Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Outdoor Light and Skin Tones

This post is way overdue, but I thought I would share it anyway. Since we currently have over ten inches of snow on the ground, it seems like an appropriate time to finish this blog post, which I started writing almost two months ago.

We were gifted with a gorgeous summer and fall. As a result, many of my recent paintings feature the figure outdoors. In general, this is a subject I'd like to paint MUCH more of now that I live in Colorado (I foresee more mountains and waterfalls in future works!).

I've found that my palette has had to evolve as I move away from artificial studio light to sunlight. This is especially true of subjects that are outdoors on a cloudy or slightly overcast day. The biggest change was moving from a generally warm palette to a much cooler one, even in the fall paintings that have lots of yellow and orange. Skin tones, when in shadow or facing away from the sun, are very cool in relation to the warmth of areas directly lit by the sun.

"Among the Hydrangeas" - 36x24" - oil on linen

I used more thalo green for "Among the Hydrangeas" than probably in all my other paintings combined! Not only was it a big painting with a lot of surface to cover, but the majority of it was overwhelmingly green! I had so much fun finding the subtle shifts and nuances within that color range. The overall look, with the areas in light on the coolor side, and areas in shadow much warmer, ends up being quite harmonious. I also broke some of my own "rules" and introduced the thalo into some of the skin tones, especially where the figure disappears into the flowers.

"Autumn Princess" - 8.625"x12" - oil on copper

For "Autumn Princess," the light areas in the skin were painted with white, alizarin crimson, and radiant green, toned down in places with transparent oxide brown. The cooler areas had some viridian and a touch of radiant turquoise. The warm areas, such as below the eyebrows and the rosy cheeks, had some cadmium scarlet and transparent oxide red. I found that I used hints of permanent rose in both the skin tones and hair to support all the bright reds and pinks in the flowers on her head. There is also a lot of radiant turquoise and viridian in the hair.

"Backyard Safari" - 18x14" - oil on linen panel
"Backyard Safari" gave me opportunity to return to my familiar warm palette, but Cece's hair was overwhelmingly cool, with a mix of ultramarine blue and transparent oxide brown, among other colors for texture and highlight.

"Simon" - 24x20" - oil on linen panel

"Simon" has a lot of cools in his skin and hair. By making everything harmoniously cool, the little punches of red in his ears, cheeks, and toes bring his skin to life.

The picture above is an example of what my palette looks like when I'm working with cool skin tones. Of course, color temperature is all relative. If you put a blue next to a red, the red will look much hotter than if red is next to orange or yellow. I so enjoy working with color - the possibilities are endless! 


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