- Lesson details
In this video lesson artist and author, Juliette Aristides will take you through the process of creating an oil painting of a woman from behind from start-to-finish. You will learn the practical steps required from the initial study to a more complete work. Juliette will demonstrate various concepts such as value, line, chiaroscuro, form, color and much more.
- Toned Canvas Panel
- Paper Towel
- Bamboo Skewer
- Micron Pen – Black
- Stretched Canvas
- Nitram Academie Fusains Charcoal Sticks
- Artists Grade Oil Colors
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In this video lesson, artist and author Juliette Aristides will take you through
the process of creating an oil painting of a woman from behind from start to finish.
You will learn the practical steps required, from the initial study to a more complete
work. Juliette will demonstrate various concepts such as value, line, chiaroscuro,
form, color, and much more. You will leave this lesson with a clear approach
to oil painting that you can apply to your own work.
Hi, welcome. I'm Juliette Aristides, and today, we're going to be painting a
portrait, head and shoulders. We're going to focus on some elements of drapery,
shoulders, hair, a little bit of the front of the face, and talk about value, color, and
temperature considerations. I'm going to take you through the process of a value
poster study, where it gives us our first glimpse of what our picture will actually
look like. Then, we'll sketch right on the canvas, a very flexible, easy way to start
our painting – very forgiving. And then we'll ink it, do an underpainting, and
move to an overpainting. I hope you enjoy our lesson.
So, I'm just going to do a small thumbnail painting, poster study, where I get an
opportunity to explore the configuration of the pose and the big value blocks before
actually committing to a painting. We'll notice there's a giant sort of arc that
takes your eye to the center of the back of the head all the way down through the
spine. And there's another gorgeous arc that takes us from the upper part of the
shoulder around through the one closest to us. We're looking for ways that the figure
can become a compelling pattern. So one of the things that's very tricky when people
are just getting started is the tendency to fixate on the likeness, and it's so challenging
to move our mindset away from that because we rely so heavily on being able to
communicate and read social clues – not only for survival, but every aspect of our life.
So, we're looking for big value shapes, or big linear shapes, to start off with. And it's
OK if it takes a little bit for us to find them. The thing is, we're not doing a whole painting
right now; we're just going to be setting the stage for a few big value shapes. If you are
able to get a likeness just using a few lines, then you know you're in pretty good shape.
If the likeness feels off in the big shapes, that's normally something that's going to follow us
around, so when we work on the big painting, we want to be very careful to get a sense of
accuracy. With these poster studies, it doesn't really matter how accurate it is, within reason.
We're going to end up with a block here, a shape here, a shape here, and one here.
I can run a vertical line to see where it hits. This line hits around her ear, and that's OK;
that's hitting where it should hit. The arm, if I follow through, lines up with the back
of the head; that's all fine. Let's see. What's emerging are a few lines that
we're ending up repeating. One, this overall sense of movement that's going
down and through on the front, the mid, and the back.
I'm just going to start finding the shapes. This is going to be a value poster study,
so I'm not worried at all about color yet.
I'll start by massing in the background. I'm just going to use a little bit of black.
I'm just going to be massing in these big value shapes, starting with the background.
It's helpful because it's the biggest shape, and then can start to frame what it is we're
working on. It's just a little bit of black mixed with umber to start to get the darkness that's
in the background. I'm painting on top of a light acrylic gray ground. Sometimes it
doesn't really matter if you work on white or brown or gray. Sometimes it's just helpful
to cut the white so that the darks don't appear way too dark when you start laying
them in. Painting dark directly on white can be a little bit of a shock.
I'm going to grab some of the mid tone. I've got a small grayscale mixed up.
And I'm going to work back and forth between my darks and my mid tones.
And you can expect it to be a little bit odd until the piece gets covered.
So, because her face is turned away from the light, it's all going to hover in this
mid tone range. And, like with other poster studies, you're going to end up
with a lot of lost edges as we're working into a dark figure – you know, dark hair
into a dark background. So I just keep pushing this value, and then the hair
itself is going to start to get really dark.
OK, we're just going to get this massed in quickly. Sometimes it's helpful to use a
different brush for different values so that you don't have to keep cleaning it.
Even though the light is hitting this side of the hair, it's still quite dark.
So the local color of her skin is going to be brighter than the hair and brighter
than the background, but not nearly as bright as the white of the cloth. So I'm
going to do my drawing corrections later, and for right now, just work on massing in.
(indecipherable instruction behind camera)
I'm not going to worry too much about the mid planes and all the small value changes.
I'm just going to focus on the biggest areas of value. The light's coming from up above,
so we're getting a nice, big light coming across the back. That's going to be, by
far, the brightest area of our figure. So, even still, this can get a little darker.
So, we're just going to make sure we get all the background color covered. And
you're going to end up with a lot of lost edges, which may feel unnerving at the
beginning, but if that's what you're seeing, you really want to put it in like that in order
to be true to nature. And we can find stronger edges as we go through after
the fact. We can get more definition through this area by just dropping the
value through here. We don't need to go in and just make a bunch of lines. It's sort
of a fine point, but a line gets made â€“ but it's made by putting in a big shape rather
than just letting it hang on its own. OK, I think there are a few areas that we can
increase the darkness. One is on this side of the shoulder as it's starting to wrap away
from the light. I'm going to put in a few more value changes. OK. This part of
the drapery is almost the same value as the skin. Of course, the color is very
different, and that, we'll get to in the next stage of the painting. So I'm just
going to do a big plane through here. As it wraps around, I'm trying not to
get too focused on any particular small value bump. If it's going to work at all,
it will work in the big planes. Here, there's a drop in value. The drapery is
quite stiff, so there's a lot of angularity to it. The value changes are quite sudden
when we get into the lighter part of the drapery. So, essentially: dark, mid tone,
light, and we're doing this all through the figure. I'm seeing a little bit more of the
back plane, but I like it, so I'm going to hold onto that.
So I'm going to finish covering the surface with paint and then go through and do some
drawing corrections. Now that I've got most of the surface covered, I'm able to start to
correct some of the big values and some of the drawing.
Shoulder out and back. We're seeing a little bit more of it. Depending on how she
is sitting, I'm going to get more or less shadow back in here. Right now I'm going
to lighten that up. There's a little bit of bouncing light coming there from the
drapery. Pull that over. I think we can raise this up. Then I'm going to place
my lighter light on top of it. This is straight titanium. When I start my
big painting, I'll be able to figure out more of what's going on in here. So
I might just want to pull up the lights on the back a tiny bit more, and then finish
some drawing corrections on the upper part of the head. We're going over an area
that already has paint on it; it adds a certain amount of opacity, and that
captures and holds light in a way that makes it more substantial, that actually
feels a little bit brighter. I'm going to go through and do a few corrections through
here. A shift to a darker brush. So the plane of her hair comes up. And double-
check the tip of the back of the head and the plane of the front, the angle of the
front of the head, can start to pull down more. A whole lot of these planes can be
simplified as bigger angles.
The hair pulls down. So the underside of the chin can slightly pull up. As we're
doing this, we're creating cleaner angles; however, it gives more definition, but it's
not greatly increasing the contrast in that area because it's still really dark.
We'll push the value through there. I can decide if I want to put her phone in. The
virtue of doing these little color studies or value studies is that it gives you an
opportunity to experiment with compositional things that you might not want to when working
on your bigger composition. This is going to end up being way smaller than I thought.
The value of the screen, for the most part, is quite dark. It's just catching a little bit
of light through the top plane. And then I'm going to mass in where I see her hand.
I'm going to increase the value range around her. I'll actually just mass that in. I don't
love how light that is, so I'm going to drop it back. A lot of things that aren't explained
in value can end up being explained in the color and with the clear drawing. I'm going
to start to push the value range here. Starting to define the frame and drop the
value through here in front of the head. We're almost ready to wrap it up. Just
want to squint down one more time; and when I'm squinting, I'm noticing certain
values jumping out which I wouldn't want to leave: one is how dark this is getting â€“
we have to remember that this is still on the light side of the form. The light is
coming down from above, through here, so no matter how dark it looks at first
glance, it can still be getting more light than we imagine. And I think, perhaps,
the back of the hair is getting a little bit more light, as well, than I'm giving it
credit for. And one more value change along the angle of the shoulders, because it's
important to help define the tip of the body.
This got pushed a little bit back. And this is enough for our initial poster study.
