Sunday, December 13, 2009

American illustrator, Howard Pyle: Advice

Delaware Art Museum, Howard Pyle: Diversity in Depth (Delaware Art Museum: Wilmington, DE, 1973).

While Charles DeFeo was in Pyle's studio, he recorded some of the advice Howard Pyle gave to his class:
First an artist- then an illustrator.

If you are going to be an artist all hell can't stop you. If not, all Heaven can't help you.

If you receive only fifty cents for a job, put as much of your heart into it as you would in one you are receiving $500 for.

If you are doing a black-and-white, a little color will hide a multitude of sins.

If you are painting a sky full of birds, or a garden of flowers, or any objects- show one or a thousand.

If an object in the foreground of your picture looks too big, make it bigger. If it looks too small, make it smaller.

After the first half-hour of work, your lay-in should kill at a hundred yards.
If you can make a picture with two values only, you have a strong and powerful picture. If you use three values, it is still good, but if you use four or more, throw it away.

In using three values he used to say, "Put your white against white, middles tones (groups) against grays, black against black, then black and white where you want your center of interest. This sounds simple, but is difficult to do."

If you're doing a fight picture or a stormy scene make the background fight as well as the figures in the picture.

A strange color, that is different from the color scheme of your painting, use in one spot only. It will be beautiful, but do not repeat it.

They will never shoot you for what you leave out of a picture.

Your picture is finished if it is one-third as good as your original idea.

Practical Hints for Art Students by Charles A. Lasar, first published in 1910

Charles Lasar, Practical Hints for Art Students, (Duffield & Company, New York, 1923), pp. 183-187.

A vertical line gives dignity to a figure.

Never lose the symmetric form but forget a part here and there.

Life is the ornament to a scene.

The emotion of the movement of the principal figure or interest must be felt all through the scene.

The emotional frame consists in reproducing the movement in the masses.

Design is the composition of the emotion, which may be in the color or the form, depending upon the subject.

The stronger the tone line in a portrait the more dignified the pose.

To make a figure stand more firmly introduce horizontal lines, vertical lines give stiffness to a pose.

Now and then planes may be influenced by reflection. If a feature is ugly, like the chin for instance, one can reflect light onto it and take out some of its force.

Action is generally expressed by an oblique, dignity by vertical, and solidity by horizontal conditions.

The action of a figure may be effectively enhanced by the disposition of the hands in characteristic attitudes according to the emotion of the scene.

If you wish a figure or object to come forward let it influence an object behind it, and be itself influenced by an object in front of it.

The principal interest should be like lightning in the sky, that seen above everything else.

Sudden variety causes interest.

When a figure is bending over, the side that inclines the most should catch your eye first in value, color, and form.

The spots of a general color scheme may be taken from a suggestive part of the scene. For instance a man smoking may have his clothes the color of smoke, his cap fire red and the background or furniture a tobacco brown.

Never paint a portrait as though the person were posing. A natural position can only be kept for a few seconds, it is like a flash of lightning. You must just put down a few large marks for the chosen position of head, hands, feet, etc., and keep fitting the sitter into them.

Portraits and other figure subjects need light from above as well as at the side. Some persons require a warm and others a cold light, to bring out their best characteristics, both in form and color.

In portraits some persons will show to most advantage in color, while others are more striking in form considered as line.

A figure may be elegant but not graceful. Proportion gives elegance, movement grace, color charm.

In painting a portrait when making your tone put a little more rose into it than you really see.

Sometimes it is the character and sometimes the emotion that makes a portrait tell.

If the color is too brilliant in the face a portrait will lack refinement.

If a picture is not showy enough it is the fault of values; if it lacks in charm the color is wrong; if it is not solid local conditions are to blame.

In painting a portrait keep the lines of the body contrary to the lines of the profile.

Accessory forms are not eyes, nose, and mouth.

The direct condition of the flesh is peach bloom, surroundings cruder, lips to look like fruit.

Look out for a few hairs on the top surfaces, they give depth to a beard.

Be careful not to get the ear purple or it will look frozen.

If a picture lacks charm make it blush a little, but avoid fever.

A portrait does not depend upon the little things, but upon the big relations and differences. Look out for cheek bones, the direction of the mouth whether oblique or horizontal, how the eyes slant in the face, these are the things that count and not a little pretty drawing here and there. Some people have long faces, others short; some have sloping shoulders, others square, etc.

Clumsiness may be a quality.

Form, value, and tone are three chances for making a thing good.

A portrait may be dramatic in color, but not in form or values, or vice versâ.

Keep a portrait full of life and action, never put down the tired conditions of a pose.

Where beauty is lacking expression and color may charm.

It is good practise when about to paint a head to mix first the flesh tint general, then hair, background, eyes, and lips; understanding that lips are the accent to flesh as eyes and eyebrows are to hair.

The color of eyes and lips show off the clearness of skin.

If you wish to keep flesh color clear leave out as many half tones as possible.

Accenting eyes and mouth in value and color will also clear the complexion.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"Why [Sargent's] brushwork looks so fluent and easy..."

I remember reading that John Singer Sargent would often require many sittings to get his portraits right, and that he was rarely satisfied with his first efforts.

But I always wondered: Did he scrape off each false start and then begin all over again? Or did he just work over the previous start after it had dried? How did he know when a painting was going wrong?

Thanks to two of his former pupils, Miss Heyneman and Mr. Henry Haley, we have an idea of his methods:

"He drew a full, large brush down the whole contour of a cheek (over one of her half-finished studies), obliterating apparently all the modeling underneath, but it was always further to simplify that he took these really dreadful risks, smiling at my ill concealed perturbation and quite sympathizing with it.

"The second painting taught me that the whole values of a portrait depends upon its first painting, and that no tinkering can ever rectify an initial failure. Provided every stage is correct, a painter of Mr. Sargent's caliber could paint for a week on one head and never retrace his steps -- but he never attempted to correct one. He held that it was as impossible for a painter to try to repaint a head where the understructure was wrong, as for a sculptor to remodel the features of a head that has not been understood in the mass. That is why Mr. Sargent often repainted the head a dozen times, he told me that he had done no less than sixteen of Mrs. Hammersley.

“When he was dissatisfied he never hesitated to destroy what he had done. He spent three weeks, for instance, painting Lady D' Abernon in a white dress. One morning, after a few minutes of what was to be the final setting, he suddenly set to work to scrape out what he had painted. The present portrait in a black dress (above), was done in three sittings.

“He did the same with the portrait of Mrs. Wedgwood, and many others. Miss Eliza Wedgwood relates that in 1896 he consented, at the insistence of Alfred Parsons, to paint her mother. She sat for him twelve times, but after the twelfth sitting he said she would both be the better for a rest.

“He then wrote to Miss Wedgwood that he was humiliated by his failure to catch the variable and fleeting charm of her mother's personality -- that looked like the end of the portrait. Some weeks later he saw Mrs. Wedgwood at Broadway, and struck with a new aspect he said:

‘If you will come up next week we will finish that portrait.’

“She came to Tite Street, a new canvas was produced, and in six sittings he completed the picture which was shown at the Memorial Exhibition.

“I have also seen the assertion that he painted a head always in one sitting. He painted a head always in one process, but that could be carried over several sittings. He never attempted to repaint one eye or to raise or lower it, for he held that the construction of a head prepared the place for the eye, and if it was wrongly placed, the understructure was wrong, and he ruthlessly scraped and repainted the head from the beginning. That is one reason why his brushwork looks so fluent and easy; he took more trouble to keep the unworried look of a fresh sketch than many a painter puts upon his whole canvas.

“The purpose of all this reworking was to: develop (in Sargent's words) ‘an appetite to attack the problem afresh at every sitting, each attempt resulting in a more complete visualization in the mind. The process is repeated until the canvas is completed.’

