PORTRAIT PAINTING WORKSHOP DESCRIPTION

PORTRAIT PAINTING IN OIL
TWO-WEEK WORKSHOP

1) Poster study
2) Vine charcoal drawing
3) Ink-in
4) Color-wash under-painting
5) Form painting

Daily schedule:
   Morning: 9:30 AM to 12:30 PM 
   Afternoon: 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM

2-hour demo's every morning, with 3-hour demo first day

1) POSTER STUDY

Toby Hall Demo Poster

Poster Study

         The poster study is a small oil sketch painted in flat patches of color. Its subject is the kind and amount of light in the space of the painting. This is the ‘poster’ or key of the light. The poster study is much less detailed than a finished painting. There is almost no drawing: just the bare minimum necessary to set up the big shapes of the color field. The paint is applied in large, flat, clean brushstrokes with definite edges so that each color decision is easy to read.

         Practice of the poster study will teach the student how to see and mix color. Since it is very simplified and has almost no drawing, the student is free to concentrate on the analysis of each color patch. Color mixtures have three fundamental aspects: value, hue and intensity. Value is the degree of darkness or lightness, hue is the color family (corresponding to the divisions of the color wheel), and intensity, also known as saturation, is the degree of the concentration or dilution of the hue. This exercise demystifies the issue of color and gives the student practical understanding.

Toby Hall Demo Drawing

Vine Charcoal Drawing

2) Drawing in vine charcoal

In the history of portrait painting there have been many approaches to the preliminary drawing. Some painters made drawings on paper and then transferred them. Others drew with a brush directly on the canvas. Still others worked up a drawing on the canvas in vine charcoal. This latter method is the one employed in the Ryder Studio.

         Vine charcoal must certainly be one of the most ancient of all drawing media. It is really just a charred stick. It is strange and somehow appropriate that we of the modern age should test our abilities with such a crude instrument. Sharpening and handling it takes some getting used to. It is quite different from pencil. Vine charcoal is used in drawing on canvas since it is easily erased and it does not readily mix with oil paint. Pencil, on the other hand, though it works fine on paper, handles very poorly on canvas, is difficult to erase and mixes with oil paint, producing an indelible greasy stain.

         The charcoal drawing on the canvas begins with a light, open block-in. The large shapes of the head, neck and shoulders are first approximated in a general way. Attention is paid to the dynamics of the shapes of the portrait in relation to the background, and to the placement and proportion of the portrait within the rectangle. Gradually the block-in is refined and elaborated. The features are first sparingly indicated with a few lines then more and more precisely described. The same goes for the contours of all the parts of the portrait.

         The drawing contributes in an essential way to the architecture of the painting. It is, in the final analysis, the definition and structure of each form, and since all the forms of the portrait are composite (consisting of sub-forms), it governs the composition of these complex forms. The drawing correlates the organization of the portrait.

Toby Hall Demo Ink-in

Ink-in

3) Ink-in

When the charcoal drawing has been brought to the desired degree of resolution, it is “inked-in” with mixture of paint and solvent. A variety of yellowish browns (ochers and umbers) are commonly used. The paint is thinned to a watery consistency, like writing ink, and applied over the lines of the charcoal drawing with a small, fine, round brush. Once the ink-in has dried, usually over night, the charcoal is then brushed away with a chamois, leaving the ink drawing as a guide for the next stage.

Toby Hall Demo Wash

Color-wash

4) Color-wash under-painting

The last of the preliminary stages of the portrait painting process is the under-painting. We use thin washes of color diluted with solvent and work with a full palette. The result resembles a watercolor. The paint is transparent to semi-transparent. It has a washy, brushy appearance. Darker values may be built up with multiple washes, but care is taken to avoid producing a heavy, oily film.

         The color-wash selectively pre-tints the surface of the canvas at each point so that in the form-painting layer, the paint need not be applied very thickly. This enables a refined, delicate and articulate application. The resultant thinness of the paint layers allows for the luminosity of the white canvas to contribute to the brilliant effect of the finished piece.

         In practice the execution of the color-wash gives the painter an opportunity to check and revise the drawing. As the color-wash proceeds, unseen errors become apparent. Corrections that would be difficult to carry out in the form-painting layer may be more easily made at this stage. The color-wash is thus an important phase in the process of bringing the painting to a finely tuned, harmonious conclusion.

Toby Hall Demo Final

Form Painting (Toby Hall, 2010)

5) Form Painting

Form painting reproduces the palpable appearance of visual phenomena. It is based on careful observation. The most characteristic aspect of the method is the way in which forms and surfaces are represented by creating subtly modulated progressions of brushstrokes. Resolving forms one at a time, form by form, the intricate fabric of the painting is woven together slowly and carefully.

Individual forms are painted semi-opaquely, from dark-to-light, and wet-into-wet, with the lights coming last and brushed into a dark base. Not being absolutely opaque, a glimmer of the under-painting peeks through in places. As the form turns up toward the light the colors are laid on directly in progressively lighter brushstrokes to create a continuous film of color change.

In painting from dark to light, each slightly lighter stroke overlaps the edge of its predecessor. A careful manipulation of the brush results in a nearly seamless progression. In the first pass on a form, as the progression reaches the most light facing part of the form (the “top”), it is kept just a little dark (slightly “under the light”). Then while the paint is still wet, strokes representing the light on the top of the form are brushed in. This is called “painting wet into wet,”  “bringing up the lights” and “brushing the lights into a dark base”, etc.

 

© Anthony Ryder 2014