- Lesson details
In this video lesson world-renowned painter, Steve Huston will walk you through an oil painting demonstration of a full male figure from the back view. In this tonal study, Steve will start with a toned canvas and paint the figure using a simple palette of mainly browns with little temperature shift and use white to control value.
- Gamblin Artist Grade Oil Colors
- Simply Simmons Paintbrush
- Canvas Panel
Discuss this video in the forums!Discuss
Transcription not available.
to start out with a toned canvas. I’m going to use a very simple palette, even simpler
than I normally use. It’s really going to be a tonal study, mainly values with a little
bit of temperature shift. I’m going to be working all out of the browns. Very brown,
and I’ll use white to control the value, which is really always the case. You mix the
color and temperate and intensity that you need and then you lighten it up with your
whites. That’s really always the way you’re going about it.
So what I’ve got today is titanium white, transparent orange, alizarin crimson, and
ivory black. I’m going to mix all of the three colors. Really I have a yellow, red,
and a blue. The black is a very grey blue, but it’s a blue. So I’ve got my three
primaries, so I can get a strong swing of temperature. I can get every color in the
rainbow. It just won’t be a real intense color. I’ll be able to get warm and cool
shifts on things, but not anything more than that.
So what I’m going to do is tone the canvas down. I’m going to get just enough solvent
on there so I can move the paint around so it’s not much gummy, but not so much solvent
that it drips. That’s one of the issues when we’re learning how to do our art, in
this case in painting, is that oftentimes
it’s a material issue as much as a stylistic
learning your craft issue. So how thin or thick, how wet or dry to make that paint to
get the effect. So you’re going to want to practice this. I would actually recommend—
I wanted to do this for you for you could see the process. But what I recommend is that
you do it a day or two before and let it dry and then come over that. It’ll be much more
forgiving. I’m going to be working on this wet brown once we get going into the painting,
and I’ll have to fight it a little bit. So you’re better off when you’re beginning
not having that issue. Have a nice toned canvas that’s dry, and then whatever you put on
top of it is not affected, polluted by that brown below.
You can see a little bit of white is coming through.
I’m going to rub this down with a paper towel that I’ve got in my other hand, probably
several paper towels. I can move this along
by using a bigger brush, getting more paint
on there, but this is kind of almost a meditation.
It’s kind of like the warm-up, the stretch
before the event. You’re kind of getting to know your materials like an athlete gets
to remind themselves about how their body is feeling.
And you go to it.
So down here I wet it a little bit more, I put a little more solvent in there. You can see how it’s
a little more drippy. It’s not running down drippy. It’s definitely wetter.
Now I’m just working on a canvas board here that you can buy from any art store.
You can gesso a piece of plywood, use a little canvas.
This is a little study, little exercise, so it doesn’t
warrant using a real expensive surface maybe, but you never know. You want it nice enough
that it’s archival. If it’s something that turns out well it could be framed
So now I’ve got it covered.
Now I’m going to rub it one more time to
get as much of that brown off other than what
is really embedding into the canvas. I want all the rest of it off. As I rub it you can
see it gets a little bit lighter. You can see how much is coming off. You can do that
over and over again to get whatever value or color you might be after. You can put a
real bright color underneath and put a grayer, or in this case browner painting over it,
but the paper towels you’ll find these little goobers, the paper starts to wear off and
they end up on your painting. You want to get rid of those. So again, that’s how much
I got off. I’m going to wipe it now with a third paper towel. You could do this with
a rag too. This time I’m going to not attack it so aggressively. It’s really nice and
dry now. I just want to get those little shreds of paper off. There we go. Then we can start.
What I’m going to do is just do a real basic drawing like I would in any figure drawing class.
You can see my drawing lectures for how-to on this stuff.
This guy has just an absolute bull neck. It’s wider than his skull almost.
So this kind of back turn twist is great.
Now, the problem with doing a muscular male like this is that there are all these
lumps and bumps. It’s real easy to get sucked
into that and start doing this kind of snowman
man where you’re getting lumps and bumps everywhere. It’s easy to think of the really
wide shoulders and the real narrow waist and making them too wide and too narrow. So what
I’m going to pay very close attention to is down around the small of the back, how
much waist is over here, and how much waist
is over here, and think of that tube as it
goes back in. He’s leaning forward as it goes back in. Feel that tube. I’m going
to make it even a little bit thicker, wider waist than it really is so that we don’t
get that overly kind of superhero look where it’s too much.
Of course, my work is known for being too much. I really overdo the muscles and the
heroic, this kind of superhero aspect of the figure in motion, but there can still be too
much even in that, so finding that balance. For you it’ll be a little different than
it might be for me. I’ll pick up a few little key lines, like this little area here is a
shoulder blade. Here is the trapezius which is the shrugging muscle, and that’s bumping
around the shoulder blade. The shoulder blade is in here. So these two little bits, this
little squirrely shape here and this little rounded mark here are going to work together
just like the nipples of the chest would work together and help us feel that volume going
back and whatever tilt there happens to be.
