10 LESSONS LEARNED
Many and many a year ago, in a kingdom by the sea, I thought about making art in terms of making lines and shapes. Here, you can tell young Elizabeth I has a nose because I drew a little line.
|Hello. They call me Princess Tiny Nose|
For example, here's David Tennant's nose. There's not a single line on it.
To drive the point home, here's a little slice of The Wife of Bath Pay special attention to her breasts.
|Nice, right? She likes them, too.|
Sadly, those breasts are not really there. It's all lights and shadows. If you take away the lights and shadows, she has no breasts.
Seriously, stop mentally giving her breasts and look at what is here. Nothing. Unvaried color = flat surface.
And that's the deal.
2. Value Scale
Because these changes in color do all the work, take the time in the beginning to make a value scale. I want to say that five more times because it's that important, but I won't. I will only say this: Don't be a lazy eyeball licker. Take the time. Make a value scale.
What am I talking about?
That's a 9-point value scale I made by mixing black and white a few months back. Think of it a little like a set of color stairs, which you climb one step at a time.
How do you make a value scale? Here's an example using the paint that dried on my thingermadoo last night. Pile 1 is my original color. I pulled 50% of that pile to the side and lightly shaded it (i.e. made it darker by adding a bit of Quinacridone Nickel Azo Gold, like pile 2 below). Then I pulled 50% of pile 2 to the side and shaded it again (i.e. added more QNAG, like pile 3 below). Then I pulled 50% of pile 3 to the side and shaded it again. I kept going until I reached the darkest shadow needed (pile 5).
Then I did again in the opposite direction (i.e. added white to make my original color lighter, like pile -1).
Once you have value scale like that, you can paint anything. A breast. A nose. A dog. Anything.
The more varieties of light and shadow in a reference photo, the more points you need in your scale. This face (and hand) in this painting, for example, required more than the six points on my thingermadoo.
If you paint with acrylics, just buy the biggest jug of glaze you can find. I add glaze to every point on my value scale. What glaze lets me do is build up to my brightest highlights and darkest shadows, one layer at a time. This makes it much easier to achieve gradation between colors.
To get that sense of gradation, I used to use water, as I did in this ATC (2.5" x 3.5") from January 2014. Notice the shading on the tooth crown. That shading doesn't successfully convey the idea of curved surfaces ending in a point. I needed some kind of minimal value scale, and for sheer control in that tiny space, I needed glaze.
How do I use glaze specifically, though? Look at this shoulder.
That shoulder began as the original flesh color. After that dried, I added two layers of the -1 pile from the picture above, each one a little smaller. Once that dried, I pulled aside a bit of the -1 pile and added some white glaze. Then I added two layers of that, again, each reducing in size. And after that dried, I added a very thin, scant layer or two of white glaze to the smallest area of all.
I have to thank my friend Sal for encouraging me to get off my arse and buy more glaze medium, which I'd run out of. I get by with a little help from my friends.
4. Reference Photos
Don't trust your brain to remember where lights and shadows fall. Your brain is an idiot on that subject, besides which, it can't possibly remember what things look like in every angle of light. Unlike your brain, reference photos have five PhDs in lights and shadows and a letter of recommendation from Einstein.
5. Seeing is Believing
At least 60% of my problems were caused by not looking at the reference photo - and I mean REALLY LOOKING at it, studying it, looking at the shapes of things, noticing where things fall in relation to other things.
You also have to study the hell out of a reference photo to see ALL the lights. While painting this, I didn't see the lights on either side of the jawline (below the ear) until I'd been working - and staring at my reference photo - for about two hours.
6. Big Jumps; Also, Avoid Them
Another 20% of my problems were caused by being lazy and not mixing a value scale. Hence #2. When I didn't mix a value scale, I tended to have big jumps in between points. It is not a good look. It is instead a "painted" look, which is to say that it looks like a painting of a thing instead of the thing itself, rendered in paint. Make the bloody value scale. (That was me yelling at myself, many times over the course of this challenge.)
A live model is even better than a reference photo, if you can get one. An object is better than a picture of an object.
8. Persistence; Also, Having It
If you're unhappy, keep painting. Don't give up. YOU are the boss of your canvas. Stay at it until it looks the way you want, even if that means panting over the arm you spent an hour and a half on that no longer looks right since you changed the design on the sweater.
Pick your canvas up and hold it out away from you every few minutes to gain some perspective. For serious coming to Jesus, hold your canvas up to a mirror. I got that tip from Sal, too. It helps you see things that you don't catch, even at arm's length.
Like this. When I held the image on the right up to the mirror, I thought I was finished. I didn't realize how much I had eaten up her neck while working on her chin and jawline earlier.
|Scrunchy, scrunchy neck|
|An hour later, her neck and his arm corrected|
10. Paint Dries Too Fast, Even with Glaze
Pee before you mix the value scale.
I'm sure there are other things that will pop into my head, so I reserve the right to add them here: