OCAD Studio: Alla Prima Portrait – Details and Highlights

This project is based on the ‘alla prima’ method which means that the painting is completed all at once. The project is divided into three sections for the sake of clarity but I recommend watching them all and reading through the material before trying your hand at it. This way, you will be able to get everything done in a single sitting, as intended.

Subject

  • You can work from life – either a sitter or yourself in a mirror
  • Or from a photo reference

Materials

  • Small white canvas or panel (up to 8×10 inches)
  • Palette
  • Oil Paint
    • Titanium White
    • Cadmium Red
    • Cadmium Yellow
    • Burnt Umber
    • Yellow Ochre
    • Ivory Black
  • Easel
  • Palette cup/container for mineral spirits
  • Mineral spirits
  • Brushes
    • Some round, some flat
    • From about 4mm wide to 20mm wide
  • Kitchen towel or rag for cleaning brushes and wiping back

Process

Refining the Smaller Forms

Now that everything is roughly in place you can begin refining the smaller forms. Feel free to work within the both the shadows and lights – try to look for the biggest differences between your painting and the subject and refine these areas first.

Look at the particular forms that make up the nose, eyes and mouth as this is where a likeness will emerge.

Think about the bone structure as well – the jaw, forehead and cheeks will usually give a suggestion of the form of the skull below.

The eyes are essentially a sphere hidden beneath the lids so make sure that the shape of the eyelids and rendering of the eye itself reflects this. It is a common mistake to make the eyes too flat. Look for reflections in the iris as this will give life to the eyes and the whole portrait as a consequence.

 

Adding Clothing and Refining the Hair

Until this point the clothing and hair will have just been roughed in, so now is the time to give them some character. Don’t refine these sections too much as you want the point of focus to be the face – so this should be the most detailed portion of the painting.

Avoid painting the hair with lots of thin strands as this both impractical and unrealistic. Just use a larger brush and look for masses of light and dark that suggest the shape of the hair. Make sure your brushstrokes follow the direction of the hair. You can add few thinner errant strands at the edges to make it feel sufficiently fuzzy.

 

Adding Highlights

Highlights are the final details you will add; they enhance the different textures and make sure your painting feels life like. You can add them with a smaller brush dipped in pure white, avoid mixing the highlights with the general colours as they should be discrete from the other forms.

Highlights can occur anywhere but these are the main parts of the portrait you will usually find them:

  • If the eyes are catching the light they will always have a sharp white highlight. The highlights will be in a different place depending on the direction of light so just observe your subject carefully to find them.
  • The top of the lower lid will sometimes have moisture from the tear ducts so it can have a highlight too.
  • The nose is usually a bit oilier than the rest of the face, so it will have a subtle highlight on the tip and sometimes the bridge.
  • If the lips are even slightly wet they will have some small highlights (more often the lower lip than the top).
  • Makeup can sometimes add highlights.

Task 15: Painting your Landscape

TASK: Learn from a Landscape artist and trial new techniques;

1) Look at the work of a landscape artist: write about the artist and evaluate their work and then compare it to your own.

2) Paint your landscape

 

There are many artists to look at to gain inspiration from. Start easy and just experiment. Remember from our previous discussion that in addition to maybe wanting to represent or replicate a place of beauty, some artists opt to create these artworks to explore light, colour and texture. You may use the scene as a way to tell a story, illustrate an idea or conceptualise a metaphor.

Your chosen artist doesn’t have to be well-known or famous at all – any artist you choose will give you things to learn and draw inspiration from.

A quick list t start:

J. W. M. Turner

Claude Monet

Paul Cezanne

Vincent Van Gogh

Scott Naismith

Clair Bremner

Erin Hanson

Yukari Kaihori

Adem Pota

Stevnn Hall

You will have a photo from the previous task, so jump straight in and apply different techniques you have learned up to now. Think about composition and where your focal points are. Think about colours and do some colour scales and colour schemes to get you thinking about your range of tones (this will also stem from the artist you choose and maybe you are going abstract or impressionist with your style?).

Our previous lessons can help with any genre of art you wish to study; keep building on your experience of applying this knowledge to your work.