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Charles Reid Flesh

Red  + Yellow + White + Complement

Cadmium Red

Cadmium Yellow (Cadmium Yellow Light / Yellow Ochre / Raw Sienna)
Titanium White
warm areas

To cool, add cerulean blue (light areas) or viridian green (darks)

Vary mix: Yellow Ochre in the light, Raw Sienna in the shadow

Light flesh: Titanium White + Cad Red Light + Cad Yellow Pale + Cerulean Blue / Permanent Green Light

More subtle flesh tone: Titanium White + Yellow Ochre + Cad Red + Any Cad Yellow + Cerulean Blue / Permanent Green Light

Darker:  Titanium White + Raw Sienna / Yellow Ochre + Cad Yellow + Viridian / Cobalt Blue / Ultramarine Blue

Hudson River School Palettes

Frederic Church's Twilight in the Wilderness was painted with:

Lead White
Red Lead
Strontium Yellow (one of 3 lemon yellows--most opaque, most lightfast)
Chrome Yellow
Cadmium Yellow
Chrome Green

     [In the late 19th century and early 20th century United States, chrome green often referred to either a mixture of Prussian blue with chrome yellow, which was known as Brunswick or royal green to English and Continental painters. Chrome green to European painters was the designation for chromium oxide green.]
Green Earth
Earth Colors
Prussian Blue 

Thomas Cole wrote a letter to Durand asking for supplies for a sketching trip. In addition to copal varnish and oil, he asked for:
Roman Ochre

     [Roman Ocher is a mixture of natural iron oxide pigments that has marigold tint and the strong and dark French ocher, J. F. L. E. S., and according to one author is made by 65 parts by weight of yellow ocher and two parts by weight of Italian burnt sienna mixed with 32 parts of poppyseed or nut oil.]
Lena Siena Raw and Burnt
Burnt Umber
Chrome Yellow
Naples Yellow
Antwerp Blue

     [A light shade of Prussian blue, or sometimes a mixture of Prussian blue that lacks the bronze cast and blanc fixe and sometimes further brightened with zinc white.]
Madder Lake
Vandyck Brown
Light Red

     [Light red refers to a red ocher or burnt yellow ocher similar to English red. It has been described as a red ocher with cool tints or undertones.]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Stapleton Kearns landscape palette

starting from the top going across to the right:
Titanium white (Lefranc & Bourgeois--all others RGH)
cadmium yellow light
cadmium yellow medium
cadmium red light
burnt sienna
cobalt violet
Prussian blue

and on the left descending;
Golden, or yellow ochre
ultramarine blue
Viridian, or sometimes pthalo green
Quinacridone red
Ivory black

Titanium white, the standard artists white these days, opaque and nonpoisonous, that white stuff on your lifeguards nose is titanium. Lefranc and Bourgeois makes a really nice titanium that's very reasonably priced. Some artists like zinc white because it's more transparent and they feel it doesn't overwhelm their colors making them chalky. Some brands of paint are a mixture of titanium and zinc and try to get the best qualities of both. Lead white is somewhat transparent as well, it dries more quickly than the others and handles better than the others. It gives a nice surface and is the white in all the old paintings in the museum. It is poisonous and is becoming harder to find.

Cadmium yellow light, or pale. Never buy a tube that says hue on it! A hue is some unknown pigments mixed up to look like the color you actually want. If you want azo yellow (or French's mustard) buy tubes labeled that way. Manufacturers sell these to students and hobbyists who don't know the difference. They won't handle reliably in your mixtures and lack pigmenting strength. Student grades of paint often are hues. Painting well is hard enough to do with the best of materials.

Cadmium yellow medium, more orange and warmer than the cadmium yellow light. I can live without this by feeding a little cadmium red light into my cadmium yellow light, but it is convenient having it and it helps me to get greater variety when mixing greens. There is a lot of variation between makers and some makers' cadmium yellow medium may be the same color as another makers' cadmium yellow deep.

Cadmium red light, this is an expensive pigment, but a tube will last you a long time. All the cadmiums are poisonous . Don't eat or smoke while they are on your hands. Never put these in a spray gun, and I would recommend you never work with this pigment in a powdered form (such as grinding your own paint, let the pros do that). Used responsibly they are safe. Most of the things in an artists' studio are poisonous to one degree or another. I was taught to paint with real vermilion in this slot on the palette, that is mercuric sulphide and is really, really poisonous and nearly impossible to get these days however it was a lovely color. When you see the blush in the cheek of a woman painted by John Sargent, that's vermilion. Often your red is going to be used to "step on " ie. modify another color slightly and vermilion did that nicely. There are some nice proprietary reds that are possibles in this spot on the palette. Sennelier red is a nice one. Rembrandt also makes a nice red in this range. I don't see a good replacement for the cadmium yellows but you may decide to choose a substitute for cadmium red light. The important thing is that this is a warm red, you will have a cool red on the other side of the palette.

Burnt sienna, is an absolutely wonderful color! It is inexpensive. Earth colors are (or rather were) colored dirt dug up in various places in Italy, and are mostly forms of iron oxide. They are made in the lab today and are, I think, far better than the real earth pigments. These are reliable, permanent and well behaved colors.They dry relatively quickly. I like to sketch paintings in with burnt sienna. Some artists who choose to use limited palettes and work on a chromatic palette don't use earth colors. Some of the western painters have popularized this approach lately. I will talk about limited palettes in another post. Oddly enough the old masters had just the opposite sort of palette and worked with three color earth palettes. There's a lot of different ways to skin the same cat, each has its limitations and advantages. My palette has both an earth color palette and a chromatic palette within it. Winsor and Newton makes a nice burnt sienna. Since burnt sienna is a relatively inexpensive color buy a good one.

Cobalt violet, an extremely expensive color. I love it, but I can't say you really need to have it. Its got a lovely sort of glow that no other violet has. Dioxizine has far more tinting strength. I feel dioxizine has too much in fact, and will actually stain the hairs in your brushes. Most of the proprietary violets on the market are dioxizine, often toned down to make them more manageable. You can mix your violets over on the other side of the palette with ultramarine and quinacridone or alizirin. Gamblin makes a less expensive cobalt violet and it is fine.

Prussian blue
, This blue leans slightly towards green. It is not a real popular color these days having been largely replaced with thalo blue. I use Prussian because it is more manageable, thalo blue being so much more powerful than the other pigments on your palette that it can be over assertive in mixtures. Many fine painters have relied on it though. Emile Gruppe used it extensively as the blue in his chromatic palette. Most of the proprietary blues labeled with the makers name are thalo.
Neither of these colors is particularly expensive so you may want to try a small tube of both. Like cobalt violet you may decide you don't need this color either.

Gold ochre, another earth color, this is a slightly more yellow version of yellow ochre. You probably want yellow ochre here. but you might check out the golden version, Some companies make a yellow ocher light and deep as well. Raw sienna and mars yellow both fit into this slot on the palette. Like other earth colors this is a dependable workhorse of a color and I could mix nearly the same hue from chromatic colors but its nice to have it there and ready to use, and there is a nice sort of "acoustic" look to the earth colors. I once bought a tube of Sennelier yellow ochre and it was dirty and weak. I realized that I was so used to our modern lab made versions of this color I was unaware of what the real earth color of the old masters was like. Rembrandt would be very impressed with my palette, I am not so sure he would be that impressed with my paintings though.

Ultramarine blue. I use a lot of this, after white its the color of which I use the most. Sometimes I take it off my palette just for disciplines sake. It is a slightly reddish blue. My palette has a warm and a cool version of each hue. Ultramarine is my warm blue, Prussian is my cool blue. I prefer the ultramarine deep or the French ultramarine when a manufacturer gives me a choice. Good ultramarine has clarity, cheap ultramarine is dirty. Quality ultramarine is like butter and cheap ultramarine is slimy.

Viridian green is a lovely bluish green that has become very expensive in the last few years. Its quality has also dropped, it seems to me that it goes gritty on the palette much more quickly than it used to or should. RGH makes one and though they aren't giving it away it is still affordable. Viridian mixed with a lot of white is good in skies and a tolerable replacement for cerulean blue which has also become very expensive. Lately I have been experimenting with Thalo green deep, I am not sure if I can live with it as an inexpensive substitute for viridian or not. It is of course much more powerful.

