Portrait completion

portrait from life

portrait from life

Here is the more-or-less completed painting, one week later. It was done in class over a period of three hours with some breaks in between. My instructor helped me out at the final stages, bringing the colors more in harmony and expanding upon the cool range in the shadows of the flesh tones.

The colors used were a combination of mostly synthetic inorganics, with two synthetic organics (the organics occupying, as usual, the cool red part of the spectrum): cadmium yellow light, cadmium orange, cadmium scarlet, quinacridone rose, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, cerulean blue and viridian – with titanium white. No black was used, the darks were attained by mixing complements. Most of the darkest darks included some ultramarine or alizarin, as those are the deepest and most transparent colors on this palette.

This is an unusual approach for me, not only in the use of ultramarine blue for the underpainting as I mentioned last week, but also in using so many high-chroma colors for skin tones in a portrait painting. I’m used to using the Zorn palette, which is just a vermilion hue (or the real thing if want to hurt your wallet) and yellow ochre, plus black and white. The way we worked for this project was very different. I can see some benefits, including seeing temperature differences more clearly, learning to better control the more saturated colors, and having more options for brighter rendering of clothing and drapery (the model’s violet sweater and scarf would have had to be much duller using the Zorn palette). I did miss using yellow ochre quite a bit – I found the bright cadmium yellow light was the most difficult color on the palette to control.

But the chief benefit was the addition of those two blues to the palette – ultramarine for real darks and cerulean blue for wonderful cools in the reflected light and shadows of the skin tones. Cerulean blue PB35 is a stannous cobalt that came into use in the mid nineteenth century. I enjoyed using it quite a bit, as I’ve enjoyed several other synthetic inorganics from that time. Not only does cerulean blue possess a delicious color and nice opacity on its own, it also behaves itself in mixtures, not dominating as other cool blues such as Prussian blue or phthalocyanine tend to do. I think I’ve found a new permanent addition to my portrait palette – “permanent” being relative, or course. According to some professionals, cerulean blue is the pigment most in danger of being discontinued by manufacturers, for reasons I’ll go into in another post. Figures.

portrait palette cools

portrait palette cools

I also enjoyed using the viridian, another synthetic organic from the same period (as is artificial ultramarine, for that matter) – it was great for cooling off and desaturating the reds and oranges. This is another color that behaves itself in mixtures a lot better than the phthalos. It was a favorite of CĂ©zanne’s, whose work I’ve always admired, and is as bright as green as I can imagine ever needing. On the right is an image of some of the shadows using ultramarine, cerulean and viridian. I’ll be happy to get rid of the cadmium yellow light and switch back to yellow ochre – but those three cools will stay on my portrait palette, at least for now.

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One Response to “Portrait completion”

  1. The Wig and The Scarf | L. Lawrence Bispo Says:

    […] oil on canvas board, 16×12″. This one I started a loooong time ago (I believe I may have blogged about it at the time), and just recently completed it to post to Ugallery. I likes the colors in this one […]

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