color mixing books? Love them or hate them?
I have a few days off this week, but the work doesn’t stop.
I spent most of the day working on this study for a larger painting that I want to do. I thought that I would practice the technique I learned in a painting class I took in the spring, where you set up the painting by over-exaggerating the colors in light and shadow and then paint your way out of it. The instructor called it a color study. I think the whole point is for me to achieve colors that look like actual skintones by the end of the painting, but so far when I’ve tried the technique I keep ending up with these rainbow tones. Doesn’t look bad though! But for the big one, I think I’m going to try to push the colors a bit further so I’ll end up with some colors that look a little less saturated and more like some skintones.
Here’s the progression:
I feel pretty good about this study. I was nervous about overworking it, so I just came to a safe stopping point and took note of areas that I thought were too red, too light, etc. This will be a good reference for when I go to make the official version!
Continued to lay down colors where I thought I was seeing them in the photo. I had to do some of my own modifications to maintain some dimension and visual interest to the form.
I exaggerated the color of the light and shadow areas, this helps to bring some luminescence to the painting. Sometimes this is the scary part!
Used a mixture of burnt sienna, black, and white diluted with turpenoid to lay out a relatively flat oil sketch. Decided to omit the hand for this small version. I don’t know why I did all those random values and details, they were just going to get covered up. lol
This was a picture I took with the camera on my phone (forgive me) one night when I was up really late and bored. Later I thought that it would be cool for a painting. I took it into photoshop and adjusted the image to improve the color information.
Anyone try this particular color study technique before? Feel free to leave feedback!
This past Saturday was my first day in a figure and portrait painting class at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria. I have been so anxious about it ever since I signed up for it 2 months ago! You can imagine … Continue reading →