Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Figurative Painting, Ballet, and... Photoshop

Thanks to a client who is interested in ballet, I have several new paintings of classical ballerinas in the works! This is especially exciting for me, since I have been wanting to expand my figurative portfolio and study the human form more carefully. Recently, I was humbled when another artist pointed out that one of my pieces had some anatomical errors. I realized that the human figure is truly the most challenging, yet exciting, thing to paint, and that I need to study it diligently in order to avoid such errors in future paintings. If I am going to do it justice, I must know how each body part moves, connects, and relates to the rest of the whole.

I began some "research" a couple of weeks ago when my sister and I went to see a ballet, and I realized I hadn't been to one since college. Back then, I don't think I had the appreciation for the human body that I have now. It is incredible how many ways the body can twist and turn and move in space, and it is also incredible to see what kinds of things the body is actually capable of! I was blown away by the grace and beauty these dancers were able to convey while doing moves that required a great deal of physical strength, agility, flexibility, and endurance.

Then, by a wonderful twist of fate, my weekly painting group lined up the perfect model to pose in a formal tutu and pointe shoes! She held a tough standing pose for us, and I was able to begin two paintings from it, both of which have great promise. The first is a full-length, 3/4-view composition, and the second is from the back and closer-up, detailing the model's beautiful shoulders and arms. The first painting is still in the works, but I just finished the second one, which you see below:

"Ballerina with Venetian Mask" - 18x12 - oil on linen
I should probably mention something about the mask... she wasn't originally holding anything when I began this painting from life. When I took the painting home after the session, I was pretty happy with it, but I felt like it needed something more. So I dug through a bunch of my photos from Europe, and happened to find this:

As you can see, I circled the mask I ended up using in the painting. It took a couple of tries in Photoshop to find one that would be perfect as far as lighting and positioning of the "face." Which reminds me... I am still working on an instructional book on Photoshop for visual artists. I can teach you this technique. Photoshop really comes in handy for situations just like this! I got the best of both worlds: a quality experience with a live model (gaining more accurate values, colors, anatomy and excitement about the pose), AND a chance to add some aesthetic changes, thanks to my enormous catalog of photo references and some help from Photoshop.

In my next post, I will blog about painting from life, and why it's so important for preventing the kinds of mistakes I made in my [aforementioned] piece. :-) 



  1. Your paintings are truly tremendous. Thanks for sharing nice post for ballet lovers.

  2. Thank you! Glad you enjoyed... much more on that theme to come! :-)

  3. this is such a fantastic article about Figurative Painting, Ballet, and Photoshop. so much appreciate to visit this blog.

    Rachel Withers Ballet Instructor in UK | Certified ballet instructors in UK


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