So, I'm going to start by doing what we did with the poster study: find a big, governing
directional line. And my figure's face is going to be tipping down. Having that rest on the
diagonal of the rectangle. I'm trying to find the top of the head. Right now, because
I'm drawing right on the canvas, it's going to be pretty loose. And that flexibility is
very freeing because it means that I don't have to worry about it being exactly right
for a while. It gives us the opportunity to sort of find ourselves. Drawing with
charcoal on canvas is nice because we can just use a soft cloth to erase if we need.
The angle of the shoulders are tipped across like this, and then the hair and chin sort of
come off of that angle. Got to be careful to not let my piece become too blocked in any
particular way right from the beginning.
The key to this stage of the drawing is just openness. We're considering how the
shoulders wrap around and how they connect into the head. You'll notice that I sight
angles quite a lot with either a skewer or my pencil or charcoal. When I'm putting
that line, that skewer, up, I'm taking note of where it hits in the head. It's hitting
Maude right in front of the ear.
You want to take the edge of your skewer or pencil or whatever you're using and just
rest it on a contour line, so here, perhaps. On her, I've got this skewer lining right up
with the edge, and then I can see what it hits. Basically, with drawing, we're interested
a lot in comparison and a lot of double- checking. Everything needs to be right in
relation to everything else â€“ or if not right, at least believable. It's never going
to be perfect, but when you get enough lines locked into each other, it tends to
take on a greater feeling of reality. So, this stage of the drawing process, you
leave it open and working for as long as you need to. I'll be pushing this around
for probably another 10 minutes, at least. Because if it doesn't feel right in our
beginning lines, it's so hard to catch up with that later. You can make gradual
corrections that will increase the accuracy over time, but much easier to get that big
effect. Art, often, is just a series of relationships going from large to small.
So she's got a very particular shape through here. We'll try to identify it. We're seeing across
to the front of her figure, the clavicle. And here, we're seeing where the muscles
of the neck wrap around, across and to the back. This is a really interesting angle
because we're seeing up and under that chin. This shape from shoulder to shoulder
gives us from about here to the armpit. I think I have her a little bit wide. I can
probably just take a little bit off this side.
Put in a little bit of the spinal column and let's see where it hits.
See, it's a lot of moving of these lines. So now I'm going to start to find where
that ear is. I'd like to pull it back a bit.
If I go from the line of the center of the neck, what's that line doing? The line tips
forward and is catching the front of that ear.
Let's see. That arc, there's a really interesting sort of arc through here.
[instruction behind camera]
OK. This angle's really extreme.
This we can pull back a little bit at a time to start to get the edge of the...
On this stage, we're going to go really slowly; there's no hurry. Little incremental
changes will end up making a difference in terms of accuracy as we go. So now might
be a good chance to measure the head height: From eye to chin is the same from
here to there. That works fine. Double- check the neck. I'm just going to
continue to make tiny adjustments up through here until the shapes start to
settle. There's a big swooping angle that comes through here. And using my brush,
I can pull the line up, erasing it. And you can draw on a different sheet of paper if
you want and transfer it later, or draw directly on the canvas if you want.
Her hair comes quite far underneath.
And her eye comes right into about the center of the ear, catching that angle.
The tip of the nose is going to come under and pull up. So the angle of the underside
of the eye is going to be a little bit more tipped, and so is this, because she's
looking down. I actually don't really need this degree of information when transferring,
but it'll be good to have it down. I mean this much information for my drawing.
Some of this will end up being lost and having to be re-found anyway in that
under-layer when we put in our first passive paint.
Going to lighten this up.
I'm going to start double-checking the ear.
We get a nice strong edge here. And then I'm going to double-check where that
shoulder hits into the face. We've got a really strong line that goes from the
shoulder up through the underside of the mouth, which means I can pull this back a
tiny bit. This, the drapery wraps around. Now we're seeing quite a bit more of the
back and we're going to take advantage of that. So I can move her phone; I can
actually measure it up into the forehead so the edge of the phone can come down
through here. The lines of it are hitting just above the plane of the drapery. I can
start to erase that. She's got her hand coming off of this as she's holding the phone.
I can clean up a few of these angles.
Having all these lines here will end up being confusing when I ink it, so I'm
going to simplify it to one line. This, I'm going to simplify to one line.
I'd like the ball of the back of the head to push back a tiny bit so that it never
feels quite right unless you have the mass of the head pushed towards the back.
This is going to give us a big light plane that's going to come from here, across.
I'm not loving how much space I have between here and here. I think I can pull
[to model] Can you tip your head forward a little bit, please, Maude? Thanks.
Little angle changes end up culminating into a whole series of big, big movements.
If we're taking small drawing corrections from all over, the end result of that is to
have some big changes in proportion.
From here to here, I think I can slide it back just a tiny bit.
This we can pull forward. Now we've got a difference in terms of the pose tipping
forward and back, so I need to make a decision about which I like better because
there'll always be fluctuations when you're working from a human being.
When you're looking at the still image on the television screen, you're not
seeing any movement, but in life, like right now, when I'm working from a live
model, there are continual small shifts all over the place. So you have to just
make a decision about things. You can start off with one pose and then, as it
slightly evolves, you can find things you like better about it or things you want to
change, and that ends up being part of the experience, part of the frustration,
and also the joy of working from life. And it ends up being far more collaborative
than you would imagine, or most people would imagine. I'm going to go through,
now that I have the whole thing blocked in, and make some corrections overall,
and then I'll ink the drawing for our underpainting.
Every time you get up and take a break and sit down, it gives you an opportunity
to see the drawing again in a slightly different light. And the cumulative effect
of that over time can be really useful for catching small mistakes all over.
This I'm going to lighten up. She's got a really beautiful arc that goes from the
clavicle up. I think that can enable us to move this shape back a little bit.
Don't worry too much if it's not perfect; you'll have a chance to get it cumulatively
more accurate as your piece goes along. It's important to keep a positive state of
mind. Sometimes it can be really discouraging if you're pushing a
piece around and it's not getting totally locked in. I think the sum total of your
best efforts end up meaning something in a piece. If we wanted it to be perfect, we
would take out the human element, and the best art ends up being this collaboration
between the artist and the model, reality and what you're thinking about or feeling.
So it's reality being processed through a human life. It's always going to create
something that's a little bit different and quirky, and that's why it's valuable and
OK, I'm going to ink this in. [to Maude] I'll push the hair out from behind your
ear. This angle feels a little bit harsh. So I'm going to ink my lines. As the
drawing progresses, we end up with lots of different lines on here. So when we're
inking it, we're essentially choosing one.
We're just going over the lines we already have. I'm not going to bother to ink
anything in here because I don't want it to show through on the next paint layer.
And it will if I'm not careful. Maude, can you tip your head a tiny bit to the left?
There. I'll just double-check. The nose goes just under the ear.
Catching just a tiny bit of the top of the lip. Let's double-check where that ear
should be. I'm feeling like the ear is too high up. I think we can maybe meet in the
middle here. Perhaps this can move up a tiny bit. This is below that ear, but I'm
not loving how high up that is, so I think what I'm going to do right now is just
shift this down a tiny bit.
I'm using the brush essentially as an eraser, to push lines down and clean
them up, choosing one line out of the many. Here we go, finishing up this.
Getting a broad block-in. This is almost ready. We get this beautiful swoop up
here. And the hair comes out from behind her ear and just sort of curves around.
Most of the time, my default mode is straight lines. [to Maude] Can I have your
hand up again, please?
I'm going to get the phone in place. It's quite close to her body. We can block in
the swelling of her thumb.
Block in a few angles for the hand. We can come back to that later. Getting that
knuckle in one place and that arc of the hand as it comes through. A little change
of where the wrist hits. Let's double-check the angle of that phone. Now what I'm going
to do is erase out some of these other lines. You're just left with a really sparse-looking
line drawing, which we'll use to do our wipeout. I'll shrink this down. OK.
So this is just umber going on with a tiny bit of turpentine. Not much, just a little
bit so that it doesn't go too thick.
You want to be able to see your lines. If your lines are erasing, that's a big problem.
You're better off keeping it a little bit on the thin side rather than too thick. You
can see that it's going on as a nice mid tone: not too dark, not too light. I haven't
lost any of my lines; I don't care how smooth the surface is. If all the surface
texture really bothers you, you can take a light rag and carefully give it a once-over,
evening it out. There are a lot of different ways to go about doing an underpainting;
this is a tonal one that will match up nicely with the tonal sketch we've done.