We want to, this construction line here is
tracking more or less on top of those. Those details.
I want them to move in that same constructed dynamic.
Now, if I come down the armpit, stomach, waist,
that gives me the leg here.
Notice when I go down the long axis everything is curved.
Curve, curve. This goes straight for a while
or we can think of it as slightly bulged. But in either case, whether I went straight
down the shin or went more fully down that tibialis anterior that’s in front of that
shin, it’s going to swing into that foot. The foot actually goes off the canvas here
on kind of a tangent, which is a big no-no in the traditions of art.
I never worry about this.
I kind of like those kind of tangent ideas. Again, this is just a sketch. So if
I was doing a formal portrait or some particular
concept that might be a real problem for what
I was trying to get at, and I might well get rid of that tangent, but for this it’s absolutely fine.
Notice as I’m building this leg I’m playing back against the back. In this case, I scooted
over. Let me wipe it away so you can see it. I scooted over that spine. You can even break
it into several straights to work out where it’s going. As I build on more information
I don’t just keep plugging away to the next thing, next thing. I go back and compare it
in relationship to what I did before. Art, as I’ve said a million times, and I’ll
say it a million more, it’s all the relationship that’s important. It’s all about relationship,
the relationship of light to dark. So this
figure has darker local color or will then,
than I do. If I was in that position. So the figure is darker than this figure of the artist,
but it’s lighter than the background. It’s relatively darker than me, relatively than
that background seamless in the studio he was shot in.
So the hip area, here’s that meaty thigh
coming out. Let me scoot that back a little
bit more. Here’s a little bit of the other leg, just barely showing so I’m going to
show a little bit more of it. That other calf
is behind with the foot over here, barely
noticeable. Then this arm here is doing all
the work really. The tabletop bench he is sitting
on and the arm are doing all the support work.
I think I did one lecture where I did a rub-out technique. I’ll do other ones. It’s a
fun technique. It was real big about 30 years ago. It was a real popular style. A lot of
commercial and fine artists used it. As I wipe away some of these little notations you
can see how I could start rubbing back and build this up to lighter half-tones or even
highlights. You can put a little bit of solvent on there and wipe it away. It’s another
possibility on how to work that idea. Many
of the artist do a bit of a rub-out as an
underpainting, working out those shapes and then come back with opaque paint right over
the top of it. There’s nothing wrong with that either.
The only thing I don’t like about the rub-out is it tends to be kind of rendering technique,
and so the people get tighter and tighter when they use it. It’s all smudging, blending.
It’s a blending idea. Blending suggests rendering. Rendering suggests realism. Realism
suggests more and more detail. That’s stuff that you want to ease into if that’s the
way your style is going to go in this. But it’s not something you want to focus on
in the beginning. What we really want is a big basic construction. Notice how I did a
little bit of a box. I’ll make it a little bit stronger. The more difficult the perspective
or the more difficult the form, the more difficult the position of the form in space, the more
difficult the character of the form—the head in this case is both of those things—the
more boxy I will tend to make the conception of it. And so I’ve got that back of the
box, side of the box. It gives me a little bit of a corner there.
of the neck here in the back of the neck are on the back of the box. So that gives me that
orientation of back to side. Notice that the eye socket—make that a little bit smaller—is
on the front of the box. It’s going behind that cheekbone. So the eyeball that sits in
there is inside that eye socket. I think of that as a little whistle notch.
That puts us behind. You can see I put the little mark for the nose there. The nose is behind that,
and that recession, that overlapping recession, cheek and brow ridge here in front of the
eye socket. Eye socket and eyeball are behind that. But then the eye socket and eyeball
are in front of the nose. So we get this series of overlaps that put us back in space and
give a sense of deep space. Greater sense of credibility.
Alright, now the overall figure here is in a middle value. And the deep shadows are fairly
soft here. So we want to, as soft as they are we’re going to want to define them.
I’m going to want to make sure as I’m beginning this that all of the lights and
all of the shadows separate, and then the background and the foreground separate. There
could be areas where that becomes ambiguous, and I’ll show you some of those. I’m thinking
about foreground against background. Light against shadow. I’m going to switch to a
little bit bigger brush just to move things along so that I’ve been dawdling here.
I’m going to come up with a brown
that is slightly greenish because that’s the color
of his skin. Now there’s a lot of different colors. I see warmer oranges. I see much deeper
blues. We’ll add some of those temperature shifts. In general, I want to really play
up temperature shifts in any particular area, so in this case the halftone of the flesh.
I want to play up a lot of the warm and cool. That’s going to make it more convincing
in terms of the rending of things when I get to the rendering of things. If I just add
white to whatever the halftone shape was to build up to my highlights. It’s not going
to be credible. People aren’t going to believe it. It’s going to look like plastic. You
know, Barbies, Ken and Barbies do that. Real people don’t, real people have suntanned
skin, skin that’s been exposed to the sun. Arms, faces, that kind of stuff.
Farmer's tan or a full body tan.
Then they have the natural local color. It might kind of pasty
pink or it might be olive, a gray olive green.
