Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Whitaker Workshop #16

And here is my own painting at the end of Day 5.

The photo is not only out of focus but there's glare on the top of the head. Still, this is close to the colors and values of the original.

I know you've read the postings here, so thank you, Bill, for such a great week.

Whitaker Workshop #15

And here is the demonstration portrait of Alexandra at the end of the workshop. Although the chest, blouse and arms aren't quite complete, the face is nearly so. Notice the use of warms and cools. The white patch on the background has been painted into with a lovely blue, giving interest and liveliness.

Whitaker Workshop #14

Here is the demonstration portrait on Day 4.
You can see how Bill used a painting knife to add white to the background. In order to make lively backgrounds he often uses a black glaze or a patch of white into which he paints color. Notice that the edges are cleaner and more detail has been worked in. The patches of mosaic color are now more fused and blended.

Whitaker Workshop #13

Day 4 of the workshop. We begin as always with a continuation of Bill's demonstration painting of Alexandra.

In part because so many demonstrations seem to show how to begin but do not show how to finish, he continues this through the entire week. You can go as far as you like, he says, finding and correcting detail after detail. If you're the kind of painter who enjoys a more highly polished work, this is invaluable assistance.

Today he spent extra time on the background and also on edges. Making some edges harder and others much softer by painting background colors closer and closer helps. At this point, working on the facial details requires using smaller brushes, especially sables. With the background, he advocated using a black glaze to push it farther away then working paint back into the wet glaze to create a more lively effect.

As he did each day, Bill spoke while painting. A few things he suggested that we remember:

  • Always set up a "home position" for observing and painting.
  • Work standing. There is no better way. It is vital that you move.
  • Never stop correcting the form.
  • Use the lightest touch possible with your brush. You can layer wet into wet that way.
  • If you make a mark, you have something to correct.

Today, small details are starting to come into focus on the painting.

Whitaker Workshop #12

Here is an intermediate step in my profile portrait. Although it's not obvious, there are now spots of brighter color (alongside the nose, on the cheekbone, the back of the neck) worked into the painting. Much of the subtlety of color is lost in digital photos, unfortunately. I've also corrected the drawing in a number of places. In addition, the pose is changed by dropping the model's shoulder and therefore giving her a more erect and graceful posture. The ear remains unfinished; there is much to do on the eyes and hair.

Whitaker Workshop #11

Reviewing the posts from yesterday I see that I neglected to add photos of the works in progress. Note that the portrait continues to progress as colors are added, bringing more and more coherence to the initial mosaic. Note that the background is beginning to coalesce as well.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Whitaker Workshop #10

Day 3 began with a continuation of the demonstration painting. I found that watching these demonstrations and then painting afterward did a couple of things. First it gave me cues and clues that helped me to go further with my own work; second I had a sense of painting alongside a true master, which was a real privilege.

Today the painting became much more coherent and whole. The painting day began again with scraping of the painting to remove ridges and imperfections of strokes. Incidentally, by using Maroger medium, the paint is dry to touch by the day after. Some artists in the workshop used Graham walnut-alkyd medium, which also dries quickly. I brought along my personal stash of Studio Products two-part Maroger. Bill mixes his medium into his main colors--white, gray, flesh, asphaltum, transparent red oxide, and raw umber. I mixed mine only into the white.

During the demonstration and the painting day, he continued to repeat:
  • Use a light touch.
  • Violate your edges.
  • Go slowly.
  • Correct often.
  • Always look for ways to improve the work.
  • The only work that counts is your very very best.

And of course there were a lot of others.

In the first photo above, you can see Bill's painting as it stood at the end of today's demonstration.

Whitaker Workshop #9

My own portrait of Alexandra continued to progress, albeit more slowly. This photo was taken at the end of day 2. Although the picture is a little dark, you can see that I spend a lot of time on the lights and halftones. Note too that this is a profile, a view I've not previously attempted with any degree of success. Its a very unforgiving view because there is less ability to show depth.

Although it appears that I've painted the blouse, what paint you see is still underpainting. The colors are really more gray and less green. Again I spent a lot of time correcting the drawing.

Whitaker Workshop #8

This image should give you a good idea of the lighting and progress on the portrait. Here you can see that more color has been added to the background. You can also see the mosaic-like paint application. Adding color means putting in patches to match the value, chroma, and hue of each particular part of the subject. Later, these patches are joined by adding areas of intermediate hues and values.

Whitaker Workshop #7

This photo shows how ivory black has been glazed over the shadows. Note that the darks have been painted into with color. Bill kept the hair quite vague and indefinite through this stage, but as in every step he worked very hard to correct the drawing. He's fond of repeating "we all draw poorly--that's why we have to practice and work hard at it."

Whitaker Workshop #6

Although I made these notes last week, my Internet connection at the hotel gave out on Tuesday and I haven't been able to continue posting until now.

On day 2, the workshop began with a continuation of the demonstration painting of Alexandra. Bill usually starts each painting session by carefully scraping off any ridges in the paint. Today he started by oiling out using Maroger medium. This procedure unifies the painting surface, lubricates it, and brings up "sunken" darks. Today he glazed over the shadow area on the jawline with ivory black mixed with a touch of raw umber. He made this a transparent area of darks and then painted into the glaze and pulled some of it into the lighter surrounding areas.

During the demonstration he talked constantly, relating again some of his most repeated lessons:
  • Violate your edges
  • Paint across the form (it gives more solidity).
  • Use the lightest touch possible.
  • Set up a "home position" and stay there to observe and paint.
  • Have your brightest colors swim in a sea of gray.
  • With color, start strong; you can always weaken the chroma as you go but it's harder to punch up.
Bill added color today, spotting in areas of color and value as he saw them. You can see the effect in the next two photos above.
Working this way, he painted about two hours or so every morning and we painted the remainder of the day. Bill spent a lot of time simply watching, seeing how each participating artist went about the work, suggesting techniques, corrections, and exercises in looking at the subject.
Perhaps the most useful exercise he suggested was to spend a lot of time looking at the model but without looking at one's painting. He suggested that we simply look at the model, experience her, and not think about anything. Just look; absorb the person's appearance. Get to know the landscape of the face. In fact, he advocates that one not think too much during the painting process. Bill says that he makes 2 to 5 sketches of each of his sitters, trying very hard to get to know their features, coloring, and structure. He paints from life almost every day.
(By the way, our model is Alexandra, the daughter of Chris Saper. Chris is a fine portrait painter with whom I've worked in the past. Chris was participating in the workshop as well.)