Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Clean Up

It was time to clean up my palette, not quite the best experience in the life of an artist but it's one of those things that has to get done. I try to be good about wiping down the glass after each painting session but since I paint at night my energy level goes down, and the last thing I want to do is clean. In time the palette becomes a mess of dry oil paint, which for me results in bad color mixing.
Scraping paint after days, weeks, months of it being dry can be a daunting task, but at the same time the little pile of colorful paint shavings can be so interesting to look at.
Scrape scrape, and rub down with turpentine and you have a clean glossy just like new palette.
After finishing Steve's portrait I decided to work on two more portraits, and for this I needed to have a clean working surface. How would I be able to mix the correct flesh tones if I have the whole rainbow represented underneath. Reason two is that I wanted to see how much I could do with a limited color palette, a common practice in old master painting. I should clarify that I'm not one of those who wants to imitate the aesthetic of the "old masters," but I am an artists who is very interested in their working techniques and always willing to learn from their success. So who better than Velazquez? According to Jonathon Brown and Carmen Garrido, Velazquez had a small selection of colors which he used throughout most of his career:
Lead White, Calcite (chalk), Yellow Iron Oxide, Lead Tin Yellow, Naples Yellow (sparingly), Orange Iron Oxide, Vermilion, Madder Lake, Azurite, Lapiz Lazuli, Smalt, Brown Iron Oxide, Manganese Oxide (Umber), and organic blacks such as Bone or Vine Black. I had to substitute some colors which are not available in tubes but most of this list I had in my paint drawers. I've started mixing some flesh tones with this palette and so far I'm getting some excellent results. I will have to wait until I finish one painting before really committing to this range of colors.

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