It's perhaps a little bit thick over here. This has the advantage of already creating
a strong sense of unity over the whole thing. Now I'm going to go in and try to
find a few of my light shapes. I'm just going to use my paint rag to pull out some
of these lights. This is a large area of back to cover, so I'm going to be quite bold and
go in and start erasing a large mass. There's a little bit of a squareness to the back that I
want to preserve. Because my canvas was already toned, when I'm pulling out, I'm
not pulling out right to white; I'm pulling out to value number 2 or 3.
I'm going to develop this, and it can increase in accuracy over time. I'm
working from large shapes to small shapes, just like I've done in the drawing underneath
and just like we did in the poster study. So all the way through, working from these
big shapes to small ones. I'm thinking a little bit about the planes of the back.
So we've got the white fabric. So this is going to get really pulled out and exposed
because this will end up going, in some areas, all the way to white.
Here, a big plane of white.
This, I can soften some of the brush strokes. It's a very flexible, easy surface
to work with. This is a soft, flat, wide brush. So every time our model gets up,
she'll be sitting in a slightly different way, which means that the drapery is going to
re-shuffle slightly differently every single time, so what I'll do is leave it on the
broad side and come back later when I'm ready to paint and get more specific, and
try to get the folds painted in one go. So here, I'm actually working back in to get
some of the strength of the back plane, which has gotten a little bit soft or overly
rounded. If it gets too rounded, you lose some of the structure of the piece. I can even go
back in and build up with white if I want, but at this point, I still have a little bit of
range left to pull out of my lights. So I can pull out even more before I run out
of range in that light area in my value step scale. Because the underpainting
tone is a mid value, I can only get as light as that; beyond that, I'll have to
pull up the white. And if I want to find a little bit more of it, I can even start
working into it with white on top of this underpainting, knowing that I'll still have
to go back and find it more, particularly the shapes when she actually gets up in the
position that I want when we start painting it for real. Folds have a life
of their own. The areas of the folds that are lightest are angled up and catching
that light; the plane is angled up and catching the direction of our light. And
that's going to end up being over here a little bit more.
I'm going to push the angularity of it to cut in. This we can pull up. I'm going to
lightly catch a little bit more light on this side shoulder. I'm going to pull out a
little of the light on the hair. And actually, I can go back in with my darks as well to
create more contrast in that area. For that, I'll just use some of the same raw umber I
was using to do the initial paint layer. So we've lost some of the character due
to the generic layer of this paint that's washed in and over. Some of that can be
found, once again, just by going through with your umber and laying it on.
You can use a whole bunch of things to do this underpainting. Some people use burnt
sienna and ultramarine that's mixed up, or alizarin and viridian, or burnt umber, raw
umber. I like the transparency and relative neutrality of raw umber when starting
because it's a very forgiving first layer of paint. It's a very forgiving color; it's not
too warm, not too cool, it's easy to build on top of. So this is a little too dark down
through here. We can continue to lighten this up. Now look how dark this suddenly
appears. All of this has to lighten up because the direction of light is coming down that way
and it's going to flood inside, get inside there. I just want to straighten that. I
suppose we can use white to do that just as well.
Here, we can catch a little bit of character by varying the line weight and having some
of the sharper edges come forward. So even at this underpainting stage, we can get some
information that will be found and help us get closer to our end result. It's surprising
how much squareness is in drapery, which we feel is so soft. A lot of the character ends up
actually being in some of these angle directions, just like in the figure itself. On the next pass of
paint, I'll end up going quite dark in that back layer, but I don't need to do that now.
We're just holding something of our value range in reserve.
So we can do a little bit of form modeling on top of this. I'm going to push the value
under the arm, just like we did in the poster study, to start to get a difference in plane
change between here and here. Actually, the whole thing can drop down, and then
push this undercut a little bit more.
Here, we'll find some of the lightness of the screen of her phone. Let's see if there's
anything else we want to do. Perhaps we could find some contrast here between
the background and the neck. We might use the softer brush just to help get rid of some of the
glare. We can create contrast by darkening around the area or lightening an area; both work.
I feel like we can drop a little bit around the spinal column to give more contrast and
then lighten up that plane. From general to specific is the rule. You can see as we
push the piece, it's going from being extraordinarily vague to being more found.
I'm going to take a break so we can get a picture. Actually, maybe I'll lighten this
up. I'll allow the white to go all the way to the edge. This can come up. There.
The darks in the fabric are still pretty light-filled.
OK. I'm going to just drop the value under here and then take a break.
So the light shapes can also be independent and strong, just like the shadow shapes
that we've spent a lot of time focusing on. In the hair, you end up having some of both.
Taking some of the raw umber and going back in and stating a few of the areas of
strong contrast here where it catches underneath. Here we're getting a lot of
darks in the front part of her hair. And here, nice big darks. We can start to create some
dark planes and light planes, just like we we're doing on the rest of the body.
If we're getting a lot of thickness, we can push the tone down with a softer brush.
And then, darkening up the hair in the front, continuing to carve out some of these shapes.
The hair off through the back can start picking up more and more light. And we're
not running the risk of getting anywhere close to the whites that are found in the
drapery yet. So if there ends up being a lot of competition, we'll end up adjusting it later.
Here, there's an area of very strong contrast. And having a few hard edges up in an area
that's considered very soft, like the hair, adds a lot of structure to it. This darkness
comes all the way up that side of the head and down. And this can drag across to the
front part of the body. I'm going to use my softer brush because it's quite thick.
I'm using the soft brush to blend it in so it doesn't pull up. I'm going to darken
around the eye and in a few key areas in the ear just to get it to set back.
This area will also have a lot of contrast due to color when we put that paint layer in
next on top of it. I'd like to soften this transition.
We can also catch a tiny bit of light as it comes up through this area of
the face and hits her cheekbone. You want to be careful that it's not too bright
because we don't want it to jump forward. We want it to describe the form without
it getting a whole lot of attention.
This is settling in a little dark; I think we'll just leave it on the lighter side.
This is continuing to pull out the lights on the phone. And with this, we've got
our first pass of paint. It will all get covered over, but at least what we've
got left is a sense of the drawing and a sense of the overall distribution value.
We've locked in our composition. A lot of decisions have been made even at this
really early stage of the painting process and that gives us a lot to go with and on
for the next paint layers.
[laughing] Does it work now? [voices in back] I hear it, I hear it.
So I'm just putting in a little bit of the background so that we have
something to offset the color against.
And this line, the drawing line, gets absorbed by the background tone.
But it gives us more high contrast.
There are going to be a lot of darks in this picture as we get farther along. This we
can push all the way up to the edge. So the actual color over here – we can start
to find some of the depth of the shadows and pull in some of the warmth. And all this
serves as a foundation for building up the light areas of the picture. Now I'm going
to take one area and start to build up the main part of the picture. With color, it
can be confusing; you're really going out on a limb, at least at the beginning, trying
to determine what color things are. So, just like with the rest of the piece, you
go in and take a good stab at it, and then can decide from there if you like it or not.
And once you get the thing covered, you can make some changes. What I like to do
is answer a series of questions rather than seeking a definitive answer, but just start
to think, "OK, is this a warm or a cool? Is it light or dark? What value is it? Where
in the color spectrum does it fall? Is it warm? Yeah. Is it as warm as that? No."
so that even though at the beginning it's just a guess, it's an educated guess as
much as you can do.
I'm going to go in and start to find some of the mid tones between the shadow shape
and the light shape. And some of these tones wrap around, sort of bleeding through
the back, all the way across and into the front. There's a long road of mid tones
between the shadow area and the light. So although it looks a little bit murky now,
these things have a way of settling as you develop up and up. This almost rolls across.
Actually, her skin's a little warmer. Rolling out and across this and reaching a tone that
feels quite similar to the value of the underpainting. You can see we're getting
a little bit of a value step scale going here.
It looks odd at the beginning having one strip going out and across, but it will become
placed into context the more that the picture gets developed.
Here we're finding the shadow of the arm, and it's not nearly as deep and dark as some
of the other shadows we'll find up here. Nonetheless, we want to keep it toned
down, and perhaps can even move it more as it wraps around into the shadow area.
This becomes a murky area of mid tone that starts to wrap around across the shoulder.
This is a little bit warmer across this part of the shoulder. We're not really worried
about the real lights yet; those will come.
