Double Art – End of term life class report

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.

 













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Last paintings from the #lifeclass for this term #painting #zorn

Quite pleased with the tonal and temperature contrasts in the skin tones.

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I tried to capture the reflection on the shiny gymnasium floor in the final one.

Both on Arches oil paper in 45 minutes using the zorn palette (red, yell ochre, red and BLACK).

There are still spaces on the Bristol Drawing School Anatomy Course at the RWA which starts on Thurs 3rd April. See you there, for flayed body fun.

What have Bristol Drawing Club, Adebanji Alade, Zorn, me and Kate Middleton got in common? #painting #portrait #palette #kate

I was lucky enough to get to see the ROI exhibition in the Mall Galleries last month, the painting that stood out for me was a painting of a homeless person by Adebanji Alade. The most remarkable thing about the portrait was that it used the Zorn palette only Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre, White and Black!
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http://adebanjialade.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-face-of-homelessness-earls-court.html

The link shows a demo of him making the painting. I was impressed by the range of colours from such a limited palette.
 
This palette is name after the Swedish artist Zorn who specialised in paintings of Scandinavian ladies on the way to have a bit of a goosepimply wash in a fjord, brrr.

 

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This spurred me on to have a go and find a subject to try out the Zorn palette on. I’m a big fan of Bristol Drawing Club (http://bristoldrawingclub.blogspot.co.uk) where pub and sketching people meet seamlessly. What’s not to like? At one of these get togethers I sat opposite Jim for 60 seconds, sketching each other before we shuffled along to the next person, a bit like speed dating with pencils.
I ended up with this sketch, thank you Jim!

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 I thought I’d captured Jim as far as I could tell from our 60 second meeting, so I thought it was a good candidate to work up into a little painting.

 
First thing I did was to see what range of colours I could get out of this palette so started mixing. This is what I got…
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I thought that was plenty of colours and set about painting using the sketch and some imagination to fill in the blanks in the sketch. I wanted to keep the colours separate and patchy and after an hour or two ended up with this…

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OK, not a BP portrait award winner but a useful lesson For me on how useful and harmonised a limited palette can be and also a good reason to ignore anyone that is dogmatic about not using black in paintings, black and yellow ochre gave some beautiful olive greens.
 
Encouraged by this I had another crack, this time with a model called Ella who was darker skinned, I think the palette worked here too. Thanks Ella. It’s also pleasingly different to the Jim one.
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When I was looking into limited palettes and in particular using black I stumbled across this article. http://willkempartschool.com/the-3-myths-of-black-in-mixing-paint-colours/  I was staggered to find a painter I was familiar with that painted large portraits using only Mars Violet (a dull red with a purple twinge), Blue-black and a bit of white.
 
 Here’s one of his works…

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Pretty amazing for such a limited palette eh? It shows that accurate tone trumps hue every time. I must have a go with this palette next time out.

 
The artist is Paul Elmsley, he’s considerably better known today than he was when I first thought about writing this a few days ago, now what else is he famous for?
 
Oh yes…

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I think he admitted himself that he was more cautious than he would have been with any other commission. Understandable I think and a pity if his career suffers. Thought this was a bit harsh ….

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