Thursday, October 26, 2017

At the Feet of the Gods or An Exercise in Colour Restraint

At the Feet of the Gods
Acrylic on 10 x 10 inch gallery wrapped canvas
From my own photograph

This time around I set myselves a challenge to paint a scene from one of my old photographs. The challenge was to paint it with an almost monochrome palette yet keep the values consistent with very bright sunlight. In addition I wanted to work on weaning myself off my bent of too much detailing.

To that end I chose a smallish gallery wrapped canvas and a reference photo I'd taken years ago, in Nashville at a book fair. I wanted the indistinct background figures to stay in a high key (very light colours) while keeping the values in a wide enough range to denote sunlight.

I really liked the seated figure, but I changed things a bit so's he looked like he had just looked up from his book and noticed I was snapping a photo. I wanted him against the dark marble pedestal for the contrast with his white T-shirt. I wanted to keep the relative values correct for the maximum sunlit effect. You can see my very old value chart on top of the reference photo. I used this time and again to check values.....I've learned that I very often miss the mark on which value is which.

You can make your own value chart by mixing together black and white paint and splitting the difference between total black and total white in half.....then again in half....and so on until you have anywhere from 5 to 10 steps between the two extremes.

I finished off the painting with, what was for me , a restrained palette....keeping any intense colours on the main character and keeping most everything else in the warm or cool gray range.

Next time around I just may go wild......and head off in the other direction.... of colour, color everywhere!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Dorothy Dix Project Finish

Portrait of Dorothy Dix (detail)
Mixed Media (Colored pencils both Prisma & Polys and acrylic paints with text on paper glued to the surface) on black illustration board
Portraits painted from Dorothy Dix photos used with kind permission, of Austin Peay State University’s Felix G. Woodward Library, Archives and Special Collections.

This week I'm talking a bit about the finish of my portrait of “turn of the last century” advice columnist Dorothy Dix. She was sort of a “early day Dear Abby”, who hailed from Todd County, Kentucky. This portrait along with four of my other historical illustrations, were featured in Historic Todd County's recently published book: T is for Todd County. You can see more about this book project and where you can purchase a copy at:

After doing her early portrait in coloured pencils, as I blogged about here:
I moved onto her elder self, in her 80s. This was also done in coloured pencils. I wanted this version of her to reflect her almost ethereal grandmotherly self. She was often referred to as the “Confident of the Nation” as readers would send letters confiding their problems, seeking her advice. Finally I painted in acrylic paints in the center, Ms. Dix in her heyday in her mid 50s.
Here you can see I'm closing in on the finish:

After I'd gotten the three portraits to suit me, I gave the overall painting a good review. I had wanted from the beginning to emphasize the central portrait, of Ms. Dix in her prime career years. I had emphasized that by making her skin in full colour, working from the old black and white photo,(as were all three source photos). Painting the acrylics on the surface of the black illustration board made the center image “POP!”. I also painted the most detail, and upped the value contrasts of the center portrait.
The other two portraits (in her 30s and her 80s) were in coloured pencils. This made them recede a bit since the coverage of the coloured pencils can't compete visually quite as much as the opaque paints. I still wanted to emphasize this a bit more. So I went back in with my handy dandy eraser and rubbed out some of the more intense colours and lights, making those two portraits fade just a bit more.

And here is the final version of the project:

I've had a blast working on this portrait, and I've really enjoyed getting to “meet” Dorothy Dix!
I wanted to also say a heartfelt thanks to the kind folks at Historic Todd County for jurying my historical illustrations into this lovely book project.