So, obviously I was feeling a bit spun around after that last critique. New strategy is to work out the color schemes, and in particular to determine what will be the background color. Perhaps background color is too simple a term—basically I’m not looking for a monotone hue, but rather something that I cannot only label, but push to warms and cools, darks and lights. I did three quick oil sketches with potential background hues on Friday. Three paintings in one day, I guess that’s a record for me. It is very important to be able to do these quick sketches and to allow oneself to have the confidence to make something which is not finished and aesthetic. I learned quite a lot in doing these sketches, and I would admonish any artist out there to work at getting good at developing the facility of the oil sketch. It will be an invaluable skill.
Here’s some shots of the sketches (they are all about 5″x7″):
This one is based on yellow ochre
This one is what I call the old-master green
This is a vitriolic red made from alizarine and flesh ochre (mostly)
I’ve decided that I want to go with the yellow one. I know I can make the green one work, and as such it feels like a safe choice. It’s based on the old-master green that I love (ivory black and yellow ochre). It’s sort of my default choice when I don’t know what else to do in the background, which is another reason to avoid it. The red is obnoxious, which can be a good thing. There are some great red paintings: Sargent did a great full length portrait of a physician in a violent red robe set against bright red curtains. It can be done, but it takes a confidence that one won’t have any other issues with the painting than working out the chromatic and temperature problems of the red. I like the yellow; I also spent a good deal of time mixing out different half-tones of the yellow ocher I was using as the base, mixing it with different whites, unbleached titanium, naples yellow, burnt sienna, raw umber, sepia extra and even ultramarine violet.
I think I’ve got what I need in terms of information to proceed. My only real concern is that the flesh tones will melt too much into the similar values of the background. I’ll just have to make sure that I don’t match the value and temperature anywhere along the silhouette. Last semester it sort of dawned on me that the actual hue was the least important aspect of the ‘color’. If you get the correct value and temperature, you can pretty much select any hue you like and the forms will read properly. That is not to say the hues should be selected arbitrarily; if you can place complementary but slightly antagonistic hues next to each other, but still have them all sit in place on the larger form, the color will be that much more alive. I need to constantly remind myself not to get caught up in naming colors (once you name something, you stop exploring it) and that all colors should be tertiary colors (that is, they contain all three of the primary colors to varying degrees).
Wish me luck…