Friday, May 3, 2013

All About Blonde


"Self Portrait in Profile" (painted from life using two mirrors)
8 x 8" - oil on linen panel

It has taken me a long time to figure out the nature of hair, particularly, blonde hair. I paint self portraits regularly in an attempt to experiment and learn more about it. Here are some things I've learned so far:
(image source: beautyeditor.ca)

  • Hair is transparent, so individual strands do not cast shadows, but locks (masses) of hair do.
  • Blonde hair is usually very fine and must be painted delicately.
  • There is usually a lot more green in blonde than yellow (unless the model looks like Lady Gaga here! This is no!).
  • The shadows in blonde hair are much darker than you think they are. Get the values right and you'll still be able to create the illusion of "blonde", even if it's very dark.
  • The fine hairs at the top of the forehead, framing the face (where the hair meets the scalp), are quite often the same value as the skin itself. Paint them SOFTLY.
  • Hair responds to light the same way other forms do - everything must be painted in relationship to the light source! That means both value and color temperature are influenced by the surrounding environment!
  • Paint colors you will always find on my palette for blonde hair include: titanium white, lemon yellow, yellow ochre pale, transparent oxide red and brown, ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson, ivory black (never straight from the tube, but used as a cool to mix with other colors), and my absolute go-to: viridian green. 

Here is a very short video clip one of my students took while I was doing a portrait demo, during which I discuss blonde hair and blue eyes. Forgive the messy studio and rough footage! I actually have more video of this demo - just need to edit it down. :-) I'll also share a picture of the finished painting in my next blog post, as I continue my discussion of blonde. Remember, blondes are only "dumb" if they are painted badly! 




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