Then they have the blood underneath, the blue
blood and the red blood as it pulses underneath.
So what I’m going to try and do is fill in the silhouettes. I’m going to end up
losing some of my constructed drawing, and that’s a good argument for doing a little
drawing sketch before, or a good argument for practicing your drawing period so that
you’re good enough that you don’t have to worry about it. If you have to worry about
your drawing then the painting is going to die probably on you. It’s going to, you’re
going to be doing a paint-by-numbers trying to save that eye socket, that eyeball, that
curve of the upper lid, whatever it is. You’re going to fight so hard to hold on to that
drawn edge you’re going to be focusing on the edges
and not on the overall design of
foreground against background. Light against shadow. Notice when I say foreground, background,
light and shadow, that’s suggesting big silhouetted shapes, not linear thinking. Oftentimes
we draw in a linear style. We’re using a lot of line. We’re finding the edge of the
nose against the forehead, against the chin and all the rest of it. We focus on contour
on the edge of things, and we miss the overall
body of the thing. So this arm is in a shadow.
I’m going to let that be, I’m going to lay in my shadows a little bit later.
Now, I’m going to shift this. I’m going to
use the black as my blue, my gray-blue,
and you can see how it shifts bluer. I’m
going to let that blue head gradate into that
slightly greener body. The hips down here
start to go bluer. And from there they go
deeper, darker umber, let’s say.
Notice how I do my gradations. I’m going to zigzag.
I want this darker green to meet this middle value blue, and so I’m going to zigzag the
silhouette of one color up into the border of the other color. Notice how it destroyed
a lot of my drawing. That’s a shame. I lost a really beautiful drawing, maybe, by doing that.
But, I kept that full silhouette. I kept the big important thing. And even though
it’s not a very well drawn thing at that moment, I’ve got my value, foreground, background,
light and shadow, whatever I was working with
set up well, and then I’ll impose the accidental
proportions and contours and subtle this’s
and that’s on top of this, but it’s really
an abstract design is what I’m doing.
Alright, so we’ve got that. Notice as I work on this toned canvas I’ve got a natural
environment. It’s not the environment that’s in my picture. It’s a picture it’s a dead
back. It’s like a Caravaggio. We’ll make it a brown-black, but it does give me a sense
of environment. Now I’ve got a lighter figure on a darker ground. Not a lot darker, just
a little darker, but I get that instant gratification of an environment set-up. Notice also I’ve
lost a lot of my drawing. Where I’ve got the most remains of the drawing is where I
had an intricate shadow shape against and intricate light shape, kind of a jigsaw puzzle
meshing together. Then I’m working around that. But in these areas where I just have
kind of an edge shadow and just a little, there’s a slice of shadow of the quadriceps
meeting the hamstring area, those kinds of things get lots. So overall it looks rather
crude. What you made to do is come back and draw back in. I can use the end of my brush
and draw back in those construction lines if I need to and feel it. Or you could actually
draw over it with a darker or a lighter paint so you can come back and feel that kind of
Alright, so let’s get a little bit of the, since the background works okay even though
it’s not the background we’re going to end up with, it’s something there. It’s
got rid of the white canvas. Let’s go ahead and work on the shadows. I’m going to push
the shadows quite a bit darker than they are, and then I can always lighten them later if
I needed to, but I want them to—and that’s a little too dark. This is all quite soft.
It’s a strong light that drops off quickly. It blasts out a lot of the architecture in
the back here and down on the hip there. Then it fades off quickly. It glances and fades
off quickly. So there’s a real softness to the beginning of the shadows and the last
of the half-tone as they come together. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to keep
it nice and boxy. I want to know where the light is, where the shadow is, and if it’s
so soft as it is in some of these areas, if you’re sure, just make a choice. If it’s
not quite right, who cares? The audience probably isn’t going to notice it. Then later you
can add those soft transitions, soft gradations and create the complexity that you see up
Okay, so now I’m taking my shadow and I’m really kind of re-drawing what I lost. So
the gluteal area here, the buttocks tucking down into shadow gets pretty shape of shadow
right there and then breaks over softer than I have it, but I’ll add the softness later.
Breaks over into that hamstring, so we have the hamstring so we have the quadriceps on
top of the hamstring there.
Okay, so in my world, this is the way I always think of my paintings. This is a window into
my world. In my world, and my world is based off the impressions of what I see in the reference,
but in my world I’m going to say that every time a form turns down or turns toward the
left it’s going to get darker.
Every time it turns up and to the right it’s going to get lighter.
So, just drawing really like I had done before. You can come back in and
pick up a few of these little details that you’d had in there that were lost. Since
I have paint down already, and I used up most of the load of the paint down here putting
in the dark shadows, what’s leftover becomes subtler, which is what I wanted, because when
I look at that it is subtler.
I can always go darker later. There’s that dark lower back there.
Okay, so we’ve got that pretty well laid in, the high points, the big stuff.
Then I'm going to switch to a smaller brush for that head.
I think I need a little darker.
