The first night, we started by talking about the basics of portraiture. We used a charcoal subtractive drawing method to learn about general proportions, placement of features, basic anatomy of the head as well as an understanding of value. Unfortunately, I did not bring my camera this first session so I don't have images of this to share. My apologies.
The next Monday night, we continued to build our understanding of the human head, and started to get familiar with oil paints by learning a subtractive underpainting technique that relates well to the subtractive charcoal drawing technique. You begin by applying a thin wash of burnt sienna and burnt umber mixture evenly over the entire surface of the canvas. Then using the same mixture you draw in your portrait, and then use a rag, old brushes and even q-tips to "pull out" your light masses. Then, you go back into the shadow masses with more of the same oil color mixture to refine your value relationships, edges and structure. By only focusing on value the students were quite successful in creating an accurate portrait.
My quick demo a of subtractive underpainting (aka: open grisaille).
The next three sessions we worked on one painting, which helped the students learn how to take a painting all the way from a grisaille (this time, using greys instead of the sienna/ umber mixture) to a full color portrait. This time, I asked the students to use a closed grisaille method for their underpainting. It is called a "closed grisaille" because instead of using the white of the canvas showing thru a wash of tone to create the lightmass (as shown above), this time white pigment was added to create the lighter values. (Please note that a closed grisaille could also be done with the sienna/umber mixture. It becomes "closed" when white pigment is introduced to any underpainting.)
Students at work!
My quick demo of a closed grisaille.
After the composition, proportions, placement and values of the portrait were established in a closed grisaille the student's next step was to do a "dirty color pass". Which is basically is a pass to get an approximation of the color - concentrating on keeping the value correct while also getting the correct warm and cool color relationships. By not worrying about mixing up the exact right color, students tend to have less anxiety about painting over their grisaille work. Also, it is nice to have many layers of paint in a painting. The history of previous marks can be a wonderful thing in a portrait.
My dirty color pass demo.
The final class was spent trying to get everything as accurate as possible especially the color. These students were a pleasure to work with and watch expand their understanding of the human head. Thank you to Artspace for facilitating this great workshop!
My final color pass demo.