Quinacridone red, I was taught to paint with alizirin crimson and in those days it was a standard artists pigment. It had many faults, it had a bloody, blacky sort of a color and was impermanent and handled poorly. Some years ago manufacturers began selling Permanent Alizirin which was of course not alizirin at all. It is usually quinacridone. The ideal color for this slot is probably genuine rose madder. That is a wonderful color, rather than being bloody like alizirin, it has an organic roseate hue that is warm, clear and lovely like roses themselves. When I was on a three color palette this was my red. It is about 35 dollars for a 37 ml. tube. This is, in my estimation, the best argument for being rich. Sometime when you feel flush, treat yourself to a tube of Winsor and Newtons' genuine rose madder, it is like a good box pressed maduro from the Dominican Republic, one of life's' finest experiences. I should mention I suppose that it is not entirely permanant.
Quinacridone isn't cheap either but it is roseate in hue, permanent and dependable. If you buy a tube of permanent rose this is what you will get. It wont stomp on your mixtures like some of the other cool red pigments, delicacy is the" pearl of great price" in the cool reds.

Lastly, Ivory black.. A lot of outdoor painters eschew the use of black and there's a good reason for that. In the hands of tyros (now there's an antique word) it brings on disaster. It is not to be used to make the shadow note by adding it to the color of an object in the light. THE SHADOW IS A SEPARATE COLOR FROM THE LIGHT, AND NOT THE COLOR OF THE LIGHT PLUS BLACK! It is virtually always better to add the compliment of a color to any note to reduce it. Black is only useful when perceived as a color of its own. Sometimes painters talk about painting clean, for them black is an anathema. Another philosophy thinks of putting the right color of mud in the right place. I fall into the latter camp. If a color is too red I add green, if it's to yellow I add purple, etc. That's sort of like the difference between playing a fretted instrument and playing a violin (which has no frets) I play across the colors rather than clearly hitting only the separate notes in each octave. See what I mean? Now I have to write a post on compound color vs. simple color. I will label that post inominate color. I sometimes do small black and white studies for larger paintings.


pornstar pink

I was asked about the pink I was using. Since I tube my own colors, I can tube mixtures. My pink is my own homemade version of a color available from Williamsburg paints that they call Persian Rose. Persian Rose is a quinacridone rose (PV19; WN Permanent Rose) and white mixture (zinc) heated up with a shot of diperrolpyrroll orange (PO73; Winsor Orange). That gives it a hot undertone. It is the antidote for green though.
I call the version that I make Pornstar Pink. When you look at it on the palette it looks fluorescent. You would wonder what on earth I would do with a strong pink like that. Its enough to make a feather boa blush. Several of my artists friends are using my pink and when I make it now, I have to make about a quart. I can't easily describe to you how I make my version so I suggest you acquire a tube of the Persian Rose which is similar.
I manipulate my greens a lot, desaturating them, pushing them in different directions to get variety and installing warm notes. I push a lot of reds into my greens. In the summer everything is either yellow or blue or a combination of the two (green) so I smuggle red, I wrote a post about that here.
A thing to watch out for and avoid is chartreuse, in the summer it is easy to fill paintings with poisonous yellow greens and some painters have done that, their paintings get poisonous. A great variety of greens and a careful control of the yellower and cooler greens will usually result in better landscapes. Here comes my old joke again but I do mean something by it. "I want to make paintings the color of 500 dollar suits. What I mean by that is there are loud greens in nature that would never make it onto the racks at Brooks Brothers ( a local retailer known for their restrained taste and high quality). You may want to use those hues, but do it sparingly, if you do use an acidic color, make it an accent, allot to it the area you would a tie.

William Whitaker on classic palette

[I'm currently using a limited palette of Titanium white, Red Vermillion, Yellow Ocher, Ivory black...]

Your basic four colors comprise the so-called classic palette. To be 100% sure of the following information, I'd have to see your red-vermillion. However, if your paints are quality, I'm sure your red-vermillion is just fine too.

Mix some secondary colors.
Black plus yellow ochre = green.
Black plus white = blue.
Both those secondaries are good to modify and tone down your basic flesh of white, vermillion and yellow ochre. When mixing your basic flesh, start with white, add just enough yellow ochre to get the right pitch, then add a tiny bit of vermillion to get it just right. Add more vermillion and you get pink cheeks and even lips.

Now mix black and vermillion. You get a lovely dark brown. Use this unmodified for your darkest shadows in the nose, ears, and lip line. Apply it thin and transparent for your darkest flesh.

A useful color for turning your form from the light flesh to the shadow is raw umber. You can make a good raw umber by mixing black, yellow and a little red. Add white to it and it approaches grey.

Play around.

But remember, the best way to learn is to paint from life. Con a friend into sitting for you. I've done that for years, then given the sitter the results. If you are smarter than I am, you can sell the sitter the results!

Work in natural indirect light. Place your figure against a dark neutral background. (A piece of cloth will do.) This will give you Old Master light and shadows, which are the best for painting the figure.

I've posted a head I cropped from a fairly recent 10x8" painting on panel. (A lot of my current stuff is small.) I did this with a fairly limited palette. Remember, value is more important than color.

painting on wood

Does anyone have any advice on oil painting on wood (like plywood)? I like to incorporate the grain of the wood into the image itself, so white gesso isn't an option, and clear gesso makes it look "foggy".

You could do a shellac/renatured alcohol thing. It will tint it yellow though...
Or, you could oil it with a boiled oil wood finish until it won't absorb any more.
Or, you could use a commercial wood sealer.

Richard Schmid's Palette

* = always on palette

Winsor Newton
Cadmium Lemon*
Cadmium Yellow Pale
Aurora Yellow*
Cadmium Red*
Cadmium Scarlet
Cadmium Orange
Yellow Ochre Pale*
Terra Rosa*
Venetian Red
Permanent Alizarin Crimson

Cadmium Yellow Deep*
Transparent Oxide Red*
Cobalt Blue Light*
Ultramarine Deep*

Alizarin Permanent*

Titanium White

Cobalt Violet Light
(Transparent & Opaque)
Cobalt Violet Deep

Old Holland
Cadmium Orange
Lapis Lazuli Genuine

various traditional palettes

The Limited Classical Flesh Palette:
Flake White
Yellow Ochre
Vermilion (can substitute Cad Red Light)
Ivory Black
Burnt or Raw Umber (for monochromatic underpainting/drawing. The dark umber areas will remain uncovered, to act as transparent and deep shadow areas)
This is basically a red (verm.), yellow (ochre), blue (ivory black) configuration. The basic flesh mixture is the white and yellow ochre, with a touch of the red, and a smidgen of black to lower chroma, if desired.

Extended Classical Flesh Palette

Flake White
Naples Yellow
Indian Yellow (glazing)
Vermilion or Cad. Red Light
Red Ochre or Light Red
Rose Madder (A transparent color. Don't buy the any colors with Lake in the name, as they are not permanent)
Burnt Sienna
Terre Verte or Green Earth
Ivory Black
Classical palettes, idealy, are used in a layered technique, but alla prima is also possible and almost equal in the right hands (Rubens, Hals)

Complete Classical Palette
- as listed at
Flake White
Naples Yellow
Indian Yellow
Yellow Ochre
Red Ochre
Rose Madder
Burnt Sienna
Brown Madder
Cassel Earth
Ivory Black
Ultramarine Blue
Prussian Blue

Modern Limited Palette (Higher chroma than classical, geared towards opaque, direct painting methods. A very, very basic landscape palette also.)
Flake or Titanium White
Cad. Yellow Light
Yellow Ochre
Cad. Red Light
Alizarin Crimson (trans., like a darker Rose Madder)
Cobalt Blue (or Cerulean if you prefer)
Ultramarine Blue (trans.)
Ivory Black
Here you have a high chroma, RYB scheme, with warm and cool variations of each color. Permanent