Here's that ear, that all-important ear. When you get into any kind of profile set-up, all the
way into three-quarter, the three-quarter front, three-quarter back, the ear becomes
one of your best friends because it’s going
to show you that boxy idea of the head in
space. As the ear gets a little closer to the top of the school we start to get underneath
it. And as it starts getting towards the front of the face we start to get behind it.
Again, just kind of re-drawing what I had or recovering
what I had now in tone and color rather in just in line. So an important distinction.
I’m going to switch now to a big brush. I don’t want to make it a dead black. It’s
just going to look out of place. It’s going to look like a black and white world with
a limited color figure in it. So I’m going to add a little bit of alizarin crimson and
transparent orange to it so it’s kind of an umber.
Laying this in you might well cut
into your figure a little too far or something and have to correct it, so we’ll do that
with the figure. We’ll go back to the paint
of the figure and use that adjust.
We have a little bit in between that arm.
So you can do as I did in some of these cut-in areas.
You can use a smaller brush to cut out the shape, separate it from the figure and then
come in with your bigger brush to bump it in there. But, if the big brush is going to
be too clumsy, switch to a smaller brush. Notice how when I lay that in the shadow of
the figure and the shadowy background all but are lost together, and that’s fine with
me. When I lose those kinds of things what’s leftover becomes more important, so that’s
great. It creates a hierarchy of maturity to your work.
Everything is not screaming for attention
like a spoiled fellow, but some things have
position of honor, and other things are pushed
in the background, like a good movie.
The scene can’t be about everybody in the room. It’s got to be about the one or two or three
key characters. Everybody else has to subsume, have to back off. They become a frame. They’re
very important. They’re the environment that allows the main story to be told, but
they can’t interrupt or compete with the main story.
Okay, I’m going to scoot this forward a little bit. Now that I’m getting paint on
there it’s getting a little shiny. By pushing that forward a little bit I’m tipping it
down this way. This is forward. This is back. So it’s going to catch a little less sheen
that way. Certainly for me. Hopefully for you if that’s a problem. I do that quite
a bit once I get into a painting I’ll tilt it. Rather than laying it back as a lot of
people do, I’ll lay it forward.
Now, if I end up doing let’s say five or
six passes on this in this first session,
laying it in, getting rid of the white canvas and then laying in the specific silhouettes
on my toned canvas, getting the color and value and shapes suggested. A little bit of
the rendering, then I leave it. Then I might come back several times afterwards. I oftentimes
do in my own work. I almost always do in my
own work. And so leaving this background I’ve
laid in, not that I’m putting it dead black,
but scrubbed in semi-opaque so you can see
through it a little bit to see the colors that were underneath.
What I can do then is
I can glaze over that several times in the
wet over dry stages and get a really beautiful,
rich, deep background color, which is what the artists did in the Brown School. In the
Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyke, Frans Hall, those guys.
I can always go darker. I’ll leave that a little
bit lighter so it’s not this deadly black environment.
Let it breathe a little bit.
Alright. So now I’ve got the figure laid in.
Now I’m going to start working it.
I can work anywhere I want. Oftentimes if I’m still getting to know the painting, and we’re
not close friends yet, we’re just acquaintances, them I’m going to work in area that I’m
most confident at. So maybe I’ll save the hands, the feet, the face, some difficult
anatomy or difficult perspective areas of the body. Save that for later when I feel
more confident of what I’m about with this painting.
So maybe I’ll start on the hip.
The hip is basically a big ball and because of its positioning here, that gluteal area
is flexing, gluteus minimus is flexing, and so we’re getting kind of a boxy disc shape to it.
It’s dropping like this, bumping out, dropping down, coming out again, dropping
down and then tucking under that shadow. We have that kind of bit going on, and then it’s
fairly flat across this area and then rolls back like a tire shape across the other, so
it’s a disc tire-type concept going on.
So I’m going to work on that hip, and I’m going to do it first by setting up the structure
of the hip with the lower back.
Remember I’m just going to work out of this same kind of
brown, but I’m going to allow the warm and cool shifts to happen.
This is relatively bluer here.
Down in here too.
It’s a little too blue. I’m going to back off it a little bit.
Okay, so notice what I did here. I’m thinking of stair steps, that white
happening there, a swelling here.
I look for each stair step idea, and then I want
to see how it fits. So this shape separates out.
It’s a chunk of dark tone, a chunk of shadow. That shadow is going to track over the form.
It is what it is because of the form it tracks over. I want to see how it moves. In other
words, I want to get this shape of color or shape of value, and then I want to find the out.
How does it flow back into the rest of it.
It flows back up here, and it flows back over here.
When I look to the seat, the stool area here,
there’s a nice gradation. It just blends up
At this point, that disc idea, that boxy idea becomes a ball, and it’s going to create
just a nice gradation. So I want this shadow that runs along here as it meets this halftone
that runs along here, where those two planes come together, where those two colors meet.
I’m just going to zigzag along that area, along that border, I should say, and blend
it up. I’m going to go along the dark border and drag it up into the lighter border. I’ll
do the same thing over here but just more subtly.