We're sort of paying attention to each change in plane as it starts to transition
from one area across the figure into the next.
This is a slow process, and you're better off not rushing it, just letting it develop
piece by piece. As you get more used to this part of the process, you'll be able to
look through all the splotchiness and not let it worry you because you can envision
where it's going to end up. So if you've never looked at any piece where form has
gone on in this specific way, it can be a little bit unnerving – and over time, you
get used to it.
These mid tones will begin to get absorbed into one another as it goes across, but I'm
not over-mixing; I'm mixing more in the palette and not so much on the piece itself.
This is going to start to wrap across.
Sort of build up to a brighter light, and also a slightly cooler light. I'm going to
begin the process again coming up from here, and then it will all meet up.
This I think we can push darker, dropping the shadow on the far side of the body.
And that's going to give us even a bigger turn as it goes from here across to there.
So right now I've got a big gap. Each of these brush strokes represents a plane
that's moving across that shoulder. It starts to get a little warmer in through
here. It really needs to be this dark to start off with if we're going to have any
hope of reaching as bright a light as we need as it gets closer to the light source.
This went too dark, so I'm just mixing the next stroke right into it. Here I'll move up
and across from there.
Here we're getting considerably deeper tone than up through the higher part of
the shoulder, so we can warm it up and slightly drop the value.
This gets darker as it tucks underneath to go under the cloth. And this plane over
here is a really interesting one because we get a lot of bouncing warms, and it's
getting lighter as well, so it's getting some reflected light from inside the drapery.
Now I'm going to move from here up. You can see, we're starting to close in on those
lights. It's darker than here, but not quite as dark as that side. The first thing I'm
going to do is actually re-carve out this part of the arm.
We're getting a little bit of shadow shape. I don't love how wide this shape is, so it's
easy enough, at this stage, to go in and start carving out some of the drawing.
You're going to catch things as you move along; it's just the nature of the process.
However, you want to be careful about making huge drawing changes at this point
because you can really upset the whole piece. At a certain point, you just have to
decide to live with it. If I'm pulling that line out, I really want to make the cloth
appear to wrap around. Describe that arc. So this we're going to transition from here
across. This is quite hot in terms of temperature â€“ considerably warmer than
some of the tones we're getting over here. And here, even though there's a value
change, we want to be careful that it's not too abrupt.
And I'm choosing to make it a little cooler. So I'm going to go across, up through the
back, moving from here to there. Let's see what value I end up with. I think that
might end up being a tiny bit dark.
This is going to wrap over. And see that the color is a little bit greener.
And now we're going to wrap from here up, going from that cooler note at the lower
part up to a higher, warmer transition. It's definitely taking on a slightly pinkish
quality towards the higher part of the neck, or the shoulders.
And a lot of edges are going to go in a little bit on the soft side, and as I go
back, I can choose which ones to sharpen up. Here I'm seeing the shoulder roll away.
That might be a little much, so I can always go back in and reassert some of those mid tones.
Here, we're going to continue.
There's a fair amount of chroma in this area of the back.
Here and here, we want to bridge that junction right here.
I'd still like to have this part of the back slide in and sort of slim her down a bit.
This can become more found. Let me just double-check how far that is. From the
crease under the arm to the top of the clavicle is about the same as to the eye.
So I can pull this up; I have room to spare. I'm going to insert that angle change. I'm
going to be pretty careful about it because we have a width to consider: the width from
the back of the arm to the front of the arm. It's going from there to there. I have to
be careful. I can pull it over a tiny bit more. This will wrap across. There's a
little hint of blue, and that bluish, cool note is going to start to connect, as it
wraps around, to a small form here. And I start again, pushing the undercut.
I'm going really warm. I'm just going to carve this line down. I'm going to wrap up
and across, slow and steady. Most of the painting process, it doesn't feel like much
is going on. The cumulative effect of it, though, is all the tiny decisions that end
up making the image. Sort of like our life, you know, with a thousand tiny decisions
all the time that end up creating some bigger picture.
Up here we're getting into a lighter swelling. You're following the topography
of the surface of the skin and noticing when it gets up closer to the light, and as it starts
rolling around this curve, it will start to take on a little bit more warmth.
It takes a while for my eyes to acclimate to some of these subtle tones.
This undercut extends across to the other side of the arm. It's a slight indentation.
And then wraps around. This gets a little bit darker in through here, and we can
see how it's a half tone that comes through here and cuts all the way around and
across, so I want to start to follow that tone.
And all the weird lumps that get created from these tiles of paint will end up
getting absorbed into the picture at the end, so I'm not concerned about the fact
that they're so irregular or that they jump out at the viewer.
Start to connect it up the other way.
It really becomes a privilege to be able to study someone this intently.
Now, this is still the underpainting layer, so I have to wrap up and across. There's
a lot – you've got the edge of the scapula catching the light, and then as it rolls across.
I'm just shifting the color slightly between warm and cool, and by warm, we're not
looking at red; we're looking at small shifts. And then by cool, we might only
take a slight hint towards green or blue. It might not even be perceivable to the
eye once the thing is covered, but you get a feeling of lifelike-ness by trying to get
a sense of all these small shifts.
This is going to start to wrap over.
And as it starts to wrap across, we're going to get a little bit more color in the
paint, a little higher chroma. So I did too big a value jump. And that's ok; you
can start to go back and work back into it.
There are no static areas on the human body; there are always continual shifts
and undulations between light and dark and warm and cool.
When we were doing our value studies, we squinted a lot. For this, as soon as you start
working in color, you want your eyes to be wide open so you can see all the color
changes. So when you're working in value, you squint down because it lessens the
amount of light hitting your retina and that enables the values to jump more clearly.
We can really see what's happening. And in color, we don't want to lose any subtle
gradation; we don't want to limit the amount of colors, so the eye stays wide open.
Here, the color is more highly pigmented than in through here, and we're catching a
lot of warmth, just like we were in the lower part.
Here the light wraps all the way down. I'm going to push the amount of light
wrapping across, up through here. That's going to give us a sharper edge as it hits
the shoulder girdle.
So there's a big lost edge through here that I want to get in, and I can use that
by taking a soft brush – I'll probably end up repainting that area, but for right now,
I'm just going to soften it.
Now that I sit back, I don't love how green this is, so I can start to warm it up just
slightly as I'm wrapping this area around to the front.
The edge of that – the scapula's going to come right down through here, and you
can see the point of it catching a little more light here at the bottom. I want to
be careful how I do that. I don't want to just trace it down; I actually want it to go
across and then up and back.
This can drop on the other side. We're pushing her eye up and across.
As we look very intently at an area, it takes on a particular sense of place in a
way that is pretty remarkable. You can end up knowing the back of somebody's shoulder
better than you know elements of your own neighborhood. Here we're getting a tiny bit
of bouncing cool light coming into that. I'm going to continue.
There's not one kind of skin color; the skin is formed of a lot of different
transitions. And just like with a drawing, it ends up needing to feel like a believable
set of relationships more than any one part of it feeling like the absolute perfect
color – although there are different schools of thought on this. If you look back at most
historical works of art, the color was pretty plain, but the drawing and the design was so
exquisite, and the modeling and the form was so captivating, and the emotion of it
so powerful, the color became secondary. You tend to find people who are colorists
who love the emotion of color, and tonalists. Those tend to be two different personality
types. Here I have a lot of work to roll this side of the neck up and over.
When you go into a new area, it can take a few minutes to get acclimated and begin
to figure out how the color is transitioning.
So here I'm dropping the value just using a tiny brush.
So it's important not to judge it; you just let the piece develop. And it's really easy
for artists to get focused on judging the piece, the successes or failures of
it, before it's done. It's rarely helpful to do that.
There are a lot of cool tones underneath that hairline. We can start to really cool
that down and drop it down in value.
We've got this wide band that we have to cover.
This has gotten a bit too dark.
We've got a fair amount of work to do through here. This needs to wrap over
I've got to roll this area across to the light. The same with this.
So almost every time I'm putting down a new brush stroke, I'm changing the color a bit.
I'm going to push this a little darker. And by doing that, it bumps up the edge. I
really feel like we need to start pushing the clarity of the background. I'm going
to take a brush that's soft enough and it won't pull up. When the background's
wet, it's easy to pull up. You erase it rather than actually make it darker.
So we darken down by the edges, and the light's just not as bright as we could get
it. And by darkening the background, it then increases the feeling of contrast.