Extended Modern Palette

Flake or Titanium White
Cad. Yellow Light
Cad. Orange
Yellow Ochre
Raw Sienna
Cad. Red light
Cad. Red Medium
Red Ochre or LIght Red or Indian Red
Alizarin Crimson
French Ultramarine
Cobalt or Cerulean
Sap Green
Burnt Sienna
Ivory Black

The landscape palette

(taken from
'Landscape calls for pitch and vibration. You must have pure color and great luminosity, yet a range of color which will permit of all sorts of effects. The following will serve for everything out-of-doors, and I have seen it with practically no change in the hands of very powerful and exquisite painters. There are no browns and blacks in it because the colors which they would give are to be made by mixing the purer pigments, so as to give more life and vibration to the color. The Blackest note may be gotten with ultramarine and rose madder with a little viridian if too purple; the result will be blacker than black, and have daylight in it. The ochre is needed more particularly to warm the veridian'.
Stronitian Yellow
Orange Vermilion
Cadmium Yellow
Pink Madder
Orange Cadmium
Rose Madder
Yellow Ochre
Emerald Green (aka Veronese Green)

Monday, October 26, 2009

William Whitaker on flesh painting

from ConceptArt

I’ve been asked how I get my flesh tones – more specifically, Northern European flesh tone. It is mostly a factor of getting some early vital training, working for decades in natural light and from life, and of course endless practice. However, over the past month I’ve been amusing myself by trying to work out a simple basic formula that might help some of you. Today I did a little experimental oil painting and took photos.

My demonstration panel is a piece of 6x8 inch ABS plastic material. I carefully sanded the shiny surface off, then toned it with a little Mars Black thinned with odorless mineral spirit and alkyd resin. I let these panels dry as long as possible.

ABS is far superior to hardboard with acrylic gesso, and if the painting doesn’t work out, I can simply sand it off and paint a new one.

For practice work, I recommend ABS (I get it at a plastic wholesaler), or frosted Mylar, or high quality tracing paper. I did most of my early practice work on tracing paper. It doesn’t need to be prepared and the paint doesn’t soak through.

My medium is simply linseed oil. Nothing else. I keep it in an eyedropper bottle. Walnut oil is another very good oil. I’m not using resins or any fancy mediums currently.

I rubbed the linseed oil over the panel with my fingers. It won’t poison me.

I wanted only the lightest film of oil on the panel, so I followed up the rub-in with a quick wipe with a paper towel.

I added a little linseed oil to some of the stiffer colors. If I do my preparations right, I won’t need to add any additional oil or medium as I paint. My colors are the best I can buy, but I wouldn’t worry too much about paint brands and until you’ve mastered your craft, in fact, I wouldn’t use the most expensive ones.

I mixed the oil into the colors [on glass] using my painting knife, and then transferred the result to my palette.

The colors are:
Titanium White, Ivory Black, Transparent Earth Red (sometimes called Transparent Red Oxide) Raw Umber.

The grey is my special flesh tone I invented to save time. I call it Mary Sauer Flesh Color, after one of my students whose delicate pale flesh inspired it. It consists of Titanium white darkened with Raw Umber, to which I’ve added Terre Verte.

Next is Yellow Ochre, and then a darker flesh color made of Gamblin’s Caucasian Flesh Tone to which I added more Yellow Ochre and a little more Cadmium Red Light. Then follows Gamblin’s Caucasian Flesh Tone. For those of you who cannot get Gamblin Oils, the color is merely Titanium White to which Yellow Ochre has been added until you get a light yellow. Then add tiny bits of Cadmium Red Light and be careful. The red has a lot of tinting power and it’s easy to add too much and make this color too pink.

Next is Cadmium Red Light. I’ve learned to squeeze out very little color when I know I won’t need much of it. Then Permanent Alizarin Crimson, then a little Permanent Sap Green, and finally a little Ultramarine Blue. I don’t think I’ll be using the blue in this demo, so this is just an in case color.

I use old telephone books to wipe my brushes. I got this idea from Ken Davies in his still life painting book from the 1970’s. It’s saved me billions of dollars.

Rather than use my own reference material for this demo, I took advantage of the Internet and cropped and converted a shot to black and white from the mjranum stock photo site on Deviant Art here.

The figure shots are excellent and large for download and printing. I got it in the Classical Nudes section, and it’s labeled dancers 1. Usually I do head demos, but I thought a torso might be more useful. I don’t need the color, so I made a black and white print. I think there is a whole section on Concept Art featuring useful figure reference sites.

I always try and use the biggest brush I can. I employ a Trekell long filbert #6 here. I think of my drawing as an armature. I try and get the big angles and shapes first. The oiled surface of the panel helps the brush glide. This is easier than drawing with a pencil! I like to work with a very light touch.

 About 45 minutes later, I had the drawing down well enough. My paint consisted of Raw Umber and Transparent Earth Red. Raw Umber is a fast drier and I add it to as many paint mixtures as possible to speed drying.


 I mixed Titanium White with a tiny bit of Yellow Ochre for my lightest highlights and put them on. Then I mixed a little of my darker flesh tone into my Mary Sauer Flesh tone and did some quick modeling with it. Then I mixed a background color of white, Raw Umber and Sap Green to give me a nice cool neutral around the figures.

Then I mixed a lighter flesh made of Mary Sauer and Caucasian Flesh Tone. I laid it on and made a few variations by changing the proportions of those two colors. I also mixed a ruddier color from Caucasian Flesh plus a tiny bit of Cadmium Red Light.

I think this is enough to show you where it’s going. Oil paint is much less messy than acrylics and almost as tidy as watercolors. I only rarely clean my brush out in my mineral spirits pot. Usually I just wipe my brush mostly clean with the paint rag I drape over my right thigh as I sit at the easel.

I might take this up in a few days and add a bit more too it. I like translucent/transparent colors and I like brushwork. It’s better if I stop before I think I should so as not to wreck the good parts. If I were to do one more thing to this demo, it would be to lighten most of the darker values a little.


Linseed oil in eyedropper bottle!
Titanium White
Ivory Black (Vasari)

Transparent Earth Red (sometimes called Transparent Red Oxide)  
Raw Umber
Mary Sauer Flesh Color: Titanium white + Raw Umber + Terre Verte
Yellow Ochre (Vasari)
Gamblin’s Caucasian Flesh Tone
Cadmium Red Light 
Permanent Alizarin Crimson 
Permanent Sap Green (Gamblin)
Ultramarine Blue

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

dos santos on tripod

*Tripods can vary greatly in price depending on quality.
Most of the pros I know use high end Manfrotto (distributed by Bogen in the US).
It's really solid, and also all of the hardware is metal, no plastic parts that break off.
A good tripod will last 50 years.
Also keep in mind that the camera mounts for the tripod (or 'heads') are often sold separately from the actual tripod when you get in the higher end of things.
A good head could cost you hundreds just on its own.

Though, I suspect since this is your first tripod, you are not looking to spend that much.

If so, I recommend getting a tripod with greatest height possible.
Many brands will offer a small, medium, large option.
The price between them is not that significant, but the performance is.
Definitely go large.
I recommend something that can go close to 6 feet.
If you ever start shooting portraits, you'll really want that height.

As Elwell said, you are going to want something sturdy, and that's not likely unless you are willing spend some real bucks.
Instead, look for a tripod that has a little hook beneath the adjustable shaft.
This hook is for hanging weights.
If you hang a heavy paintbucket from that hook, it REALLY helps to keep the tripod in place.
An accidental tap with your foot won't move it and screw you all up.

They also sometimes have nets instead of hooks.
I prefer hooks.

Lastly, make sure your head has at least 3 tilt options.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dos Santos on Bouguereau

[...] This is Bouguereau's palette as best experts can tell from x-rays, chemical analysis, and notes.
Of course, some colors changed over the course of his career, but this is a good approximation of those he used most frequently.