Think about perspective and use your observation skills to sketch in the key features to guide you when you start applying the paint.  Using a 3B pencil sketch out the image to work from. Don’t worry if it isn’t completely accurate; it is just a guide to get you started.

Oil and Acrylics…

You may wish to apply a coloured ground first. In doing this, it will help to give you a unified tone to work onto and give you a nice under glow of colour for your painting. Trial a yellow ochre ground just to see what happens to your colour and final effect. It is also more inspiring and helpful to paint on a different colour to white, I find 🙂

To begin applying the paint, I would use colours to show where the darkest and lightest areas are first. I’d avoid black but again it depends on the style and the picture you have in front of you. Maybe Burnt Umber & Titanium White establish the extremities of your picture. You can squint your eyes at the image to help to distinguish each area rather than getting hung up on the details.

Keep your water clean and have kitchen roll to hand to wipe off your brushes…it’s always better to have more water and change it regularly, than to use the same pot. If it gets mucky, then think where all that dirt in your water will go when using your colours! When you are mixing you want to get a nice clean colour. Even if you are using brown, it’s still worth it to keep your water clean, it’s good professional working habits.

You may wish to use watercolours or another media too. The idea is to keep building on your art experiences and experiment with unknown mediums at this stage. It doesn’t matter if it does not work first time.

Post your efforts and get some feedback to learn from the areas that need improving. 🙂

 

Join our Facebook Group for LIVE lessons and friendly art community – see you there 🙂

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART

 

 

OCAD Studio: Alla Prima Portrait – Halftones

 

This project is based on the ‘alla prima’ method which means that the painting is completed all at once. The project is divided into three sections for the sake of clarity but I recommend watching them all and reading through the material before trying your hand at it. This way, you will be able to get everything done in a single sitting, as intended.

Subject

  • You can work from life – either a sitter or yourself in a mirror
  • Or from a photo reference

Materials

  • Small white canvas or panel (up to 8×10 inches)
  • Palette
  • Oil Paint
    • Titanium White
    • Cadmium Red
    • Cadmium Yellow
    • Burnt Umber
    • Yellow Ochre
    • Ivory Black
  • Easel
  • Palette cup/container for mineral spirits
  • Mineral spirits
  • Brushes
    • Some round, some flat
    • From about 4mm wide to 20mm wide
  • Kitchen towel or rag for cleaning brushes and wiping back

Process

Adding the Halftones

Once the shadows are defined, you can begin adding the darkest halftones, these will almost always be next to the shadows. I recommend mixing the darkest halftones out of burnt umber, black and yellow ochre so they are sufficiently low chroma Use the biggest brush you can – as the bigger the brush, the more fresh and confident your painting will feel. We are going to go in and refine the details later so don’t worry if things remain quite broad and general during this stage.

Progressively add lighter colours to define the forms, usually the lighter colours are also higher chroma – so try to use more cadmium red and yellow mixed with white as your halftones get lighter. Feel free to blend where necessary but try to make sure things don’t get too muddy, you will add more complex blendings and shifts later.

Finish with the lightest lights, you might find it difficult to reach a bright white if the canvas is covered in paint but that’s ok, you can enhance the lightest sections when adding more detail in later stages.

 

Making General Corrections

Once the whole piece is covered in paint you can see whether all the colours and values relate to one another correctly. If necessary make changes by painting wet into wet. Try to avoid building up too much paint in the darker portions of the painting as it’s best to keep the impastoed paint within the lighter sections.

As a general rule, faces have slightly different hues in different sections. The top of the head (above the eyes) will be less red than the nose and cheeks. In men, the lower portion of the face (if it isn’t bearded) will be slightly bluer than the rest of the face. This isn’t generally the case with women and children. Look closely at your subject and try to find these sorts of hue shifts as they will add character to your painting.

 

OCAD Studio: Alla Prima Portrait – Shadows

 

This project is based on the ‘alla prima’ method which means that the painting is completed all at once. The project is divided into two sections for the sake of clarity but I recommend watching them both and reading through the material before trying your hand at it. This way, you will be able to get everything done in a single sitting, as intended.

