Wednesday, September 25, 2013

He likes it!! Hey Abbott!!

I was scouring the web for images and information on how Phil Hale works (apparently he applies black paint and then scrubs it off, using a rag at first and brushes later) and somehow I ran across this amazing portrait. It's not by Hale - I don't remember offhand who did it - I need to check my history though and find more of his work. I saved it because I love it - so much power and subtlety, accomplished with the extremely limited Baroque palette - nothing but earthtones I believe. No real blues even. Greens made by mixing yellow ochre with black - wow, harsh! But the masters really made it work.

Anyway, I've been keeping this image open next to photoshop to remind myself not to use silly bright cartoonish colors. I call him the Abbott, and he looks on as I work, his face conveying either his approval or lack thereof. As you can see, he's quite happy at the moment (that's about as happy as he gets).

It might actually be counter productive, keeping such an amazing painting next to my own meager effort, it makes me feel pretty bad about my simplistic approach and lack of subtlety and power as a painter. But as long as I don't give in to the temptation to try to completely repaint it all to look like a Baroque portrait, then it actually does help.

I think a big part of the problem is that all you can get from the color picker is pure color. So unless you create a palette and actually mix 2 colors together to make a new color each time before going to work, you're going to end up with cartoonish primaries and secondaries. For subtlety you need to use 'broken color' - mix in a bit of the complement or a near complement with each color. Never straight from the tubes! An experienced painter can tell at a glance if you've used tube colors, and it marks you as a rank amateur.

I could actually open a painting next to each project and pick colors from it. Or make a palette like I said, or just blend my colors there in the painting itself, and then pick from it as I go. I also think I should start with a selection of colors analogous to the limited palette I use in alkyds. Limiting your palette really helps to banish the bright oversaturated colors.

Just adding this for posterity - Frank Duveneck; American painter 1848 - 1919; title Old Monk. Obviously not a Baroque master, though it really does look like he used a very Baroque palette for this one and went so far as to start with transparent darks in warm tones and then apply thick impastos of cool highlight colors, just as they did.

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