I’ll do the same thing over here,
more subtly yet. Then again, I’ve got it down here a little stronger.
Notice that when I do that zigzagging it starts to attack the constructed lines that I have in there and
the designed shapes that I have in there. So I have to be careful doing it, or I have
to come back and correct either way. Depending on the setup you’ll want to do both at different times.
Alright, so I’ve got that. So now my confidence is building a little bit. Let’s get rid
of our little construction lines here. So let’s go on down the leg, I think. We have
this beautiful kind of olive tones, greens, we’re picking it up here also. Greener,
so I’m going to go ahead and let this go a little greener.
Pushing it down a little bit darker.
I’m going to take, the highlights are a little bluer, so I’m going to put
less of my transparent orange and more of just my black and white to allow that blueness
to happen. That’s too light. I’m going to go a little bit darker here. I’m going
to build it up in a couple stages of light. I’m going to make it a little bit lighter.
Notice I’m playing off that last discus shape of the hip, the last shape that I did,
to build this new shape.
Okay, so just a step lighter.
You notice I’ve moved down axis.
I build across and then go down. I build across and then go down. That building across renders
my forms as they lump and bump their way from one architectural idea to the next.
And then they shoot on down into the next series of forms. So in drawing parlance, I’m going
across the structure, over the structure and down the gesture.
So now we’re going to take a little bit more.
maybe losing the edge. Maybe we don’t know exactly where the leg ends
and the environment begins.
And I’m making these accents just a little less strong than they should be.
I can always make them stronger later, but I want to have a little room to maneuver.
If I need more pop in here I can add it, but I want to save that bang to the end or maybe
for another area of the painting. I might want this to kind of ghost away.
So we'll let the feet go.
Alright, now what’s going down there is happening up here too, so I’m going to come
back with that same warm color and I’m going to end up maybe losing some of my information.
Again, it’s alright. Feel confident you can find it again.
So just bringing a little bit of color there.
It creates a movement. When this is paler brown this is a little
more intense ochre-yellow, and having that variation in color and/or in value, but mainly
in color, temperature, and intensity is a good thing. It makes it seem sophisticated.
Okay, so we’re going to do the same thing over here, just to a lesser degree.
I'm just going to let this be a soft edge. Fade away that area. I don’t want it to be as
interesting, for whatever reason, and so I make it less interesting, making it less distinct.
It’s got a little softer edge. It’s starting to blur, to ghost out.
Or it’s got less value pop.
So up in here
I laid in the ghost of an idea. Now I’m going to pick up this stronger idea.
This is where that trapezius, the shrugging muscle, he’s hunching up, working hard here
to hold it. The arms are doing the work to hold up that torso. So the tension is going
up this way. That stuff is binding up against
the spine and butting away from the spine.
And then where’s my out down the spine, bumps over, and then flows on down.
Picks up down there. The latissimus against the erector muscle of the spine.
Alright, so we’ve got that,
and I can go back over that several times until I get it. It also wraps around here.
It works that way. Then this comes in here and up here.
Let’s see, so I’m picking up a good shape, and then I’m finding the gradations, how
it fades away or blends back into the surrounding environment.
Okay, now watch as I’m just
going down this linear snaking motion of the trapezius on the rib cage, just drawing it.
Okay, now this stuff,
this stuff is getting indistinct as we talked about before.
That shadow of the left arm, armpit into the back. So I’m going to let this just fade now.
I found the shadow shape once. I can find it again. But I’m going to go ahead and
let this blend and see what happens.
I’m going to let this fade out, and all of that will be to be continued. I’ll pick
that up in another time, if at all, but I’m going to lose that. So that’s what I’ve
done now in doing that. I spent a long time adding things, and so now I wanted to come
back. I did come back, and it took a little bit away. So if you get into that habit of
just putting more and more and more in there. It just becomes a foot race for detail before
you run out of time. The model has to take a break. The deadline is over. Your attention
span is shot, whatever it is. Add a little bit and then take a little bit out.
What Ialso try and do is a lot of this is just picking up gradations in those shapes. I get a simple
shape. I’m going to do a gradation, and then I’ll draw back over it. So let me show
you how that works again. It’s more or less what I’ve been doing in here. I’ve got
this shape. Now I’m going to put a gradation. So his dark hair, his close-cropped hair is
very black, blue-black. We use the back of the skull, let’s say, and the top of the
skull even with the background. And then it’s
going to fade back into the flesh of the head.
I’m going to switch to a smaller brush so I can get into that.
Little bit darker than that.
I’m just testing it, just chasing after that value.
Alright. And now I’ll come back with my warmer, lighter flesh tone.
I added a little bit of red to that black,
white, and yellow just to keep it from going too green. I want I want it to be—
not quite that light.
There we go. I’ll use that to just define the hairline.
And the ear. Suggesting that cheek a little bit.
Then I’ll come back and redefine the drawing.
I'm going to pick out the ear again.
Here’s the pinches of the neck.