 

Subject

  • You can work from life – either a sitter or yourself in a mirror
  • Or from a photo reference

 

Materials

  • Small white canvas or panel (up to 8×10 inches)
  • Palette
  • Oil Paint
    • Titanium White
    • Cadmium Red
    • Cadmium Yellow
    • Burnt Umber
    • Yellow Ochre
    • Ivory Black
  • Easel
  • Palette cup/container for mineral spirits
  • Mineral spirits
  • Brushes
    • Some round, some flat
    • From about 4mm wide to 20mm wide
  • Kitchen towel or rag for cleaning brushes and wiping back

 

Process

 

Overall Wash

Begin by thinly washing yellow ochre over the whole canvas, either with a brush or by squeezing a bit of yellow ochre onto the surface of the canvas/panel and spreading it with a rag or piece of kitchen towel dipped in mineral spirits.

 

Line Drawing

Use a small stiff brush to loosely sketch in the main shadow shapes with Burnt Umber thinned with mineral spirits. You can use the brush like a pencil or piece of charcoal but try to make sure that you hold it near the base so that your strokes are loose and general – avoid adding too much detail! Keep your lines and shapes straight and blocky for the time being, you’re just trying to capture the general proportions and not all the fine details.

Try to rely more on your eye rather than taking measurements with a tool but if you need to check something that seems wrong you can use a spare brush to check that the proportions in your painting match the reference.

If you need to make any corrections, dip a clean brush into your pot of mineral spirits and use it to wipe away the mistake. If there any marks remain (or too much mineral spirits) you can use a clean piece of kitchen towel or rag to wipe away the excess.

 

Adding Mass

Once you’re happy with the accuracy of the line drawing, use your biggest brush to fill in all the shadow shapes with slightly thinned Burnt Umber. Use as few brushstrokes as possible – this will make the painting feel fresh and confident. Don’t be too sparing with the amount of paint on your brush, if you use too little the brushstrokes will seem thin and scratchy.

 

Adding the Darkest Darks

Begin by painting the darkest darks (usually pure black) into the shadows. Thin the paint slightly but make sure it’s opaque enough to reach the right value. These darkest areas will usually occur in the creases or places where direct and reflected right can’t reach, parts of the nose and ear often have dark accents. Dark hair will also have areas which are pure black.

Now you can add progressively lighter colours to the shadows. Look for areas with the most reflected light as these sections will be the lightest and highest chroma sections in the shadows. Mix colours as accurately as possible but don’t worry too much as you will only be able to judge them completely once everything is roughed in.

 

OCAD Studio: Introduction to Paint

All paints are made with two basic components; a binder and a pigment.

A binder is an adhesive liquid that distinguishes one type of paint from another. A binder can be spread by brushing, spraying, knifing or any other means. When left, it will dry to a more or less continuous layer.

Pigments are coloured powders mixed into the binder to give it a specific colour.

A paint is made by mixing a quantity of pigment into a binder. When the paint is applied to a surface and left to dry, the pigment is locked into the binder, leaving a coloured mark. This is the most basic definition of how paint and painting works. There are infinite variations of paint application, layering, production etc. to be discovered from this simple starting point.

Binders

In addition to simply adhering the pigment to the surface of a painting, it is also possible for binders to perform other functions:

  1. If a binder is strong enough, it is possible to work it up to fairly substantial thickness. This is evident in oil and acrylic paint compared with watercolours or tempera. However, most binders perform better when applied in relatively thin films.
  1. Binders also have a visual effect on the pigment suspended within them. If you look at dry pigment compared to pigment in a binder you will notice that there is an intensification in the colour when the pigment made into a paint.
  1. The amount the colour intensifies depends on what binder it is suspended within. So Ultramarine oil paint looks more intense than Ultramarine watercolour paint. This is due to the relative transparency the binder. The more light that travels through the paint and reflects back, the less intense it will be. Oil is much less transparent than watercolour so it is a lot more intense.

Take a look at the image below to see the difference in colour intensity between dry Ultramarine pigment and Ultramarine oil paint.