Bouguereau's Palette:
• Naples Yellow (lead antimoniate)
• Yellow-Ochre
• Chrome Yellow, dark
• Viridian
• Cobalt Blue
• White Lead
• Light Vermilion
• Chinese Vermilion
• Mars Brown (iron oxide); this available from Lefranc & Bourgeois
• Van Dyck Brown
• Burnt Sienna
• Ivory Black
• Bitumen
• Genuine Rose Madder, dark

As for your chalkiness issue...
try thinking of white as a cool color.
Thus, you need to use it sparingly in the highlight.
try to favor more yellow, or at the very least surround the white with warm colors so it takes on their appearance.
The highlights in the face you mentioned are very similar to a color I use called Nickel Titanium Yellow Light by Rembrandt.
Try it.
I use it as a substitute for white in the warm areas so as to keep them warm.
Then if I need it, I bump it up to white.

* [Elwell: That Rembrandt color Dan mentioned is just zinc white with a touch of bismuth yellow (PW4, PY184). It's convenient, but you could mix your own with any white and high chroma yellow, like a cad or hansa lt. When people talk about using higher chroma pigments in the lights, that's exactly what they mean. The thing to remember is that it just takes a smidge to tint the white.]

Friday, September 25, 2009

NYC Stores

David Davis
website down but company still working
(800) 965-6554
(718) 222-1090
499 Van Brunt Street, #6A
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Public Transportation: from Manhattan take subway to Borough Hall or Jay Street stations, transfer to B61 bus on Jay Street or Atlantic Avenue, take B61 to end of Van Brunt, we are located in unit #6 halfway down on the pier.

Robert Doak & Assoc
718- 237- 0146
89 Bridge Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Take the “F” train to York Street. Walk east one block towards Bridge St. Turn left on Bridge St.
Monday- Friday 09:00 am- 4:00 pm

323 West 39th Street, Suite 606
New York, NY 10018
United States
(800) 932-9375
Mon-Fri 9:45am-6pm

j wellington class at ny acad

paint colors:
Rublev Lead White #1 (or David Davis, Vasari)
Vasari Ivory Black
Yellow Ochre Pale/Light
Raw Sienna or Vasari Capucine Red Light [dark yellow]
Cadmium Yellow Medium, Vasari Naples Orange, or Robert Doak Lead Tin Yellow
Cadmium Red Light or Vermillion--[orange-y]
Burnt Umber, Red Umber, or Transparent Brown Oxide [dark brown]
Burnt Sienna or Transparent Red Oxide [warm red brown]
Terra Rosa, Red Ochre, or Light Red
Ultramarine Blue or Robert Doak Wellington Blue
Alizarin Crimson

round badger size 4, 6, 8. Round Kolinsky sable watercolor brush size 3 for detail.

4 parts turpentine substitute
1 part real sun-thickened linseed oil
1/2 part real copal resin (Robert Doak)

Alkyd medium by Gamblin or WN + mineral spirits + stand oil.

Portrait linen, wood panel, copper, or prepared watercolor paper/museum board.

preparing paper:
Rough Arches 160/22o
+ acrylic gesso thinned with water to consistency of skim milk. Brush it on. Dry. Brush it on back.

1 part clear shellac + 3 parts denatured alcohol. Brush it on watercolor paper (Vincent Desiderio)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

cecily brown

In the Guardian, Perri Lewis and Cecily Brown talk about the painting process. "You've got the same old materials - just oils and a canvas - and you're trying to do something that's been done for centuries. And yet, within those limits, you have to make something new or exciting for yourself as well as other people. I have always wanted to make paintings that are impossible to walk past, paintings that grab and hold your attention. The more you look at them, the more satisfying they become for the viewer. The more time you give to the painting, the more you get back....Often, I find it really hard to see what I'm doing when I'm in the thick of things. I can get too precious and have to force myself to put my paintings aside. There's a wall in my studio where I hang paintings that I think are done or nearly done. Over time, I'll realise which ones are working and which aren't.

"There's never a moment for me when I consciously add the last stroke. When a painting is 90-95% there, it's especially difficult because you know that it's really close and you also know that you could completely ruin it. Of course, I do often ruin things. I take things too far, and can't get them back....The problems don't get any easier just because you're exhibiting. I'm still faced with the same difficulties as when I first started to paint. But you'd never make a mark if you started worrying too much about how it will be received in the world, or if anyone is going to look at it. You can't have all that in your head while you're in the process of making a painting.

"I think once I stopped caring quite so much about where I fitted in, and whether it made any sense to be painting, I started getting more and more absorbed in it. I've discovered that the more I paint, the more I want to paint. The longer I go on doing it, the more I have to say and do. You pose a certain set of questions in one group of paintings and you want to answer them in the next. One body of work leads naturally to the next - you sort of feed off yourself. It's a question of accepting the limits of painting and trying to be as imaginative and expansive as possible within those boundaries."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dave Palumbo

my palette typically has the following colors laid out: Titanium White, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Brilliant Pink, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Scarlet, Montserrat Orange, Cadmium Orange, Scheveningen Yellow Deep, Nickle Titanium Yellow, Naples Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Cinnabar Green Light Extra, Sap Green, Chromium Oxide, Windsor Green, Cobalt Turquoise, French Ultramarine Blue, Prussian Blue, Kings Blue Deep, Old Holland Violet Gray. Not to say that I use every color in every painting, typically maybe about half, just as I need them. I only put out a little at a time to avoid waste, using a glass palette in a tupperware box to help keep them fresh. I keep my turp in a jar with a lid so I don't have to toss it until it gets dirty. I leave it all set up so there's not much to it. I turn on my lights, open my turp and palette and maybe freshen up a color or two, pick out my brushes and go to work. Takes about 1 minute

Titanium White
Permanent Alizarin Crimson (WN)
Brilliant Pink (Old Holland)
Cadmium Red
Cadmium Scarlet (WN)
Montserrat Orange (Williamsburg)
Cadmium Orange
Scheveningen Yellow Deep (Old Holland)
Nickle Titanium Yellow (Old Holland)
Naples Yellow (Williamsburg? WN?)
Yellow Ochre (WN)
Cinnabar Green Light Extra (Old Holland)
Sap Green (Williamsburg? WN?)
Chromium Oxide (Williamsburg)
Winsor Green (WN)
Cobalt Turquoise (WN)
French Ultramarine Blue (WN)
Prussian Blue
Kings Blue Deep (Old Holland)
Old Holland Violet Gray (Old Holland)

Friday, August 28, 2009

watercolor painting outdoors

Michigan artist Jim Johnson:

Viewers often comment that his watercolor paintings “sparkle,” an effect he gets through his practice of leaving bits of white paper showing between large and small areas of color. The strong draftsmanship and crisp value contrasts create a fresh effect that does indeed seem to sparkle. To round out the overall effect of his paintings, Johnson varies the size and direction of his brushstrokes, adding texture and an impressionistic look to his artwork.

“For me, a plein air painting records an event, a treasured memory, and a particular moment in time with its unique light, mood, and color,” he says. “To achieve this, I always try to capture my very first impression of a scene. These first strokes can be the most exciting part of the painting process, and my goal is to have that excitement clearly visible in the finished piece.”

"Most of the time Johnson uses a primary three-color palette. Alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow light, and cobalt blue are his favorite choices, and these basic colors can be intermixed to create almost any desired hue, warm or cool. He will on occasion add other colors if needed."

"First, he works up value sketches to set the light-dark pattern and investigate the basic shapes in the scene. Next, he develops the shapes into patterns that create a solid composition. Then he executes a color study, paying careful attention to color temperature."*

"...130-lb Strathmore 400 Series paper, which has just enough tooth for his style of painting. He continues to experiment with other papers but keeps coming back to the Strathmore. “It holds the color longer, giving me time to work the wet pigments without staining the paper,” Johnson says. The artist prefers modern synthetic brushes, feeling that they retain their original shape better than traditional sable brushes. He generally uses only the best tube watercolors because of their intense hues, but Johnson sometimes experiments with student-grade paints."


