Monday, August 15, 2011

Figure Workshop

Well, here I am again, late night blogging. No wonder I can't seem to get the spelling, punctuation and grammar correct. I apologize for that, as I have a great respect for language and it's proper usage. I do appreciate your patience with me.

Tonight I thought I would post a bunch of photos from Tuesday's one-day figure workshop. The above photo is my class, all staring at one of the three wonderful models that I brought with me.

The workshop was held at the Ohio Arts Council's Riffe Gallery, in Columbus, OH. The Director or the gallery, Mary Gray, is a really nice woman with a fabulous voice and magnificent organizational skills. She set up the room with the drop clothes, tables, chairs and really paid attention to details that made my students and me feel comfortable in this very visible space.

We had all three models working in quick poses as we warmed up with some contour drawing, to learn about hand/eye coordination and to start thinking about the importance of collecting information. I have no photos of this as I was drawing at first to demonstrate what I wanted them to do, and then checking their drawings to make sure they understood the idea. Some of the students hadn't done contour before, and they wanted to make the one minute drawings what they wanted them to be, but not what I intended. Contour - outline - not form, or light and shade. Not a finished drawing, just contour, to improve their observation skills while gathering as much of the information that is present, in as careful a drawing as they could make in one minute.

Next we mixed values of grey, and I did a short demo. Our model was my 17 year old grandson, Tyler, wearing white Bermuda shorts with a black plaid, a black T-shirt, a tan colored Irish cap, and a caramel colored cane. (I wasn't going to hire him, but when he showed me this outfit, I gave him the job.) He wowed the class in the quick contour poses with his poise and attitude. He is a born model. Or maybe it's just that I have worked with him for many years. Still, whatever he's got, works. And, we were all too busy at this point to think about photos.

Tyler chose to pose on one knee holding the cane out in front of him, in a profile pose. I didn't stop to think about his poor knee on bare wood, and neither did he. Nearing the end of my 10 minute demo, he was shaking, and one of the students asked me to take pity on him. My response was, "Well, he picked the pose." Judy said, "Wow! you are really hard on your models!" We all got a good laugh out of that, including Tyler, and I released him from his misery.
Our next model was Gina, Tyler's Mom.

Just 10 - 15 minute studies simplifying the model into a shadow mass and a light mass was all I asked for. For students who had been meticulously studying models  at Columbus College of Art and Design, with weeks on one painting, this 10 minute quick painting was mind boggling. One of the CCAD students said to me that his teacher there would be "turning over in his grave at this approach." For students who came to paint form, this exercise confused them, and it seemed to be a challenge at first to switch to a new way of seeing and thinking.

I found myself saying more than once that "you are thinking too hard." Just squint and separate everything in shadow into one mass of one value, and don't touch it again. Mass the shadows and darks first. Then do the same with the light side. A third value could be used for the background if they wanted to do some negative painting and carve out some contours if they weren't quite correct to start, but they were definitely not to cross the shadow side into the light side or vice versa.

And of course to keep those values separated, you have to wipe and wash your brush frequently, or you create unintended values. Below are two paintings by the same student. Anne is a very experienced artist who hadn't painted in oils for years and years. (She is a very fine printmaker who studied with Sid Chafetz, a legend at OSU, and now professor emeritus in his 90's - and still working.) Anne struggled with just two values. She regularly put in extra values to create form, and I struggled to get to her before she crossed her values. When I did, her paintings were so charming that we talked about the concept, but I waited for several paintings before I actually asked her if I could paint one of her paintings.

Tyler on one knee at the right, and his Mom on the left.

Below, you can see the result of Chris' painting of the model with a shadow mass in black and a light mass in a lighter value of grey. Using just two values, it already feels like light. Once I felt the students understood the concept of separating the dark and light masses, we talked about edges which made the simple values start to feel like form.

Above Chris's painting of Gina. She has a good separation of light and dark masses,
but also couldn't resist adding extra values and turning the study into a more finished painting.

Above you see another painting value painting of Gina, by Anne. By now, Anne, has mastered the concept of a dark shadow mass and a light mass. But she expanded her value range to create a background space. In this photo, she is now working on translating that black and white painting into a color painting. Students chose two colors of their choice - sometimes colors right out of the tube - in the correct value range and transitioned into color.

And then came Tyler. And that's me beside him pointing out values,
and how to compare this to that, and that to this. (P.S. I learned this from Neil Riley at CCAD.)
James is painting in the foreground.
Tyler posed in his Johnstown High School marching band uniform. His idea!
I couldn't have planned this any better if I'd tried. This was a fairly simple transition into an expanded local color and value painting. Just black, white and red and some mixing for flesh tones. Relatively easy, and a great transition from the black and white work. The problem was, people forgot to squint, and now they had to deal with the local values of black in light and white in shade.