I can even pull back a little more. A lot of times I feel like I'm just creeping up
on it. Because the background wasn't really dark to begin with and has
increasingly become dark, it gives us some room to push the value
or break it up a little bit. I still have to finish this large area in the
back over here, and then we can reassess. When you've taken any kind of break and
then start working back in again, there's a period of acclimation, just getting a
sense. Because it's not a formula. So this goes always from dark to light. How I'm
going to handle this area is by rolling the value around and then going on top of it
with a slightly cooler tone to break up the uniformity of the color. When we created
our value step scale, we created a flat progression of tone from dark to light.
And that flat value step scale is really an abstraction; it doesn't exist. But it
becomes a really wonderful metaphor for the way that light transitions over
form. So if we have our light coming down and hitting this part of the back, and this
is the shadow area, if we imagine our value step scale, we can almost, if we imagine it's
flexible, overlay it. And you can see it going from value 9 to value 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 as
it comes up and across the back. And thinking of it in terms of that makes it much easier to
understand. Life, there's a lot of obscurity, so having tools to be able to understand it,
become these useful metaphors to make sense, and when you make sense of it,
then you can paint it. It's hard to paint something you have no idea what's going on.
So as we're doing it, we get to enjoy the experience of being able to spend this
long staring closely at a figure or a piece of fruit or a still life element, whatever it
is, it's just a joy to look and see light hitting actual form. And that's the
virtue of working from life as well: it doesn't flatten out things the same way
that happens when you're working from a photograph, which is 2-dimensional. So
now that I've got a lot of that covered, I'm going to go back in and stitch areas
that feel like the transitions have jumped too quickly. Here there's a loss of color,
so I want to insert more color into that area.
There's a sort of pinpoint of light as it's catching a bone right through there.
It becomes too big a value jump.
There are a whole bunch of areas that we can go back into, if we want, and turn more
carefully. But notice that I'm not really smushing the area or blending it; I'm
actually just going in and recreating the value and laying it on these tiles. This
area got a little flat. I can go in and find where the edge of the scapula is and
where it raises up. That shoulder is higher than the other one.
So in through here, we're getting a fair amount of cool light; it's got a little bit
of a violet cast to it. And so we can throw some of the red-violet into that area, but
we have to be really careful so that we don't offset the value; we want to make
sure the value still feels contextually accurate. Here we're getting diagonal;
the light is cutting diagonally across that form. And through here. Again,
we don't want to overdo it.
I want to get a few other areas caught up. I'll drop the value through the neck.
Going to get this value to sit in place a little better. And that will probably
require re-transitioning from the dark into the light in that part of the figure.
There's a small dark accent that is right here.
I can wrap this around, but this really needs to cool off. I can start to set
underneath the hair.
I'm going to connect those two areas. This is going to be two-grain, so I'm going to
warm it up. That was too light. And this one, the value should be OK.
So next, I'm going to put the drapery in, and then move up and do the head, and
then come back and double-check the whole thing.
[paintbrush dipping in water]
OK, so with the drapery, I can start to really build up some of our lights. My
light is really piling on there, with this. So remember that the drapery is going
to be different every time. If you're really suffering with doing the drapery,
you can always set it up on a mannequin or just draw it out really well beforehand
and get the underpainting done partially from the finished drawing. When you're
working from life and doing drapery, you have to be prepared that every time your
subject stands up, when they sit back down again, it's going to fall on their bodies a
little differently. So when there's life, there's movement, and inherent in that
is imperfection, so you just have to brace yourself.
This is a cooler tone than the one that I was getting earlier. The earlier tone
that I had from the underpainting, a lot of warmth to it. I have to watch out
because we want our fabric to roll across the body as if it's wrapping on real form.
First, I'm going to get a nice mid tone in and then we'll need to be moving from
dark to light.
Here we can drop the value more. And up in the front, even more.
Our darks that are in the drapery aren't going to be quite as dark as those that
are in the figure; however, we still end up with a mid tone, a light and a dark.
It's just going to slide up the value step scale a little bit. It's going to jump a
couple notches up, truncating our darkest darks.
The thing that makes fabric interesting is its structure, so you don't want to
eradicate the stiffness of the value changes.
This we can drag up across here, and then this is going to cut over. And what does
that say about this value? It says that this is going to now be too dark. Too
dark, too cool.
Now I want to find all of these zig-zag shapes as the fabric bunches up.
We want to be careful that our shapes that are formed by the drapery are not too
regular, because if they're too regular, they begin to feel artificial, because
nothing in nature is static. So when you get a lot of repetition of form, it
reads as something unnatural, man-made. And even in the drapery, we're getting
variations between warm and cool. White is cool; it functions as a cool when you're
This is a really interesting warm that is creeping into this shadow.
I'm going to get more specific in this area around the neck. I don't love this edge,
so it might be good to drop the whole thing down in value and then lightly dust
it back, soften it.
This area could get a whole lot more specific.
I'm going to carve this shadow back farther. The area between the half-tone
and the light - you don't want to lose information in that area. It's really key.
Even more so as that becomes found.
We can continue to push the dark accent. And then always rolling back over.
And then I'll do it above and below that line.
Always increasing the amount of information that we have.
This suddenly seems too bright. That could be because the background has
gotten darker. That's going to increase the contrast.
This we can wrap around again, making the back a little brighter in this area.
The more the paint builds up, the more opacity there is to that paint layer; the
more it holds the light, the brighter it gets.
I'd still love to build it up even more if I can, and for that we need some boldness.
You'll be able to see, once I add more light, or a more opaque paint layer, how that
helps increase the feeling of brightness. I went too pink as I started mixing, so I'm
going to make it more yellow. Here, I'm going to build up the actual thickness of
the paint. I have to be careful now because I don't want to do this without
transitioning it in.
Now it wouldn't hurt to go back and create those mid tones again that I obliterated by
getting so light.
As we add white, remember that we also cool it down. So we have to increase the
amount of chroma going into that in order to compensate.
As I'm putting that tone down, I'm really trying to imagine as I'm wrapping over
that trapezius muscle.
Building up these mid tones is then going to absorb that light shape.
I need to wipe off the excess paint and then mix up some of those mid tones.
It gets a little bit greener down below. Sometimes when you're just getting
started, the temptation can be to go really thin with your paint because you
feel like you'll somehow avoid making any irrevocable errors by going thin,
but that can actually end up creating as many problems as you feel like it will
solve because you actually miss some of the fleshy quality to paint when it
goes on thickly.
After we're finished with this little area, we might want to transition it again and
then move on and finish up the drapery.
You can see right away that that area has too big a value jump. We can mix that
color, place it in, and allow it to meld into that other tone in the neck. It feels
like our light should extend out a bit farther. It's easy to forget, as we're
working on this, that this represents real anatomy, and so when we don't
extend the light far enough, we're actually shortening the distance
between the shoulder and the center of the back.
Now would be a good time to go back and finish up parts of the drapery before
wrapping up the back part of the figure.
Here we go. So it all goes back to drawing. When we re-find the drapery, of course
she's changed, but because the light is still coming from the right direction, the
folds are, more or less, going to wrap around her body more or less the same
regardless of how the fabric might be folded one way versus another. There's
going to be a logic to it – let's just put it that way. So re-finding the shadow
shape. And we're going to end up doing some form painting on this thing as well.
With drapery, it can be funny because you'll be working on an area and can
actually lose your way – you can actually get lost and have trouble finding where
you are, especially if you're working from multiple versions of the same piece of cloth.
Here we can lighten up.
With the drapery, there's an area that actually wraps around behind her. So
here we've got the lightest part, and then this is not a flat piece of paper, but it's
got actual depth and thickness, even if it's a very quick turn. There's still
going to be a feeling of it pulling back and around. So this becomes an edge that
we want to be really careful to nail in.
And then we catch a little bit of the light as it comes up and around and
down and through. This other fold – under here, I'm seeing some really unusual warms,
which we may want to get in.
This I'm going to lighten up first and then push the warms. Here we need
our big mid tone. Then it cuts under, wraps around and zips up. There's a
lot happening. Here I think we'll get our semilla ochre to push that tone. This
edge feels wimpy; I want to bump it up a little bit.
OK, I'm going to take care of a few things. The drapery is going to wrap around. We
have to take care of all these big areas of obscurity. In nature, things aren't obscure;
they set back in a really convincing way and your eye can meander through it, but
they don't dissolve and just disappear.
Here I'm catching a lot of cools on this drapery on that side, so I can put those in.
