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Exploring Gesture

I recently watched an art demonstration from the artist and educator, Jeffery Watts. He was teaching about portrait gestures, and about the power they can have on furthering your ability to paint portraits. By focusing on just gestures (rather than render), you can speed up your growth in color harmonies and rendering. The goal is to not complete an exact likeness but rather the basics of what you really see. Timing yourself is the major key as this allows you to focus on executing a decision and sticking with it. If time allows, you can continue to focus on details. He did a variety of different sizes of 9 different model gestures each with varying palettes. It was great to watch to gain a new perspective so you can continue to grow as an artist.

I learned a lot in regard to his method and came away with several learned points:

  1. Drawing is an important first step (I need to improve in this area)

  2. Cover the surface immediately with basic values

  3. Time yourself (no more than 30 minutes to an hour per gesture)

  4. Paint small (you don't tie emotion to something you didn't work long on)

  5. Explore different surfaces with each small portrait

  6. Don't focus on the likeness (there is not enough time - suggest rather than render)

  7. If you have a few minutes left, keep tightening up the painting with further value details and small brush strokes

  8. Lastly, start with a limited palette and then keep adding colors as you grow:

  • Level 1 - Beginning "Monochrome Palette" - TW, Burnt Umber - you can make several quick convenience colors in this palette by placed equal, generous proportions of each TW and BU. Cut those piles in half and make a third pile of color, which you then break in half again. To each of the two piles take the remaining 50% BU and mix in one pile and then the remainder of TW into the other. Squeeze out another generous portion of BU and TW to the palette. You now have 4 levels of value which can add speed to your painting (i.e. convenience colors)

  • Level 2 - Intermediate "Zorn Palette" - TW, Yellow Ochre, Cad R Light or True Vermillion (true to the Zorn palette), Ivory Black or Blue Black (chromic black which helps you get a blue-gray)

  • Level 3 - Intermediate/Advanced "warm/cool primary palette" - TW, Cad Lemon, Cad R Light, Red Rose Deep or AC (perm), Cerulean or Cobalt Blue, UB, Ivory Black

  • Level 4 - Advanced "uncontrolled palette" - TW, Cad Lemon, Cad Y Pale, Cad Y Deep, Yello Ochre, Cad R Light, Alizarin Crimson (permanent), Terra Rosa, Transparent RO (Rembrandt), Transparent Maroon, Red Rose Deep (similar to rose matter), Cobalt Blue, UB, Ivory Black

I will begin exploring these items in my upcoming paintings. First up, going to try out painting on paper. Never have done this before but Strathmore makes an acid-free mixed media paper that I already have. One of the key takeaways is that the paper really absorbs the paint. This gives me very little time to move it around before it stays put. Gives an almost acrylic likeness in the end. I think what I will do going forward is acrylic gesso the paper first then paint on top of that. This should help prevent too much absorption of oil paint. Point learned!


Non-gessoed Acid Free paper from Strathmore

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