Am I’m just doing it fairly subtly. I’ll make it stronger as I need to. This is almost
the same value, the dark hair, and the dark background, so I’m making it the same value.
So now I’m starting to accent things a little
bit more as I get confident of where they’re at.
Finger is a great tool for rubbing that back around, picking that end.
Here it is--I'm picking up all the little pinches, just a couple of them.
Okay, three of them.
So we keep moving to our different areas here, doing a little bit and then moving on, little bit
more and moving on, all the way through. Notice we haven’t put any real light highlights
on there or even real light halftones except for in here.
So let’s now start pushing things a little bit lighter,
and then we’ll come back later and push things a little bit darker.
So we’re going to start getting our accents.
So in other words, what we’ve done is worked in the midrange, kind of working things out
in the midrange tones, and then we’ll pick things up stronger later. That’s a little
too strong. Notice that that’s down on my palette; that’s not pure white. Here’s
pure white. It’s a step down from that. But it’s way too light for this so I’m
going to come down again, and that’s a little better. It still looks very, very light, but
this is a hot studio setup and the model is
way in the heat of the skin, really shiny,
and that’s kind of the punch line for this
whole thing. Everything is fairly murky. If
you look at it here without our highlights it’s a fairly subtle painting.
It gets very dark and it gets middle value.
light. The real pop of this and the excitement and the fun of the pose, really, are these
dynamic highlights shooting down.
Okay, let me play this up a little bit more here.
I'm just going to soften these up for a second.
So what I did with that highlight—remember our little box, our disc idea, the tire idea?
Now I’ve just blasted the top plane of that tire. That value range tells us that the top
in our world when things go up, face up or face to the right, and more so up than to
the right, it gets lighter. And if they turn down or to the left they get much darker.
So that got really light, so it turned way up. That’s what our audience is picking
up on. That’s a structural idea. The highlight is turning the form by changing the value
of the form. The top plane gets lighter. The side and/or bottom planes, those other planes
get darker. But also, there’s an out. We got out of our darker done this way into the
next forms. We want to do the same thing with the highlight. We want to get out of that
highlight down in. So notice how this takes off here.
So what I’m saying is highlights are structural, and if you’ve paid attention to my other
lectures and had a chance to look at them. You’ll find that I harp constantly on the
idea that highlights are also gestural. In fact, all detail is both structural and gestural.
Now, we’re going to darken our highlights and we’re going to green them up just a
little bit since we’re going down into this more olive world. So I’m going to show you
just how that form bumps out a little stronger
to catch a highlight and how it flows into
the next form.
So notice these highlights. It’s going over the form as it turns this
way. It’s coming up catching light, going back down, just like a swelling of a fish
rolling on the surface, salmon rolling on the surface. Not only does that form come
up and descend back down, emerge and submerge, but it also flows off that form into the next
form. So we’re coming off that, and we’re flowing into this.
So notice now what was
kind of ghostly and indistinct but getting those highlights in there, it’s starting
to pop. Things are starting to pop a little bit. Those accents are making it dramatic
and dynamic. We can do the same thing with the shadows then.
I can pop those shadows,
the deepest accents.
So see how that works when I push those little bits at the end,
at the end of the process, I should say. Add a little mark.
Any of the alla prima type painters will do this. They’ll force things—not force things—they’ll
work things in the midrange, middle light, middle dark, and then at the very end they’ll
force the lightest lights and the darkest darks.
The advantage of that is that if it’s
working in this midrange you get a good sense of light and shadow, foreground, background,
those basic relationships, those basic truths that you’re interested in telling are shown
at a quiet, at a conversational tone. Then you could always come in and scream/shout
accent those little key moments in the conversation.
So I’m working most of the time in a middle
dark to middle light, and at the end I put my lightest lights and my darkest darks, and
I give it a kick. Then what was working nicely then works great. That’s the idea.
So we’re going to take this hamstring area and force it down,
and then I’m just drawing back into it, aren’t I? That’s just a drawing style.
You can see how it goes from nothing special
to more excitement, more drama, more of a
kick in the pants. Also, what it does is allow
us to prioritize. So for example, I can say,
well, this calf area, I want to show the tension of that supporting leg
coming off that knee.
There’s that calf, that stamp hitting ground, terra firma,
firm earth, solid earth. We want to show that tension,
that work, that gravity rooting us down into our environment making us part of the environment,
all that kind of stuff. You can see it becomes a visual metaphor, a visual symbol for all
that kind of thing. But then I don’t want this corner, maybe cause it’s an awkward
foot, maybe because it’s an awkward tangent, maybe cause I hate painting, maybe because
I ran out of time, maybe cause I really want you to look up in here, up in the root of
the torso, the leverage point, the fulcrum for the whole body or up in that hidden, slightly
hidden likeness of this interesting character, whatever it is. I don’t want you to be down
here, and so I’m going to take what was a subtle painting and give it a few key accents
and then that’s a highlight down there as opposed to that, and that’s a highlight
there as opposed to that. Look at the hierarchy now blasts out, and it’s not pure white.