DryPigmentandPaint.jpg

These are the ideal requirements for any binder:

  1. Binders should not change colour as they age, as this will affect the colour of the pigments in them. Unfortunately, oil paints yellow and darken over age – if you take a look at the older paintings in a gallery, they are always noticeably darker than newer ones.
  1. Binders should not affect the colour of the pigment directly. This doesn’t happen often, but some acrylic binders will cause certain pigments to bleach (become lighter).
  1. Binders should stay structurally sound as they age, and resist cracking, peeling and flaking. The way that paint is applied combined with the conditions the painting is kept will also have a great impact on cracking and peeling over time.
  1. Once a binder is dried, it shouldn’t be easily dissolved by solvents. Watercolours and are particularly susceptible to damage if water is spilt or poured on them.

Types of Binders

Drying Oils

  • Cold-Pressed Linseed Oil
  • Steam-Pressed Linseed Oil
  • Safflower Oil
  • Walnut Oil

Waxes (Encaustic)

Gum Arabic (Watercolour)

Emulsion (Egg Tempera)

Synthetic Resins

  • Acrylic
  • Alkyd

 

Pigments

Pigments are small particles of coloured material. The earliest types of pigments used in prehistoric times were found in the earth – minerals that had specific colours. Early artists also used charred wood and bones to make blacks.

From that point onwards, more complex pigments were produced from metal ores and chalk. The next development was to introduce vegetable and animal materials to expand the range of potential colours further.

In 1704 the first man made pigment, Prussian Blue, was produced, followed by numerous other man made colours. These became indispensable to modern and contemporary artists. Making much brighter colours affordable for use in artworks.

We usually group pigments into two categories; organic and inorganic:

Inorganic

  • Earth colours, or natural mineral colours
  • Processed natural mineral colours
  • Synthetic mineral colours

Organic

  • Animal-derived organics
  • Vegetable-derived organics
  • Synthetic organics

When using any pigment, it is important to be aware of its properties. Most binders are fairly consistent in texture regardless of pigment (such as acrylic and watercolour) but oil interacts with each pigment in a specific way

As a result, all genuine artist quality oil paints have unique qualities.

That is why It is important to avoid cheaper artist paints (particularly oils) as they are full of additives that make the paints more consistent with one another. This sounds good but in fact the addition of extra chemical often leads to incorrect mixing and problems with ageing. I would always recommend that you buy the highest quality oil paints you can afford straight away. It is better to limit the range of colours you use rather than buy lots of cheap alternative colours.

Pigment Properties That Apply to Oil

The following properties apply more to oil paints than other binders.

Absorption

Different pigments require a different ratio of oil to powder to form a consistent paint. You will notice that some colours, such as Alizarin Crimson come out a tube in a very oily consistency whereas something like Viridian Green tends to be very dry. Cheaper manufacturers also tend to add an excessive amount of oil to their paints to cut down costs (as making a paint with a higher quantity of pigment is more expensive).

Drying Rate

Certain pigments have a chemical effect on oil, causing it to dry much faster. Anything with Cobalt for instance, speeds up the drying time of the paint film. Whereas Titanium slows down drying time (so Titanium White dries very slowly).

Pigment Properties that Apply to all Binders

Tinting Strength

You will notice when painting in any medium, that certain colours are much more intense  (saturated) than others. For instance, if you mix Cadmium Red with Yellow Ochre, are large amount of yellow will be transformed by a tiny amount of red. Whereas a tiny amount of yellow mixed into red will have barely any effect at all.

This is called tinting strength, and it’s very important that you are aware of the tinting strength of all the colours you use, either by experimenting with them or researching them online (or in a book). Otherwise there is a risk that you will ruin a large amount of paint by mixing it incorrectly, which will make your painting harder to complete and leave a big hole in your wallet.

Lightfastness

Another property of all paints is lightfastness, which is the measure of how much a pigment will fade over time when exposed to light. For the sake of future generations admiring your work, it is important to be aware of how ‘permanent’ a colour is. Otherwise it will disappear from your lovely picture after a few hundred years (a lot shorter for watercolours).