With preliminary sketches at hand, he begins by squeezing dabs of alizarin crimson, cobalt blue, and cadmium yellow light at equidistant points on his porcelain-coated butcher’s tray. In the middle of the tray Johnson makes a puddle of clear water and creates a “river” of water with his brush that connects the puddle to the red dab. He then makes two other rivers connecting the blue and yellow dabs to the puddle. The colors are allowed to swirl and run together randomly. He then mixes darker versions of the mixtures. “At that exciting moment one knows whether or not he or she is destined to be a watercolor painter,” he says. “As I see the endless variety of color possibilities forming on the tray, I am ready to paint.”

As a final suggestion, Johnson recommends the careful use of a combination of hard and soft edges. This will keep the various shapes from becoming too sharp and having the appearance of being cut out and pasted on a background. Soft edges will connect a large shape to a background, making it recede. Edges—hard and soft, lost and found—can control the viewer’s eye movement and give a painting a sense of mystery and mood.

* 1. Analyze Values First
When painting en plein air, time becomes crucial. The light is constantly changing, so it’s important to quickly identify the light source, analyze shadows, and establish a value pattern. This becomes the basic structure of the piece. Shapes and values are the most important elements of a painting.

Translate the objects that you see into major areas of three gray values—light, medium, and dark. Squinting helps to simplify forms and eliminate extraneous detail, allowing you to visualize the scene reduced to simple patterns of shapes in these three values. Execute a small value study, using the white of the paper to represent a fourth value if desired.

2. Develop Shape Patterns Into a Composition
Connect the various shapes together to form both simple and complex patterns. Choose a center of interest. Then, direct the viewer’s eye through the painting as desired by grouping shapes. Remember, having a variety of shapes adds interest and balance to a composition. Don’t be afraid to change or eliminate objects or detail.

3. Work Up a Color Plan
A small color study can be very helpful, especially for complex subjects. Assign colors to the pattern of shapes, keeping in mind the value structure you established. Color choice can be true to the scene or interpreted more freely and creatively. Note the effect that warm and cool colors have on each other—remember that warm colors tend to come forward, whereas cool colors recede. Also, warm light creates cool shadows; cool light can result in warm shadows.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rebecca Alzofon

" Pompeii red, which she describes as 'an incredibly hot red-orange,' is helpful to turn forms at the edges and provides the local color often found in the fingers, toes, knees, elbows, and occasionally the lips."

"...Naples yellow [is] useful for making flesh tones advance or to increase illumination."

"...the artist defines her outlines slowly and carefully, aware that some of these lines, especially those around the fingers and toes, might appear in the final painting."

" The next step is basically a replay of the last, but using different colors. Alzofon compares the process to layering gauze. As she applies additional layers, the colors become more opaque, and there is a greater saturation of tints that gives the hues a more luminous appearance. This technique also produces a subtle interplay of colors filtering up from layers below--a look, the artist says, that could never be created with one swipe of color."

" The artist uses glazes to merge areas and help certain areas recede. For instance, in Young Woman Overlooking Silicon Valley, she used glazing to make the eye cavity recede, push the cheek back into the hair, unify the hair, and create the folds in the neck. Scumbling softened the face and created a slight motion blur that made the model look less static."

" Indicating the shoulder of the girl on the left in The Simons Children, Alzofon used an outline with an inward notch to pop the arm out from the chair and give it volume. 'I don't hide the fact that this is a line,' she says, noting that she learned this technique from looking at paintings by Rubens."

Her materials list

Raw Umber, opaque: Gamblin, Williamsburg, Winsor Newton, Utrecht, or Daniel Smith
Raw Umber, transparent: Old Holland
White, flake or cremnitz

Venetian Red:
     Williamsburg Rosso Veneto is natural, original Venetian Red rather than 'synthetic' iron oxide (all others)
     Old Holland--nice
     WN, Gamblin--a little orange
Terre Verte: Williamsburg Earth Terra Verte--bluish green
FW acrylic drawing ink: antelope brown/black/red earth

all above, plus:
Williamsburg Pompeii Red
Old Holland Deep Ochre
Williamsburg Bohemian Green Earth OR Old Holland Olive Green Dark
Ivory Black: any brand
Burnt Sienna: any brand
Raw Sienna: any brand

IV. additional color needs due to clothing/backdrops
all above, plus:
Williamsburg Cadmium Red Vermillion
Williamsburg perylene crimson, or any brand alizarin crimson
Cadmium yellow light: any brand
Pthalo Green bluish: any brand
Ultramarine Blue, any brand

V. additional color needs for special flesh tones:
Williamsburg Cobalt Teal
Williamsburg Ultramarine Pink
Williamsburg Green Ochre (Italian Earth Series)
Williamsburg Brown Ochre (Italian Earth Series)
Williamsburg Red Ochre

(see site for materials lists for advanced drawing and ink drawing classes)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Andrea J Smith, Atelier Canova:

"Many of the best classically trained artists admit they are not as skilled at working with color as they are with drawing and value painting. Smith made up for that deficiency as a student by spending a great deal of time learning to evaluate various oil colors and how they might be combined to make a full range of harmonious colors. “I developed my own way of working with a limited palette of colors, and now that is one of the distinctive aspects of my workshops and classes,” Smith says. “I spend a lot of time helping people understand how to use a few tube colors in order to prepare a full range of secondary and tertiary colors that are appropriate for whatever subject they select. I encourage them to premix small amounts of the colors as needed before they begin each painting session. This is the process I follow when I paint, and it is the same one I use for still lifes, figures, landscape, and portraits.”
2007, oil, 14 x 14. Private collection.
Participants in Smith’s classes are introduced to color theory through a quick sketch to help them understand how to use a limited palette of colors. The instructor also works alongside them and stays one step ahead by giving a formal demonstration each morning. “Some of the most basic techniques are explained during these demonstrations, such as the differences between opaque and transparent colors,” Smith explains.
The specific limited palette Smith recommends includes lead white, yellow ochre, English red or Indian red, cobalt blue, alizarin crimson, and ivory black. “These colors can be intermixed to create warm and cool versions of the needed colors,” she explains. “For example, students can make a beautiful green by combining yellow ochre with either ivory black or cobalt blue. An extended palette of colors that might be used for a complicated still life or landscape painting would have the addition of cadmium yellow, Indian yellow, vermilion, cerulean, or viridian.” The brands of paint Smith uses include Michael Harding, Old Holland, and Robert Doak. The medium she recommends is produced by Robert Doak in Brooklyn and is a combination of turpentine, sun-thickened walnut oil, and balsam."
Limited palette:
  • lead white,
  • yellow ochre,
  • English red or Indian red,
  • cobalt blue,
  • alizarin crimson, and
  • ivory black
optional 'expansion pack' for landscape:
  • cadmium yellow,
  • Indian yellow,
  • vermilion,
  • cerulean
  • viridian

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Flesh II

John De La Vega:

For fair light skin tones, especially in the lighter areas, I DO NOT recommend using any of the Cad Reds, including Vermillion. The reason is that the Cads do not really mix well with white. The cads are great as modifiers in those subtle mixtures for transition areas where the form / light changes very delicately, on the smallish planes, and for glazes and feathery scumbles (ah, transitions and edges, one of the main themes of my next book, which I seem to be writing right here).

Nothing wrong with a base of some yellow and some red for the light skin which we can then modify at will depending upon illumination, skin color, etc. The red I use is Rose, and the yellow I use is Naples Deep. A delightful, smiling woman in one of my last workshops said "I only use Rose when I paint flowers'. Rose and Naples, of course, already have some white in them, and they mix beautifully together and with white and other yellows and reds, as long as they are together to begin with. As anybody who paints knows, mixing goes on constantly. The trick is to keep color clean by smart and controlled mixing strategies. Best Rose: Old Holland Schveningen Rose Deep (expensive). Best Naples Yellow Deep (you guessed it): Old Holland (not expensive). A beautiful, not expensive Rose is Rowney Rose, made by Daler-Rowney. Unless you happen to be painting in Bangladesh, and ran out of Old Holland Naples Deep, why not use the best?

