Saturday, October 8, 2011

Value Study With a Twist

I'm moving my students from value studies to full color.
Day 1- This is my demo piece of an under painting using an open grisaille method. Grisaille is painting in monochrome and open meaning that the white of the canvas is allowed to show through the paint for the lighter areas of the painting, much like a watercolor technique. If we were painting in the whites with white paint it would be a closed grisaille.

This is a very similar effect as the rub out painting I had them do a few weeks ago. We thinned the paint, Burnt Umber, with a 60/40 mixture of  linseed oil and odorless mineral spirits and painted using an additive method rather than a subtractive method like the rub out. I like doing this type of under painting because it is a value study that you build on rather than do and discard.

I introduced color by adding one piece of fruit to each of the mug and egg still-lifes they'd been working on. Different set-ups had a green apple, a lemon or a red apple.

Day 2- I demonstrated pre-mixing color for the areas to be painted that day. Working from the background to the foreground and painting adjacent forms simultaneously I laid in the forms and simple colors of the lemon and the area around the lemon. (sorry no picture :(

Day 3- I demonstrated bringing one area of the painting to a more finished level. I started by oiling out, rubbing a mixture of medium (60/40 linseed oil and OMS) and a bit of Res N Gel over the sunk in area where I was going to be painting that day. Sinking in is when the oil is drying and the pigments on the surface look chalky or dry.
The couching layer of the oiling out helps the new layer adhere and also helps you see the colors you'd previously painted. Colors can get hard to judge as they dry and this basically brings them back to full saturation.

As I painted I emphasized keeping edges soft, especially in the reflections in the mug and cast shadows. I encouraged them to really look at the objects and challenge themselves to paint by observation.

Only by this intense observation would one notice the way the silver mug throws blue onto the side of the lemon nearest it, or how red the shadow on the under side of the lemon is.

All the students came up with great little paintings. Next up for the class is an all blue still-life and the challenge of differentiating and mixing all those different subtle colors.

It's fun to dream up ways to torture them in a good way!


  1. Thanks so much for posting these teaching posts! I am working on this method and learning alot (mostly by making mistakes and realising what not to do next time ;) I need to tape your quote about lingering in the uncomfortable zone on my easel :)

  2. Thank yo Tracy, it's fun and helps to clarify in my mind what I"m trying to say to my students. Thanks for reading and commenting!



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