Then less and less and less all the way down. So it fades into obscurity. It gets lost in
the crowd. It’s into the London fog.
Sherlock Holmes into the foggy night or the Ripper
or whatever. I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about there.
Notice how the strokes don’t have to, but can, and the shape design doesn’t have to
but probably should work across the form
when the forms are pinching. So in here we’ve
got the mighty shoulders, upper torso coming down, and we’ve got the hips supported from
above, and we have that waist area squished like an accordion. So the strokes are starting
to go across this way,
whereas once we get into that upper spine,
and I’m just using my old zigzag technique.
Now look at how the strokes work along the long axis until they get to
the top and fade away, dot dot.
Look at how I can impact the subtle areas or those
subtle areas with a little more kick.
And so my goal here, and I don’t achieve it all the time by any means, but it is to
make the thing ring true as quickly as possible.
That doesn’t mean be super realistic, that
means every mark is telling us something about the structure or the gesture or both. It’s
showing us how to go from the torso down towards the hips. It’s telling us how we buckle
over that pinching waist dynamic.
So everything rings true. No placeholders.
Whatever I put in there, as best I can
at the moment, and I’m constantly going back to revisit that
moment to reevaluate, but as best I can at the moment, to the limit of my talent, I’m
making it right. Whatever the mark is rings
true. This is a muscle like a fine body of
a ballet dancer that everything has been worked
over years and years of
correct placement of that body in those positions. That’s what going to make that body respond
in the performance just right. All the nuances come through because in practice if you’re
a ballet dancer, and I’m not a ballet dancer but my kids are so that makes me an expert,
I guess. You’re training every moment your body to do exactly the right first position,
fifth position, turn-out, balance, all those things are carefully built.
In the beginning they can’t do any of them.
They do a simplified version of it that is in the spirit. It’s
in the direction of where you want that final fantastic performance to be years down the
road. And so same thing here. Whatever I’m putting in here has to ring true, not just
for that detail but for the bigger environment, the big ecosystem. You know this little shoulder
girdle area with the armpit
has to ring true. It’s simplified but it’s true.
What we’re going to find then as artists,
oftentimes we will leave it simplified because as artists, as visual poets or visual philosophers
our job is not to copy the world. It’s to translate it. People want to know how to read
it, how to get along in it, how to decipher it. They don’t want to know what it is actually.
They want to know, how can they live in it? How can they fit in with it? How can they
make sense of it emotionally?
You can see the difference here. We’re slowly carving out these shapes, but we haven’t
put in any of those real pops of the highlight. And so we don’t have that drama. We may
well not want to go as dramatic on this side as that. We might want to play this down a
little bit so that this becomes less interesting. Like a good portrait painter you might make
one eye, maybe one eye drops into shadow,
the other is coming out at you, and that becomes
more important so you do more detail. You strategize a light so you have more stair
steps of form. This is more obscure, more soft edge, more soft in value, more or less
rendered, whatever it is to make it less interesting.
This I used a very brown dark to get those accents here. Here I went to the blue-gray.
I put in a lot of black and white together in there because I saw that in the reference.
Okay, that’s pinching in there and so I’m allowing for
the pinch by turning those strokes sideways this way rather than this way. When the form
stretches like one of these veins, let’s say, down the arm. Maybe I’ll make this
stroke go down the long axis. And it may even
hop, skip, and jump down that long axis. But
still, those strokes can go down the long axis that way. That’s the logical way it
goes. It certainly is not the only way to go as I just said so eloquently. Art is not
about logic. It’s about emotion so you may well not want to take it that way.
But, it’s one way to go.
Alright, let’s see where we’re at here. Let’s get a little bit more of our dark
accents in there. Then will come in and slap it down with our light accents.
Okay, so this is bothering me a little bit, this body of gray. I definitely see it in the reference.
There are some real strong local color shifts in this skin where the skin goes very blue
at times and then goes more olive at times. I want to play that up. Just to make that
gray, gray it makes it a little dead. Notice that I have a lot of stuff going on here and
in the interior of this little tone for that disc, that front plane of that disc, it’s
lighter and a little browner. On the border it’s darker and a little grayer. So I’m
going to do the same thing here. I’m going to mix a slightly browner and slightly lighter
version of that, and so it gives a body of deference. It gives a little bit of a reflected
light feeling. We have the body of that tone was a gray, almost a dead gray. Now I put
in a warmer, redder version, a warmer browner version that. That gives life to that area.
It doesn’t sit flat on the canvas. If feels like it has depth. It moves in space for us.
There again, so I came back three times on that or whatever it was. Maybe it was two
times. Three times I think. I kept pushing that darker, darker, darker until I had the
kick I wanted, so easing into that. Each time I left some of the old paint there. What I’ll
oftentimes do is I’ll say it needs to be lighter. Like that.