I also DO NOT recommend the use of Burnt Umber, or any browns for that matter (with the exception of Burnt Sienna, judiciously), on ANY part of the skin, including shadows. Even in those 'dead' shadows and 'dead' middle tones (if there is such a thing, which I suppose depends on the blimey light or, our capacity to see how light creates movement and vibration even in the shadows), using browns such as Burnt Umber is a recipe to end up with Henry's worst mud.

We should also remember that 'painting what we see' in the way of color is NOT always the best artistic strategy, no matter how realistically we wish to paint, especially in the first stages of the painting. One of the most important things I learned from the great Nelson Shanks is "Start Bright! (high chroma, even on the garish side)". As subtle modeling and refining progresses, color will find its way to reality, if 'local' color, vibrant or dull, is what you're intent on seeing and painting

I mix my browns with Rose, Alizarin (or Carmin Lake, a better Old Holland Alizarin) and bright or not so bright yellowish Greens, even an occasional smidget of Ultramarine, Cobalt, Magenta (I highly recommend Maimieri Puro Verzino Violet, a fabulous, rich, inexpensive Magenta ), or Dioxazine Mauve, adding cads and other reds as needed, for maximum VIBRANCY in the shadows. If there is a formula for color, whether on flesh, an apple, or a sunset, the recipe is simple:


VIBRATION is, after all, in the very nature of light and, come to think of it, in the very nature of form itself(eternal dance of the atoms and molecules). Nobody understood this better than the Impressionists. They changed our vision and how we deal with color as painters and art lovers forever.

Next chapter: Ah, those middle tones! or, as my friend and fellow Sorolla lover the late Adrian Hernandez, a wonderful pastellist, once remarked as he looked at one of my pastels: "How to you make those darn things (the middle tones) look light and dark at the same time?"

Fair Skin Light Areas = Reddish Whites or Yellowish Whites.
Red = Rose (Old Holland Schveningen Rose Deep or Daler-Rowney Rowney Rose)
Yellow = Naples Yellow Deep (Old Holland Naples Yellow Deep)

Mix browns from Reds + Greens/Blues/Magenta--NOT Burnt Umber!
(judicious use of Burnt Sienna okay)

Fair Skin Shadow Areas = Reds + Yellowish Greens + Blue/Purple as needed
Old Holland Schveningen Rose Deep
Alizarin Crimson (Old Holland Crimson Lake)
Old Holland Carmine Lake (better Alizarin)
yellowish greens
Magenta (Maimieri Puro Verzino Violet; OH Magenta)
Old Holland Dioxazine Mauve (or less-$ dioxazine purple)

Old Holland Schveningen Rose Deep
Old Holland Naples Yellow Deep
Old Holland Carmine Lake
Maimieri Puro Verzino Violet


John de la Vega:

flesh tones:

Don't eliminate cad orange, just keep it on the palette for one of its roles: in the flesh, as a "brightening / warming modifier". Ultramarine is the best blue modifier for the flesh (which you appear to use), but of course, as everything else, it has to be observed and mixed carefully in total context with the color of the light on the form.

Your 'orangy skin' on the painting doesn't bother me at all precisely because of the light context, even if, strictly speaking, it's not 100% 'true' to (yes, Karin, I got it) 'Caucasian baby skin' in that PARTICULAR lighting situation. But it's close enough, in my view, to be perfectly acceptable.

You may also try Grumbacher Pre-tested Cobalt Rose (Cobalt Violet Light), that's how the color is designated, a very weak light reddish purple that mixes wonderfully with, say, the Old Holland Naples Yellow Deep (a must for the flesh) to give you exquisite flesh tones with just the right amount of cool.

Ultramarine Blue
Old Holland Naples Yellow Deep
Grumbacher Pre-tested Cobalt Rose

Flesh Tones

Flesh Tones

Alia El-Bermani:

In one of the previous posts I mentioned the colors I place on my palette, but I didn't say how I mix them. As a reminder, here are the usual colors on my palette in the order placed counter clockwise on my palette (note this time my white is different from the Flemish White previously mentioned, and unless otherwise noted, all colors are manufactured by Old Holland):

Lead White with Mica (purchased from Robert Doak),
Green Earth,
Lead Tin Yellow, (Robert Doak)
Yellow Ochre,
Raw Sienna,
Burnt Sienna,
Manganese Violet,
Raw Umber,
Burnt Umber,
Cobalt Blue

(occasionally I will add Cad-Red Medium, Olive Green, or Vine Black)

So off to the mixing... I use a palette knife to pre-mix my flesh tone starting with a mid-color-value. That approximately consists of 1 part Raw Sienna, 1 part Yellow Ochre, 1/2 to 1/4 part Burnt Sienna (depending on the ruddiness of the model). Without cleaning my knife I then start making tints of this by adding white to separate pools of this mid mixture. I also then add Green Earth to this mid mixture to aid in neutralizing some areas (bottom left mixture). I then clean off my knife and start my shades. Again, using the mid mixture, I add about 1 part Manganese Violet (for warm shadow masses), then the next puddle is that plus about 1/2 part Raw Umber. The next puddle is that mixture plus a tiny bit of Cobalt Blue and then the last puddle is that mix plus white. This also gives me a cooler neutralizer which doesn't affect value in the mid to light areas (as much as if I were to use the darkest puddle). These pre-mixed puddles act as a starting point. Once I get into the painting, I often add colors to these mixes using my brush. I find having these puddles at the ready speeds up my process greatly. It also gives the painting good color unity. The Lead-Tin Yellow is a really strong beast but is a clean yellow which I can add a tiny amount to my light flesh tones if needed. I use Vermillion in the same way.

And voila... now go to it and see what you can do!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

James Perry Wilson

James Perry Wilson, painter of the illusionistic diorama backdrops for the American Museum of Natural History in New York:

According to his assistant, Ruth Morrill, Wilson used the following nine colors, along with Permalba white.

Ultramarine blue
Cobalt blue
Windsor blue
Cadmium yellow pale
Cadmium yellow deep
Yellow Ochre
Indian red
Cadmium scarlet
Alizarin crimson

“He could make anything he wanted from those colors,” Ruth Morrill said. He did not use black and only rarely used browns. He regularly premixed graduated tints of each of the primaries on his palette before commencing to paint.

According to one of Wilson’s letters, the entire distance of the Connecticut shoreline diorama (above) was painted with ultramarine, light red and yellow ochre. “It is astonishing what variety you can get with these three,” he wrote, “especially since both the red and the yellow are rather subdued colors. I recommend your experimenting to see what you can do with just these three. They are bound to impart a mellow quality to the greens, which is a good thing.”

Friday, May 1, 2009

Simulated Traditional Academic’s Palette
2006 re-creation of early 1800s palette
Exhibited in Revolution in Paint

With date of invention or earliest known use as artists’ paint

  1. Lead white, ancient Greece
  2. Naples yellow*, ancient Egypt
  3. Indian yellow, 16th century
  4. Yellow ochre, prehistoric
  5. Red ochre, prehistoric
  6. Vermilion, medieval
  7. Rose madder, ancient Egypt
  8. Carmine*, medieval
  9. Burnt sienna, Early Renaissance
  10. Brown madder*, 18th century
  11. Bitumen, medieval
  12. Cassel earth, 16th century
  13. Ivory black, prehistoric
  14. Ultramarine blue, natural, medieval
  15. Prussian blue, 1710

Friday, April 24, 2009

Painters and their Palettes

Some painters were invited to describe their palettes and the way they organize them, as well as their preferences regarding brushes, paint brands and medium formulas...

Paul Cezanne
The colors on Cezanne's palette, according to Emile Bernard:
brilliant yellow
naples yellow
chrome yellow
yellow ochre
raw sienna
red ochre
burnt sienna
rose madder
carmine lake
burnt lake
emerald green
green earth
cobalt blue
prussian blue
peach black
lead white

And many others...

dan dos santos' favorite color

Favorite color?
Rembrandt’s “Yellowish Green.” Aside from looking really yummy on its own, it makes the most beautiful flesh tones when mixed with reds.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

prepping paper for oil paint

[...] I've been preparing Arches 300 lb. cold press watercolor paper with two or three coats of acrylic matte medium. Reviewing notes from a workshop, I discovered that the recommendation was for one coat of matte medium followed by two coats of acrylic gesso.

