Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Alla Prima Portrait - Ten Thousand Hours

I've been practicing for the Face-Off event that is happening at Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA on August 16, 2013, from 6-9 pm.

It will be a live painting demo at the gallery in which I'll be painting the same model as Mia Bergeron, Cindy Procious and Rachel Constantine. We did it last year and it was super fun! DC area artist Suzanne Lago Arthur did a great post about the event last year on her blog.
Photo by Suzanne Arthur Lago from last year's event.
Nothing like the prospect of painting with a bunch of super talented artists in front of a live audience to inspire one to practice!

In an attempt to sharpen up my alla prima (all in one sitting) oil sketching skills, here's what I've been up and what I've been figuring out.
Dan, 20x16, oil on canvas
More about the set up, the painting process and other sketches below the break.

My husband in the man cave, generously sitting still for a little over 3 hours.
A couple things about the set up I figured out:
~Painting a model playing video games is difficult. Too much head and eye movement. Letting them watch TV is a bit better. 
~If the model is sitting low like this I couldn't stand up, otherwise I'd be looking down on the model and get a weird perspective. Sitting down doesn't work that well for me. I need to be able to quickly step back and see the model and the painting in one glance. 
 ~Turn my phone off!

A couple things about the painting process I figured out:
~I decided I was blending too much. Alla prima should be more about bravura brush work. 
~I decide to use no medium next time. If the painting gets too wet, the paint kind of slides off rather than stick.
~I'm going to use titanium white rather than the new lead white I've been using lately since the titanium is more opaque.  
~I decided to go back to a toned canvas. This white one was an experiment and I think it's just too much to cover quickly and looks too unfinished.

Carly, 20x16, oil on canvas
I was much happier with this painting of my daughter.
What worked:
~I pre-mixed color strings of cool and warm flesh tones, light and dark flesh tones. Here's post where I showed mixing my flesh palette.
~I focused on putting a brushstroke down and leaving it.  I applied the brushstrokes in the direction across the form.
~I used drier paint, especially for the under painting and laying in the shadows.
~We moved the session upstairs where I had better light, and put the model on a tall bar stool so that I could stand and move back.
~Oh, and I turned my phone off.

What needs work:
~She actually came out smaller than life size and I'll try for life size next time. So much to think about!
~I think I have a tendency to get the upper lip too dark and too sharp, so next time I'll look for more reflected light and try for a softer edge.
~This took a little over 3 hours with model breaks and I'd like to get it under 2 1/2.

Jonathan, 14x11, oil on canvas
One last one for now. I went to our local life drawing group and did this quick, one hour face study. Argh, I never got to the ear!

More in-progress shots next time! (Updated-See alla prima practice post #2, post #3)


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