Art & Design Magazine

The Many Nameless Colours

By Ingrid Christensen

The Many Nameless Colours

18 x 14

This portrait came out of a recent 3 hour session with a model in my studio.  Jenny has gorgeous, English rose skin: creamy, and lightly peach tinted, and she wore a palette of neutrals that harmonized with it.
To avoid overwhelming all of the delicate tints of the arrangement, I put her in front of my favorite drapery, a cool, blue/green/grey, slightly shiny material that seems to hold every color of cool end of the spectrum depending on the lighting conditions and the surrounding colours.  It's mid toned, like everything that Jenny was wearing.
This could have been a frustrating set up with nothing of substance to hang on to: no easy-to-name colours, no big values, none of the stuff that helps you get a handle on a subject, but it wasn't.  I totally enjoyed it.
After laying in a basic drawing and the dark of the hair, I nailed the part that seemed to me to be the key to the whole piece: the little area of light-struck skin on the right, next to the same-valued but cooler, light shirt.  If I could get the temperatures and hues right in that spot, I could relate every other piece of paint to them.  The paint had to be thick and opaque to read with the proper luminosity.
Once that area seemed right, all I had to do was compare each other color and value to it.  I continually asked myself "is it warmer or cooler, lighter or darker, than that piece of paint?"  That helped me to make all of the non-colours that make up this painting.
It was such a stimulating exercise that I asked Jenny back and in the same outfit for a larger piece. Today was the start and I'll let you know how it all turns out.
Happy painting!

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