Friday, April 17, 2009

night painting


  • When painting at night values are very close together, so simplify your palette if possible.
  • Choose subject matter that has the greatest degree of value contrast with the simplest compositional elements.
  • Try to use as few artificial light sources as possible so as not to interfere with what you’re naturally observing.
  • Make sure you angle your headlamp down at 45 degrees to avoid light bouncing back into your eyes.
  • Position your easel and palette so that they have consistent lighting: if your canvas is in light make sure your palette is in light. If your canvas is in shadow, make sure your palette is in shadow.
  • When mixing your palette at night, remember to make the colors slightly lighter than what you’re actually seeing because they will appear much duller and darker when viewed in daylight.
  • Use very little white.
  • Because most of the colors you will be painting with at night will be cool, use a warm underpainting to provide greater contrast and luminosity.
  • Use big brushes for better blending and to achieve the soft edges inherent in night scenes.
  • The moon is cooler on top and warmer on the bottom because, as it’s rising, there is more atmosphere below it than there is above it.
  • There is a warm halo of ambient light around the moon. By exaggerating the dark values surrounding that with a chiaroscuro effect, you will create the illusion that the moon is glowing.
  • The farther away from the moon, the darker the sky’s value.
  • As the moon rises, its reflection will spread out wider over the surface beneath it.

Judging the right place to put the joints

Dan Gheno will speak at length about the tricky issue of foreshortening, the way the full length of a human limb is not seen when you are viewing it straight on, instead of sideways. [...] So here's some advice from Gheno on how to judge the right place to put a joint in human limbs.

No matter how jarringly big or small the individual body parts may look to your eye, they will always have a rhythmic connection to the rest of the body. As you know from previous articles, all body parts have some sort of reciprocal, arcing relationship with one another. For instance, when you swing your arm at your side, your wrist follows an arc that crosses over your hipbone or great trochanter; and your elbow swings along a curve that passes over the area between your navel and the bottom of your rib cage. Meanwhile, if you bend your leg and swing it upward, it will follow a curving track that would eventually pass through your arm pit. If you raise your ankle, you’ll find that it follows along a curve that if continued would ultimately arc across your great trochanter. And so on.

You can easily see how sketching these radiating, curved tracking lines on your image will help you relate one joint to another when drawing a straightforward, mildly foreshortened figure. But although these radiating relationships can seem quite distorted and confusing in a highly foreshortened figure, they’re still very useful. Just remember that you’re looking at these imaginary arcing lines in perspective: Each arc bows out as it approaches your line of sight and tightens as it recedes. Don’t worry if you find it difficult to consciously account for their perspectival distortion at first. Usually it’s just a matter of keeping these radiating guidelines in the back of your mind for them to work. As you consciously measure one body part's length against another's, these conceptual, arcing lines will labor subconsciously, stimulating your mind, eyes, and hands to find and replicate the natural rhythms that run through the human form.

dealing with tanned parts of models

Dan Gheno on how the tanned portions of a nude model seem to stand out and push forward:

"Pay close attention to the local value differences of each individual body part. Arms, legs, necks, and faces regularly get more exposure to the sun and appear darker than the rest of the overall figure. If you see this in your model as you draw, don’t ignore it; any foreshortening in the limbs will become magnified when you draw a slightly darker arm or leg silhouetted against a lighter torso. Even a slightly darker neck will seem to push forward as a mass when viewed against a slightly lighter shoulder mass. But remember, this effect is subtle, and as always, primarily trust your eye.

"I often encourage my students to study individual, isolated body parts to help them better understand human anatomy and amass a working vocabulary of figure forms that will aid them in seeing detail more quickly and precisely. As constantly happens when you draw something out of context, your sense of foreshortening becomes hampered when drawing a leg or an arm detached from the torso. Don’t let yourself unconsciously correct the foreshortened proportions while drawing a bent limb. If the upper arm looks a lot smaller than the lower arm, draw it that way, and it will have more life and dimension."

Reflections on a Pond

Kevin Macpherson, Reflections on a pond series, 8.4.00, 7:45 pm

"Macpherson did all of the Reflections on a Pond paintings in the same size—6” x 8”—and stuck to one main vantage point and composition for all the paintings, so he could concentrate on the variety in the light and atmosphere. He worked entirely from life for this project, either directly en plein air or from the same indoor bay-window view that first inspired his fascination with the subject. The artist used his usual limited palette—cadmium yellow light, alizarin crimson, and ultramarine blue, plus white—which allowed him to achieve more unified colors. “My palette is limited to the primaries, but it’s not limited in what you can achieve with it,” Macpherson told Susan Hallsten McGarry in the book Reflections on a Pond: A Visual Journal. “I use this limited palette for just about all my work, whether outdoors or in the studio. It allows for more harmonious paintings and is, for me, more liberating than limiting.”"

cadmium yellow light
alizarin crimson
ultramarine blue

George Stavrinos

PJT: "I must agree that Annigoni was a wonderful draftsman, but I would like to cast my vote for George Stavrinos. American Artist did an article on Stavrinos in 1984 I believe and he passed away way to soon in the early 1990's at age 42. Primarily a fashion illustrator, his highly finished pencil drawings graced the advertising campaigns of Bergdorf Goodman, The New York City Ballet, Barney's to name just a few Today, unlike the other great fashion illustrators such as Rene Gruau, Antonio Lopez et al., it is virtually impossible to find anything on this unique and influential draftsman."

NYT Aug 7, 1990:
George Stavrinos, a graphic artist and illustrator who helped revive interest in finely drawn representational art, died Friday at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan. He was 42 years old and lived in Manhattan. He died of complications of pneumonia, his sister Lydia said. Mr. Stavrinos graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1970, and his drawings and illustrations soon began to appear in The New York Times, Gentleman's Quarterly and Cosmopolitan. He did freelance work for Barney's Clothes, Bergdorf Goodman and Push Pin Studio. In the mid-1980's he created a series of drawings that were used to promote the repertory of the New York City Opera. His work was exhibited in galleries in Manhattan, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, Providence, London, Paris and Tokyo.

Pietro Annigoni

"[Pietro] Annigoni was born in Milan in 1910 and lived in Florence for most of his life. He is known for helping draft a manifesto in the late 40s advocating realism in an art world that was consumed by Abstract Expressionism. He became famous for his portraits, with his popularity seeming to peak in the early 60s. Annigoni is perhaps most famous for a somewhat romanticized portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, a likeness that was chosen for use on several paper currencies in the British Commonwealth."

Brand-new Museo Pietro Annigoni in Florence, website has online gallery

aforementioned portrait:

Self-portrait, 1946:

portrait of Maria Ricciarda (1970):

Queen Margherita of Denmark 1978:

4 Time Magazine covers:

John F Kennedy 1962

Pope John XXIII 1962

Ludwig Erhard 1963

Lyndon Johnson 1968

Greys Make The Colors Sing

L S Garwood: "In reference to paintings, I had an instructor years ago who commented that "ít's the greys that make the colors sing." To me this means a number of things. First, the grays (neutrals in negative spaces) give the eye somewhere to rest, and make areas of color pop. [...]"

Negative Space

* Bob Bahr on Lisa Dinhofer: [...] putting the emphasis on the objects in your scene is risky if it leads to forgetting that the negative space is where your piece is either going to excel or be average. "The most important part of a painting is the space between the objects," she said. "It's also the hardest part to paint. But that's where the poetry is."

In some cases, the negative space is drawn, even if it is just some hatching to provide a tone. But often in people's drawings, the negative space is simply the paper. [...]

I am a fan of toned paper. It's expensive, but if I plan on spending even a coupla hours on a drawing, the cost is justified. I use colored pastel paper in a pad, usually from Canson. But I also like using Bogus Rough Sketch from Bee Paper. It's designed for fashion sketches, but its significant tooth and nice brown tone make it a great paper upon which to work up and down in value.[...]

Search This Blog