If this gets too dark, it's going to feel see-through, which we don't want.
And what about this? I need to jump over here. I love this area on her where
we get these really strong form folds. They're like darts.
So it wraps around.
[indecipherable voices in background] I don't know if any of us does.
Just tidy up a few of the edges before we go, so that way we can work on it later
without having any funky buildup.
We're going to shoot a little color into that edge.
I'll just wrap up this edge and be done.
Here we're finding the contour and noticing such things like: this edge is
a little sharp. So I'll go back in and mix a lighter value. I'll start to carve away
at the extra.
Here we can push the value down and recess that shadow along the edge.
And continue to drop the value as it wraps around and away from the light source.
You just want to be careful about how light it gets overall because we don't
want it to be eye-catching. This, I'm going to go back in and re-find it. I'm
actually just drawing with the brush to re-find that edge.
Once again, trying to...
Here we're wrapping around, sort of setting the stage for it.
I can pull the edge up and over so the light catches around that edge and then
immediately starts to soften, because this is now no longer a contour edge, but
a bit of rolling form for that clavicle. Now I've got a tiny bit light, but that's
OK; we go back and adjust it. When the whole piece comes together, these little
small areas that we spend so much time on don't attract a lot of attention even if, at the
time, it's something that you wrestle over, it sets back into the context of the whole.
Now I'm going to start to get parts that I haven't covered yet. I'll do a finishing
edge here and there before I move on, and I'll come back to these things later.
I'd love this to feel a little more unified before we leave this area.
[whispered] That's intense orange.
By putting on a few of these tiles right through here, I'm just making sure that
all these notes are linked.
It takes a little bit of practice, but you can mix up tiles that can fit between
areas that have too much of a jump without going and blending it with your
brush. Towards the end, I might lighten this up as well.
Here we can work and start pushing this edge back into the shoulder. By
doing this, we get it to start to move behind the neck, getting a little more
distance between the far shoulder and that wrapping around to the trapezius muscle.
It's surprising, but a lot of edges have a disproportionate amount of influence
over a piece of art.
Sometimes if you end up dragging the wrong color into your brush, it's
important to stop and wipe it out.
I'll get a little more paint down here. Just pushing that a little bit more opaque.
And today, it looks a little darker, and I like it a little darker, because it'll start
to get that part of the body to wrap underneath the arm.
It's interesting because the more you finish an area, the less your eye goes to
it. So if the painting was perfectly finished, your eye would fluidly move
from one area to another without any stopping along the way.
Just completing this area. This light bunches up before the beginning of
the next downturn in value.
Is it time?
I'm going to eventually need to add some cools into here.
OK, so now I have to start moving up and down into the rest of the figure and drag
some of the background color out and over.
This is black, but it's got a small amount of umber. And I'm going to start getting
some of the background around her face.
I tend to creep up on the profile rather than dive right into it because most of
what makes a face really compelling and believable is not the contour line, but
all the stuff that's happening in the middle. So sometimes, this elusive
contour can disappear the closer you get to it – the accuracy of it can be challenging.
And so creeping up on it gives you time to assess it and move in slowly. I'm putting
in more of a mid tone and then can push that really nice dark later.
There are a whole lot of shadow shapes that are going all through the hair and
down in through here, so I might take this opportunity to find a few of those
as well. Hair, like drapery, is going to always be shifting and changing. I
tend to grab the shadow shapes when I see them knowing that they'll be in a
different place next time. It's helpful when doing something difficult like
hair to have any element of structure that you can find, and so the shadow shapes end
up providing important structural landmarks that we can use to work
into and out of and around.
This isn't going to be, necessarily, the final color or the final placement of
everything, but it's a good local color to start with, just a general warm.
This is a little bit lighter as it cuts up and through.
I'll push the dark up through here.
This dark comes and catches all along the side, defining that plane of her head,
defining the side plane. Be careful that the color doesn't get to acid-y.
Right now I'm working with two different darks: a dark accent and more of a local dark.
This is a really beautiful shape, so I'll have to go and get a smaller brush to
go in and define it.
The hair in the front really begins to dissolve into the background.
I might start with just a nondescript mid tone for the shadow side of the face. All
these colors end up being not much in and of themselves, but only in relation.
This is sort of a gentle, murky mid tone. But just keep in mind that when we started,
we were looking and trying to answer a few questions: What value is it? What
temperature is it? And then the color only comes later. So right now, perhaps I'm just
answering "What value is it?" More of a dark mid tone. And then, "What color is
it?" A general warm getting a little bit more violet towards the nose. I'm going
to grab a smaller brush. Remember: things always look a little awkward in their
in-between stage. It's important not to panic.
I'll redefine those darks. Right now our job is just to get something
down. We can begin to push it around after that.
Maude, can you push the hair behind your ear? Yeah. Thanks. I'm going to find the
shadow shapes in the ear; I'm going for a warm dark.
Hair really has a life of its own that we can end up locking into later. I just want
to get this whole area covered. This might end up getting darker as it comes around
on the inside line coming up to the nose. And then a big, turning form just like we
did in every other part of the image, allowing this to build up to a greater light.
This can start to wrap back.
I'm going to push a small shadow through here and get that nose locked in. The
underside of the nose gets quite a bit darker. It's OK if it feels a tiny bit vague
because all this will begin to settle and take shape over time. It's got a beautiful,
warm note right along the edge of the ear. The light starts to turn up and catch
the light again.
Sort of undercut as this plane turns and catches underneath the hair.
The shapes in the ear can be really beautiful as the forms wrap around.
Some people can start and finish a painting just by working on one area
at a time; I always have to feel my way around through it.
The dark side of the undercut of the ear.
I'm going to drop the value here again all the way down and around. Then I can start
to find the shape a little better.
Her hair cuts down and around and through, so I'll have to develop that.
That'll pick up some of the warmth. I have to get rid of the edge. You want all
of your edges and seams to be taken care of so that nothing is left undone, because
it gives you a false sense of the image. It's a mistake to let these things sit too
long. Our first goal is to catch this part of the image up, getting the values to
sit in order.
This we can wrap around. We get one little bit of clarity of light through here and one
nice, dark edge. The first priority is to get that in shape. But when I squint
down, this already might be too light, so I don't want to have it jump out of
context. Our eyes are sensitive to duality, where you have competing focal points,
so we don't want to introduce that. Plus, the face has an enormous amount of
emotional power, and even in the dark, our eyes are going to want to look there and
see who it is.
The reason we're able to just focus and work one area form at a time without
worrying too much about offsetting the composition is because we did that little
value poster study at the beginning. That value poster study gives us a road map for
having the image make sense as a value pattern. So we're free to focus on form
without worrying that we're being trivial in terms of our intentions. And then we
have our drawing underneath and our initial underpainting in the raw umber,
and that gives us a very good road map to being able to make sense of how all these
pieces are going to fit together. So we're not working blind even though we're
working in pieces.
I'm pushing some of the shadow shapes.
So I'm catching a little bit more of her ear now, so I might have to make room for it
by extending the drawing of the ear back. This is a relatively small change.
When you're studying, all things take a lot of time, but it's time well spent, so don't
be discouraged if, as you're working, things don't come together as easily or as quickly
as you'd like. Just imagine that it's not worth doing if it didn't take some trouble.
If it came easily, you wouldn't find it that interesting. I'm going to push the
information through here and not worry too much if it gets out of whack in terms
of getting a little bit light, because I can go in and change that quite easily.
The lightest area of the ear, we're getting this right in through here. It's pulling that
plane up and across. This is catching the light as well a little bit along the rim right
here. I'm going to warm this up. By warming it up, we'll also lighten it. I'm going to go in
and place her earring.
I think a local color will catch the light. And we're going to want to put shadow
around it. This cuts under and up - it starts to give our ear a little definition.
I'm going to create a deeper red. There's quite a lot of blood flowing into the ear.
The more we develop the ear, the more it jumps out - but that's OK – we don't want
to diminish it for the sake of making it fit into its environment. We want the
environment to join it in terms of how resolved it is.
I'm going to jump around for a little. I'm going to get the dark behind the hair and
the ear so the direction can tip. We can bring that warm that we discovered behind
the ear over.
You can see the phone through here. Be careful of the angle of it so it appears to
sit back in orientation.
Here we're just being bold and getting the background in.
And continue to push that and move it all around the back of the head.
