Friday, December 4, 2015

Figure in the Landscape

Warm Afternoon 9x12 oil
Not a finished painting, but a color study.  I spent most of the session
observing and recording color notes.

As I think I've mentioned before, I very rarely have the opportunity to paint the figure from life.  I relish the chance when it comes.  Why?  Because in my opinion, the figure is the most challenging subject for the artist.  This practice will improve your drawing skills dramatically.

You can tell at a glance if a figure is off.  As humans, the proportions of human anatomy are wired into our brains.  You can get away with a poorly-drawn landscape, but not with a poorly-drawn figure.

This week, I spent an afternoon working from the model outdoors with some friends.  I was excited by the prospect, since this combined my two favorite genres, figure and landscape.  Even more exciting was the fact that my colleagues were all professional figure and portrait painters.*  They knew exactly what to ask of the model—not something most landscape painters know much about.

We headed out to a secluded spot at a pond near Page Springs.  Most of the trees had lost their leaves, but there was still a good deal of color in the grasses and brush.  The more muted notes created by the empty branches played a nice contrast to the warm tones of our model Cynthia's  clothing.  Also, at this time of year, the sun is low in the sky, so the light was warm and rich.

Painters in the landscape

The afternoon consisted of one long pose, followed by a photo shoot at the "golden hour" just before sunset.  For the painting session, I let all the pros get up close.  I hung at the back because for this outing, I was more interested in painting the figure in the context of landscape.  Although general proportions were important in this exercise, Cynthia's pretty facial features and the folds in her outfit weren't.  Also, I was painting in a small format (9x12) with a knife, and any detail with a knife at that scale is mostly accidental!  A knife forces you to paint broadly.

Our model, Cynthia

*I was pleased to be painting with Gretchen Lopez, Jean Hildebrandt, Mary Rochelle , Sherri Aldawood and others.

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