Toxicity

The final property we will cover is the most important of all – toxicity. Many pigments used in painting are derived from heavy metals and as such are highly toxic. It is important to avoid handling paints with bare skin, inhaling pigment dust or ingesting paint. All of these acts will introduce hazardous elements into you body. Don’t worry too much though, it’s just a case of being careful when you paint and taking precautions.

 

Future lessons will cover how painting processes affect the ageing and appearance of a painting.

Task 14: Landscape Photography

We are going to learn a bit about landscapes so that we can prepare for our next task, which of course is to paint our own landscape 🙂

Anyone who has a camera can capture great scenery but only a photographer can connect emotionally with the environment in order to express something personal. What we want to try to achieve here is something personal that is right there in front of you.

 

Prior to the 18th century, landscape was painted only as a backdrop for its main subject. But later on in the century, artists such as John Constable and William Turner had started romanticising the environment, using it as a THE MAIN subject in paintings.

 

William Turner

John Constable

 

Photography was invented at a time when western cultures were travelling! It was used as a medium for documenting how amazing the natural environment was, and it usually included the small details.

The first photographic movement was born a couple of years after Constable and Turner and was known as the “pictorial photography”.

Pictorial photographers believed that their field is more than just an objective, mechanical media. Photography was not just about the information contained by the images they produced, but rather, about the effect and the mood they translate.

The break from pictorial photography was started by a group called the F.64. Some of its members included prominent photographers such as Edward Weston and Ansel Adams who produced images using the smallest apertures (f.64) and on large format cameras. This gave them maximum sharpness and detail in their work.

Group f.64 photographers concentrated on landscape photography—notable examples include:

Adams’ Winter Yosemite Valley

This group created images that were close-ups of items from the natural environment, such as plants and pieces of wood. Many of their subjects highlighted the photographer’s creative intuition and ability to create aesthetic order out of nature’s chaos. Members of Group f.64 concentrated on the ordinary object seen in extraordinary ways.

 

 

Industrial subjects, shapes, and surfaces are prominent in the work of Edward Weston, Edwards, Lavenson, and Noskowiak, while Adams and many of these same artists were drawn to the geometric and cubist shapes of New Mexican pueblo architecture.

 

Edward Weston

 

The aim of landscape photography is to express the emotion or mood in a landscape at a particular point in time. How do you capture an image to meet this purpose?

Landscape photography is not just about the beauty of nature. It is the depiction of  the natural landscape as seen from an urban dweller’s point of view. Landscape images now depict alternative realities. They can be used as a political tool showing the differing values of society.

The traditional way in which we see landscapes has changed due to the development of technology- this has affected our world, and thus our photography. It could be cluttered and maybe not as harmonious as it once was.

Landscape photography is a way for photographers to explore their personal relationship with their environment, a way to interact and respond to your surroundings.

A great time to take photographs is at dusk, not in the middle of the night. During this time, the remaining light of the day will cast colourful shadows on the landscape.

We all know how important composition is when it comes to delivering your message through images- we have spoken about this many times before. In photography, the horizontal line is one of the most powerful elements you can use to compose your shot.

Your eyes see landscapes in a horizontal format, so this is usually how a landscape photograph is taken. You must seek a great vantage point and experimenting with many shots will help you initially to find the best one.

Putting the horizontal line in the middle of the frame is best avoided (remember the rule of thirds from our earlier lessons?) and you should also consider what your foreground will be. Will it be the sky? Or perhaps there is another interesting element?

If you decide to remove the horizon on the image, then you are creating a closed landscape. Creating a sense of depth is more difficult with a closed image, but it isn’t impossible to achieve. It can create great textures and another, less traditional take on a landscape image.

There are many more techniques to try and think about, such as your use of lighting or the use of a wide angle lens. Be creative and you’ll get a magical shot.

It’s not about travelling to somewhere amazing… it is about seeing what is amazing right there in your own environment.

 

So this task is to explore with landscape photography and capture a great shot with meaning and purpose. We can then prepare to paint from your image 🙂

 

Join our Facebook Group for LIVE lessons and friendly art community – see you there 🙂

Why not have a go at this and post your artwork for me to see. Maybe I or the community can offer support, encouragement and helpful feedback.  – share your work on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM – POST  using our hashtag #ONLINECOLLEGEART