Sometimes I just jump around here because I can't help it. You look at it again after a
little break and something jumps out at you and it's easy enough to fix it. So here, I
want to catch a little more light at the bottom part of the arm. I don't want to
compete with the upper part of the arm, but we could certainly use a little more color.
And it also goes from being this really nice, orange-y tone to building up into
more of a yellow. The nice thing about that is it will give us more separation between
the arm and the underside of the arm. We're going to pull up this light. That's
going to give us greater depth in that area.
I'm going to push the half tone over.
I'm going to put something for that screen.
It's a really dark value. So even though this is predominantly black, it still reads
as very blue because there's so much warm floating around in this picture. I think we
might get a little bit big in terms of the outside shape of this. We can go in and
shrink it. I'm going to sight the angle and keep this angle parallel to that one and
continue to crop the size.
We get this shape.
Picking up a little light on the edge. The light part of the screen is still
going to be dark because it's way far away from our light source, and it's
sort of dimmed as well. The screen is dimmed.
I'm trying to keep the lines parallel and adjust the shape. This bottom part of
the screen is lighter.
I can leave this placed strongly and then adjust it later and diminish it if I want.
The nice thing about oil paint is its flexibility; nothing is set in stone.
And push the dark on the inside edge. There are a number of ways of increasing contrast:
one is by sharpening an edge, another is by going darker; another is by going lighter,
or also increasing the intensity of color. That's another way you can get more
contrast. And through all those things, you can govern the eye. One thing that the
technology has taken away from us is the amount of time we have to think about things –
reverie in painting allows us to get some of that wonder back. Because I want this
to sit back, I'm going to lightly drag my brush over, and that softens the edge.
To increase the contrast here, I'm dropping the value of the background behind the phone.
I've accidentally gone over the edge here and can bring it back.
This is a big area that's unresolved. I'm not going to go back to it now, but I can
sort of draw a few of these shapes in place to remind myself that I've got to get back
to this area.
This, I'd like to drop the value as it wraps around, which means darkening up through
here. It makes sense that it would darken because it's moving behind our figure.
Notice I've got some paint on my brush.
Here, darken and cool.
This we're going to start wrapping around.
This can continue.
OK. Here, pushing and darkening. I'm going to get it even a little more than I see it
because I really don't want this to come forward.
Building up the greys and blues in the shadow of the fabric.
The more we turn the planes, the more it wraps or folds as it goes down. You can
study the anatomy of folds if you want, but really paying attention to what you're looking
at will get you the same – actually farther because when it's abstract, it's just in the
realm of theory, and in life, there's always a lot of variety and interest in the way that
things... Observation always trumps theory.
A light that's going to end up going straight down and across all these folds.
In each one of these, there's a light plane that darkens as it moves back.
All these shadows make me reassess how dark I want it over on this side.
This undercut, I'm cooling down and darkening down. That's going to help
set the lights in place. This is a little raw. I'll have to get back and finish
the head in a minute.
Break up this shape. It's a little obnoxious how square that is. I'm going to leave this
and jump up to the top of the head, taking a short stop along the way to
lighten the screen.
Right now, for some reason, the shoulder is wrapping around a little more, which
looks good. So that's one of those instances when, if you see it, even if you don't know
if it will ever come back, it's a good time to grab it. OK, now I'll get this hair in
place and push the background more.
So, this is continuing to get darker, breaking up the black with some
raw burnt umber.
Now I need to really put some effort into this profile.
This shape is darker. Yikes. I can start to drag in that background. I'm going to pull
up some of the light here, right now, where I'm seeing more of the forehead.
So we'll lighten up and pull out that front lip a little bit. All this can darken.
These paintings are really shape-shifters, and a lot happens when you try to push
them around, so you have to hold on while it's changing shape, while you're painting
it, until it settles into place. I'm just continuing to drop the far side of the
face. We're going to connect up all these edges.
All this, we're linking up the light part of the face. I can't put off doing the
hair too much longer because it's the last big missing piece of the puzzle.
Right now, I'm just making sure the whole shape gets pulled together.
We want the light part of the face to hang as a unit. We have to be careful that no
part of it jumps out of sequence.
And later, I can fluidly move around from one part to another.
This we can drop.
I'm going to extend the darkness of this tone back. This can get darker. And the hair.
This can continue to drop. All these values that are around the edge are cast into a
really remarkable amount of shadow. I'm going to want to soften those edges as well.
These are just our placeholder shapes; I can go and finesse them later.
OK, now I'm going to put some of the color in the hair. With getting this in, I want to
be careful that the color isn't too acidic- looking in the painting. I have to be
really careful. So I'm going to put a general, overall dark-warm note. And
it can go darker still, but for right now, this is good.
This dark comes around, wraps around. And there are some lovely darks that go in
through here. I'm going to build up my mid tone.
I'm going to spend some time trying to get the hair to be in place.
Sort of building up the darks. The darks give it the context and the character.
Continuing to push the value. This is going even half a step down â€“ down
Here we're getting the whole, general mass in place. I'm going to want to carve
off some of the shape in through here, where it's gotten a little bit high, too
tall through the top of the head.
The chroma appears to increase with these colors the lighter they get. If it's a dark color,
it doesn't show its true intensity until it hits a lighter note. Here she's got a lot
of really brilliant intensity to that hair. Sort of got a shimmery quality to it. All
the different layers of reds.
Right now, it's essentially a pattern.
And the pattern needs to get more specific, but I'll do that once we get the full paint
layer in for the hair. Getting every bit of it covered.
There's a fair amount of red, but also violet.
I'm going to make an orange-y mixture with the red and start to pull up some of those
really intense lights.
The light's going to be falling across this way.
It's catching some moments of really intense chroma.
We can keep pulling that up.
I'm going to switch to a smaller brush in a minute.
As it wraps around, the color really changes, becoming more violet.
The hair can lighten all the way down.
Actually, I think I want to lighten it a little little more. Pulling up those more purple
strands. Now I've got the overall pattern laid in and I'm going to go and find this
OK, let's get a smaller brush. We're going to start to carve these shapes.
Here there's an element of the hair that goes under. I'm finding the shadow shapes.
I want to link this up. I'd like to find that one curl. Here we get that beautiful
dark. And it wraps around. Push the underside of that curl darker.
This â€“ I'm pushing these shadows.
Here I'm going to start pulling the light shape of that curl. It wraps around.
There, it picks up a little bit of that light.
Here we're getting the light. Any structure to the hair is going to be good. Here there's
a little stream of light that comes down to her ear. I like the cooler version of the
color rather than the hotter one, so I think I'm going to push that by floating in some
It's, like, flame-colored.
I'm going to push with a really tiny brush, push around some of the accents and some
of the structure of the hair.
With a brush, we can get more of a controlled point - with a very tiny brush.
I'm just getting this little, almost tinsel color that comes through.
We can catch those little rays of light.
OK, let me push that darkness behind her.
So I'll start to re-find some of the shape of the head which has been lost.
We can pull her nose down and around. Let me first soften that edge, because
you don't want to get a big buildup of paint anywhere. Certainly not in the shadows.
She's got an element of dark hair, a strand of it that goes across.
It's catching a little bit of light all the way back in the recesses of the shadow.
So I'll push the darks behind the sort of cow's lick in her hair.
We keep pushing down.
This is a really interesting shape through here. This is getting too dark. This we're
A lot more information about the shape of the hair.
If it gets a touch too bright, we can go ahead and darken it down.
We're going to see how much color we can get away with before it starts jumping too
much. As we're developing the hair, it's going to force us to take another look at
how it's intersecting with the neck.
There's more of a cast shadow underneath, so we want to get that cast shadow, and before
too long, I also want to firm all these incredible darks that are floating through
that part of the hair.
We don't want this part of the hair to become obscure, so we continue to build up because
this is a light plane.
I'm going to cast a little shadow here.
A little cast shadow from the hair onto the neck.
So we're going to go and take care of the lower part of the picture so that
everything's covered. We might want to pull up more information up through the
hair as well, while we're on it.
We can pull up a few strands.
We can push the darks through here and keep some of the integrity of the individual
strands. I'm going to let this set and dry a bit before coming back and pushing
some of the darks.
OK, so as I paint this in, I'm going to stop on the way down and catch this
transition, which is a little rough.
So everything's going to be shifting and turning.
This is going to wrap around. I'd love for this to have a little more light into it. It's
not good to get too dark in the light areas, and sometimes that can happen as you're
working away â€“ kind of inadvertently, just slightly shift.