And I’ll go, well, that’s not light enough. It needs to be
lighter. Notice that I put the new light choice inside
the old like a donut by choice so some of that old color shows through, and then I’ll
do it again and say, no, it needs to be lighter. That builds it up. It can give it a sense
of form, actually, as your building up. But also, it gives a sense of depth. There is
a shifting of colors. The colors are vibrating around. We’re searching for that. Each color
is a little different than the last, not only in value but maybe in temperature and intensity,
probably will be. Like this last white is much grayer. The middle one is a little warmer,
and the first one is cooler.
Okay, so let’s get a few little accents on here and see what we have.
I'm going to make this a little bit more painterly than the other side just to make it different.
This highlight here is really showing this corner. Notice how I put it in there, and
then did that to it. It shows its mark, in this case showing the corner here like that.
And then there’s the out. Always give us that out. Unless it’s a donut, unless something
is absolutely trapped inside, which can happen. Like this little sky hole where we see the
environment between the torso and the arm, for example, and it can happen in other areas.
But almost always we want an out, looking for an out.
We’re going to take it up into the head here.
Okay, I’m just defining the cheek
around the sideburn area and around the ear area.
Okay, I’m going to pick up a little bit of the convolutions of the ear.
Oftentimes I’ll come in, and I’ll add these little
areas. I’ll take them out.
I’ll try a detail and then
go now it’s too much. I’ll take it out. Okay, let’s get just a gray, a dead gray to push this hair.
Okay, I’ll get back and take a look a little bit.
I’m just adjusting the shape or shapes.
And then coming back to that hair now, I’m going to bring in a little bit of my greens
again so it doesn’t feel like he’s an old man.
A lot of times these areas I’ll just kind of play back and
forth, back and forth until I find the trick, the truth of it.
There’s probably a better way to say it.
I’m going to steal a little bit of blue.
Okay, so as I do this now I’m giving you one, two, three.
One, one, two, three choices.
These little kind of hatches like that. You can pick the one that’s the best, you can
pick it better than I can. Oftentimes I’ll lay in two or three little lines. It’ll
create a soft edge, a visual soft edge.
It will give us a little bit of motion to it,
which I’m big on. A little bit of energy in there. It will give you a choice to pick
a better proportion than I might or probably would.
I’ll give you—I’ll do it again over here.
There you go. You tell me which is the better arm. Is that, that, that, that?
Probably not that, probably not that. Probably one of those two in there. You’ll pick the
better one for me. It gives a, as I said, a little bit of energy, which is not a bad
thing. Kind of a staccato. As I’ve said over and over again. I always give credit.
It’s comic books. It’s energy lines for the rocket ship taking off or the guy throwing
a punch at the villain, those kind of kinetic
lines, those after effect. The wake at sea,
the ship passes through but it leaves a wake of where it had been a moment before, that
kind of thing which is quintessential comic
book iconography mark making.
It’s really a beautiful concept, and it’s one that I stole from with great gusto when I started
doing my stuff. So chasing after something, if that mark goes along the long axis is going
to give a sense of an after effect of kind
of movement, jittery energy, that kind of thing.
them just slightly darker after I’d done the lighter, and that gives a little pop.
What it does is create, rather than making it just an amplitude wave, it rises up in
value and goes down in value. It gives it a little hitch. It bubbles up or it cuts in,
and that little cut in of dark, or that little bubble up of light makes it imperfect and
makes it seem more organic and makes it more dramatic, or in my case, melodramatic.
You’ll find in real simple, oversimplified rendering, look at this in your own work.
Unless it’s really stylized for a reason and then it can work and work well. Typically
what happens when people try and render is they just try and make perfect gradations.
They get pretty good at it after awhile. It’s too perfect. The early airbrush in the 80s,
when it was—70s was really the heyday of it; 60s, 70s, 80s, but the 70s they were going
crazy with it. Everything was airbrushed.
And it was a slick, beautiful gradation of
material of technique. So people jumped on
it because it seemed more realistic, but it
was overly simplified, most of it. And so they just do these perfect gradations of light
into dark. You wouldn’t even get a core
shadow oftentimes, and the forms would just
feel impossibly smooth and impossibly perfect when they should be imperfect.
And so computers work very hard now. They blow a lot of megapixels trying to get the
imperfections in there. It’s easy for a computer just like it was for an airbrush
to create gradations, to get perfect chrome.
But the imperfect, getting that Jurassic Park
dinosaur to have the imperfections in the
flesh, that’s hard. You want to match the
smooth dilated eyeballs, and yet they’re
not perfectly smooth. How many times do you
see animated eyeballs that look really true
because they’re too simplified, too perfect
in their gradations and their roundness of the ball, you know
in the smoothness and predictability, the highlights.
So it’s a tough thing in art to get the nuances that nature has to offer.
One of the ways you can do that is to create imperfection.
Things start out on a curve, and the curve wobbles or stiffens or whatever.
Alright, we’ll stop there.
Free to try
1. Lesson Overview36sNow playing...
1. Getting Started15m 14sNow playing...
1. Working with toned canvas15m 6sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. Sketching the figure14m 13s
3. The brown palette15m 7s
4. Working with shadows15m 19s
5. Using light and tone14m 20s
6. Finalizing your painting7m 19s