I’ve just completed two terms of life classes and am taking the Summer off to get out in the fresh air and do some more plein air painting so a good time for a round up I think. I’ve attached a bumper pack of life class studies at the end of this post.
For most of the time since October I’ve been focussing on double life model oil painted studies. I go to the Bristol Life class run by Will Stevens, the Bristol Grammar session he runs is famous in Bristol but there’s a sister session in Ashley Down (Brunel Field) that has a bit more space for me to set up an easel. One benefit of Will’s classes is that they have enough models to allow a double pose, usually at the long pose end of the room.
When doing life painting it’s easy to fool yourself that you’ve nailed the colour mixing when you have come up with a convincing study, this is even more true in still lives or landscapes. However when I started doing the double poses I found that I’d been deluding myself, I found my flesh tones were convincing tonally but when you are confronted with two models you suddenly realise there’s a whole new world of subtlety in skin colour that I hadn’t appreciated, this is even true between two “white” models. By having the two models next to each other you’re forced into mixing a true skin colour that complements or contrasts accurately with their neighbour, or to put it another way you can see you’ve got it wrong more clearly. You can no longer get away with them being tonally close enough when working with a pair of models. Obviously none of this matters if you haven’t got the models in front of you when you are looking at the painting but I’ve always treated a life class as a learning and improving exercise and I found painting two models at once really stretched me.
I’m not way saying that these are great paintings or great compositions, in some cases I’ve got the mixes horribly wrong or made drawing errors and in others I’ve just run out of time. It takes concentration for me to get this much down in the time and the odd week that I fell back to plain old charcoal or whatever and drew a shorter pose seemed like a holiday. However as an exercise I’ve found it really challenging and rewarding and I’ll be back next Autumn to continue trying to improve and working out what to do with backgrounds!
Why don’t you take the double life art challenge too?
All of the poses are 45 or 60 minutes and painted in oil on Arches Oil paper (stocked by Bristol Fine Art), this is all on the same white paper despite appearances from my variable photos below. I’ve generally used the Zorn palette (cadmium red, yellow ochre and black which acts as a versatile blue!) and supplemented with other colours as the pose dictates.