We can roll over that brown.
OK, we shouldn't get distracted; we've got work to do down here with the hand.
First thing we'll do is draw it in.
First thing we're going to do is draw a line with our brush. The way the hand
reaches around to grip, the finger catches the edge. This is a more gradual
transition. This is quite a cool note through that thumb. And here, we're
going to do something very similar to that â€“ we're going to roll that shape around.
I'm going to get the angle of the hand. I think that's OK.
Here. I can take my big brush and sort of do what I was doing before, where we're
creating a context for that hand.
This can all be nice and dark, even the light parts. We can't let it be too bright, because
we won't be able to suspend our disbelief â€“ it will be as though the light is able to wrap
around and hit it, which it isn't. Just like in other areas of the painting.
We're going to cool down the light area.
So we're going to drop... Actually, I might want to paint a few of those shapes here.
Just like in the neck, those areas of transitions are really important.
This we can push. You want to start to increase the swelling on this part of
Here we're going to carve out some of that shape.
I'm going to find a little more of the side plane of the phone.
This we can pull back. And the top part here before the knuckle rolls around
to the next digit starts to warm up. This can square off. Right now, it's just a
series of shapes.
This we want to turn.
There's a ton going on in this area of the wrist, which we're not getting to right now.
This we'll continue to lighten up. We'll warm it up a little bit.
It's a little cooler than what's happening through here, but we don't want it to jump
out as feeling not attached to the body.
Building up the light.
This, drag across. Here we get these really lovely cools.
Pulling this up. Now I'm going to go through and shape the contour again
where it got lost.
This we'll just straighten.
If we straighten that, the light has to straighten too.
It can just settle flat across that plane.
Let's drop that value down.
That can decrease the attention that it wants to demand by just dropping that value down.
And we can do it even more by dropping that edge.
We can keep this going with those cools.
Let's drop this.
This, we can drop the value, and we're not going super-dark right away; we'll just
I'm going to push the dark and blue in here.
The more you bump the chroma, the darker it can get and still have impact.
I'm just finding a few more of the darks in the hair. I'm going to hop around in the
picture a little bit, taking care of some loose ends.
Creating more mid tones through the hair. I'd like to get a little bit darker up there
Here, this could get a little bit lighter, so I'd like to do that before we end and
mix up the mid tone.
I'm just going to pick up from here and wrap around and over to end on a brighter note.
You can see, over here is starting to get a little bit lighter.
Here as it wraps up. Here as it goes around.
I'm going to be careful not to go too light, but just to inflate that area.
Here, the same thing.
Creating sort of a richer mid light.
This is going to wrap around.
That's a better value now that it's a little bit lighter. I want to do that here as well.
This we can lighten.
Whoops. If you put down a brush stroke that accidentally has something else in it, that's
not right, you can scrape it out or just paint on top.
Finishing this up, this section.
Going to find where that wash of light comes over the top part of the shoulder
girdle, comes up through there and wraps around.
Here, we can get a little darker.
This comes all the way over.
And now, just transition this, just bring it up to a finish. A lot of incremental,
This reaches a high point across the vertebrae.
I'm not a big believer in any kind of magic colors, so as long as you have some kind
of red, yellow, and blue, you can pretty much make it work out.
I'm going to leave this part of the figure, which is pretty textured. It gives it
character. Besides, there are many areas of the skin that just aren't resolved in the
sense that the colors do jump around and shift. It's part of the perfection of life –
all that variety.
Just dragging it across a few of these areas to knit a few of the seams.
So we'll connect a few of the gaps where it becomes especially obvious. I'd like to
catch that light on the far shoulder to help our eye move across.
I want to create sort of a seamless skin as it moves across.
Connect up through there.
Connect across that mid tone. Then we'll wrap up a few of the weak links and
finish up our sketch.
On her, there's this nice, hot, warm tone that's cutting across the back. We can
put that in.
We can move this up.
I'd still like to cool this area down, this area which has some penumbra, just
that area of the shadow that extends beyond – it's the transition area at the edge of a
shadow. So that goes from under the hair and drags out into the neck.
Always turning the value a little bit as it gets to the edge of the form if
that's not the highest area of light.
So we'll wrap around, down through here, before getting cooler underneath.
Here, this is an unfortunate coincidence where the edge of the drapery perfectly
touches the edge of the outside of the figure, so we can gain depth by having
it jog over to the right and give the fabric more depth.
This we might want to lighten up as well.
This is going to be left as a sketch, not a perfectly finished piece of art, and
still show some of the process.
I'm going to drop this even more in value.
I'll obliterate some of the white so we can give it some color.
I'm going to jump over to the hand for a minute and pull out a few more of the
lights. We're not going to bring it to a perfect finish.
See, that's already getting a little bit too light.
We can definitely pick up some of the blue of the veins in the hand as we come across.
There are a lot of big turns going across this part of the hand.
We'll just do some transitions in finishing up in the upper part
of the figure, so I'm going to drop in more of the darks.
I'm just going to push almost until it's black.
Here we'll continue to carve out these shadow shapes.
And so, even though every time we start to work from her, the shapes fall slightly
differently. The overall light and dark have already been placed in in a way
that makes sense in relation to the light source, so we don't have to worry too
much about the individual shapes; we can disconnect it because they're part
of a bigger context.
I'm going to get more specific here... and re-find some of the drawing.
This comes around and through.
We don't want any of these things, even though it is a whole, we don't want it to
appear to be sort of dead space, so we're casting a little bit of warmth into it.
All these things are transitioned.
The under part of the ear actually wraps. Even though these are small turns, and
so it looks really sharp, it's still a curved surface.
So we have to be careful, as we're placing in the lights, that we don't get too bright.
I'm going to soften this edge.
Here, I wouldn't mind cooling down this dark.
Here, we're not really form painting so much as adjusting that tone with a cool
note so it can tie in better with the rest of the skin.
This can cool down as well.
It's time to put more information into the area of the eye and the light part
of the face.
I'm just casting a few cool notes into all this heat.
Now I'll want to put this off – just getting more information in the eye area.
This can darken... and wrap around.
This can darken and wrap as well.
As we come down, we can start to create a little plane on the side of the nose to
get the cheek to come in front of that part of the nose.
Just a moment of a lost edge.
We're grabbing a little bit of light underneath.
I think we can push the whole value down through there.
We can push a dark into this area of the jaw, but I don't like that color; I think
we can really cool it.
So we'll find a few of the darks in the hair.
This, we can continue to add information.
All these little kernels and bits of light that are catching all over the place,
we'll just put a few of them in.
This feels a little heavy in through there.
OK, so I'm going to grab another brush and do a few more minutes.
I'll just start to carve out that zygomatic.
This, we're just doing a lot of connecting.
We've got a little left of the warm underpainting through here that we
might want to go over.
So, the painting process isn't about perfection; it's about curiosity and
being able to see things we've looked at our whole lives in a new way, and that's
the joy of it. It's a human record of a life: ours, and the person we're painting,
or the objects we're painting. And in my opinion, that's where its value lies.
I'm going to transition this part up, the lightest part of this area.
I just want to drop and transition this area through the hairline. I'll take a
soft brush and just go over it.
All these small changes and cumulative transitions and juxtapositions of warm
and cool end up, somehow, pulling together and hanging together, because each area's
equally well-looked at for the most part. So it creates a sort of balance.
Free to try
1. Lesson Overview46sNow playing...
1. Intro to portrait painting12m 32sNow playing...
1. Covering your background16m 23sNow playing...
1. Lining in your figure15m 8sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. Continuing to line in your figure16m 40s
3. Starting the under painting19m 11s
4. Working with white shapes14m 47s
5. Working with darks and shadows15m 10s
6. Continuing to work with shadow shapes15m 5s
7. Catching the light15m 2s
8. Catching the light continued15m 1s
9. Cool and warm light14m 59s
10. Cool and warm light continued14m 58s
11. Moving around your portrait14m 0s
12. Obscure obstacles17m 29s
13. Continuing with minor detail15m 6s
14. Working with color and shape15m 6s
15. Working with color and shape continue15m 12s
16. Pushing your darks16m 31s
17. Pushing your darks continued15m 26s
18. Push your tones15m 0s
19. Bringing in color14m 59s
20. Working with color14m 55s
21. The final stages18m 59s
22. Finalizing your painting15m 9s
23. Finalizing your painting continued15m 54s