Daina painting Tyler. This painting went through several transitions of values,
but I don't have another photo of it.
I suggested that they could stick with pure black for the darkest darks, the correct value of premixed grey that they already had, the Quinacridone rose right out of the tube for the red in shadow, and pure white for the lightest whites. In the second pass, they could adjust the black where the light hit it. It looked to be a touch of Cad Lemon added to the black, to make a greenish grey for the chest area and a cooler and bluer grey down the leg of the pants in light. Most folks used the suggestion to use one of the greys they already had, but most went a little lighter than was needed to make that white in light sing out.

The worst mistake was, most of them forgot to mass their shadows and darks first! They went for the middle values first, the hardest values to judge, and they had nothing to judge them against. 

Ben's placement of the figure, with Judy behind who is massing her darks first.

Ben's painting  with the darks massed in and using the correct value of grey to represent the white in shadow.

Sherry, a nurse, stuck with the first stafe and got a strong separation of dark and light masses.

Rog had a charming painting going, but his grey value needs to be darker.

Anne's values in the shadow whites are confused. She was thinking, not observing.
Still her painting is compelling and you see she has added that greenish grey in the correct value to represent the light side of the black on the chest and cooler bluer grey down the leg of the pants. It was really there. Ann has also added a very sensitive background that transitions from a color lighter value grey to a greener grey on the right side of the figure. This is great painting folks.

I cropped this photo of Chris to show her painting of Tyler and to show that huge glob of grey paint on her palette. Students don't mix enough paint, but Chris came through and wasn't afraid to go for it! After all, you can't paint without paint. Can you?
When I got to Chris, she was already starting to do what she always did,
push both ends of the value scale towards the middle.
She needed to push the darks back down in value, and I showed her how easy it was to express the light on the red by using straight Cad Red Light - because it was the correct value! The quality of strong light and shadow came back.

This is Carmen's painting of Tyler in progress. She also needed to push her dark values, but of all the paintings of Tyler, hers was the one that "felt" most like Tyler. She captured the sense of his body under the clothes and had the correct proportions. And Carmen has a sensitive touch.

Tyler had to leave early to go to work, so the painting session wasn't as long as the students would have liked. I gave them a "10 minutes more", and then came Layla. You see her peeking out behind Ben's drawing of her on a 20" x 16" panel. Ben does a lot of drawing in charcoal, but he'd never painted in oils. I had a hard time believing that, cause he sure came on strong, and it was lovely to see. Later on in this painting I walked by and said, "the value of the skin in shadow isn't correct." He said, a bit frustrated, "I know, I am trying."
This was a beautiful set up of complimentary colors with beautiful neutrals in the skin tones. The students had only 45 minutes to capture it!

Rog, a very fine hair stylist and owner of his own salon, massed in one dark and then went for the flesh. He also had some delicate green marks that aren't really visible in this photo. I could see by his color palette that this would have to be a very high key painting if he continued it without massing in the strong deep shadows that were actually  there. We talked about that, and I said it was fine if he wanted this to be a high key painting. I wish he'd had more time as I would like to have seen where he would have taken this. The drawing was not quite correct, and at the end, I placed just a few guideline marks on the painting in what would be the darkest value, around a value five. Honestly his colors were so clean, beautiful and delicate, that it didn't matter if the drawing wasn't spot on. He was creating an equisite statement in color.

Christ at the start of her painting. We corrected the drawing a little and I told her to mass in the darkest dark first, and stay out of it!

Judy, had done absolutely gorgeous paintings all day. I heard later that she ran out of panels and wiped off her painting of Tyler, much to Gina's chagrin. I didn't realize that she had used up her greys toning this panel, but the paint was more than a tone, and she was struggling with color and value as everything she put on mixed with the grey paint already on the canvas. Too bad, I think she would have gotten a great painting otherwise. And she admitted to me that she was getting tired.
Judy is a fine artist who works in drawing, painting and sculpture of the human form!

Helen's painting in the front and Carmen's in the back.
They painted carefully and both had good starts in simplifying and painting in large masses. In the end, they had too much time on their hands and the paintings turned from statements of light on form to statements about things. I did quite a bit of finger painting, simplifying the masses on Helen's, and she could see what I meant. We were out of time, so I didn't get to help Carmen with hers, but I did give her a critique of her painting. Like Helen, the thinking brain wants to see the eyes, lips, and all the tiny folds in the dress which took her initial strong statement of shapes and color values and pushed everything toward the middle values for a weaker result.

I want to thank my wonderful models. We didn't have time to get to the great flirty skirts and tops that we picked out for Gina. And I commend my students. They painted non-stop for three hours straight in the morning with an hour lunch break, and then another 3 hours in the afternoon. My models told me that I talked almost the entire time!

No comments: