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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Flesh


Still working on planning a painting of people on a beach, when I realized I'd NEVER successfully painted skin with watercolor. So, I found this photo of a boy in the sun and gave it a try. Sadly, this is the best I've ever done with skin tones (the improvement is good -- but where I'm still at is NOT!) Portraits themselves are not the problem -- it is rendering the smooth transitions and varieties of colors in skin that has me stumped.

I tend to dislike being a formula paint-mixer, but if anyone has suggestions for good skin tone mixes, please share! Meanwhile I'll keep working at it.

What I used -- base was a thiiiin mix of raw sienna, cad red, and a little cobalt. Then thin glazes of burnt sienna, some cad red, some cobalt, a quick streak or two of viridian and cerulean (not mixed), a little new gamboge or winsor yellow (can't remember which) to lighten it up in the sunny spots, I think a little indian red, and maybe even some winsor violet in some of the really dark darks. I did it all on 300# hot pressed Arches paper -- expensive paper to be practicing on, but it is what I THINK I'm going to be using. I started out soaking the paper for a LONG time per my WC teacher's instructions, since the very saturated paper helps the colors mingle better.

I'm not looking for critiques of the portrait itself (yep, there are flaws in the upper lip -- big time!) or the background (just a quickie to get it finished) -- I'm looking for ways to make that skin look really sun struck, with a nice deep summer glow in the shadows, and bright highlights, yet still smooth. Maybe I'm looking for too much! :-D PLEASE -- you wonderful portrait painters out there -- share your secrets! Posted by Picasa

14 comments:

annie said...

I'm sorry I can't help you, I still only barely play around with the pencil and certainly can't do color!

I just noticed the photo of you (I assume) with your camera. That's very cool!

Lin said...

Linda -- while my people skills are pitiful, I've been happy with the colors of fleshtone I've used -- I've mixed various strengths of only 2 colors .. raw sienna and opera rose (WN brand) ... I've thinned these very much for the first glaze, then added a second glaze of a less diluted version for darkening ... not perfect, but the skintones stay clean. HTH!

Linda said...

Lin -- I'm going to try that! I seem to remember someone using raw sienna and rose dore as the perfect color for a cat's nose -- I can see where raw sienna and a rose would make a nice light flesh tone. Thanks

Nina Johansson said...

I guess there are as many solutions to skin tones as there are artists out there, but this is how I do it. I usually go for one yellow, one red, and a tiny tiny bit of blue or green in the mix when I paint people. Some more blue or green in the shadows, but still a very subtle addition of the cold colour. Different people have different skintones, that´s why I don´t have a "standard formula" for skin colour, I just try different kinds of reds, yellows and blues/greens.
I think you did a great job on this one, but limiting the number of colors for the skin makes them all go together really well, both in highlights and shadows.

Diahn said...

Linda - I have to agree with Nina - a yellow, a red and a teensy bit of blue is all I generally use in skintones - watercolor or otherwise. The fewer colors, the nicer the skintones seem to come out - especially those sun-kissed areas of light that you are looking for in a beach scene. I don't mix on the palette much - I tend to float in colors or to use a lot of glazes - and I like to start in the yellows and bring in the reds to warm up the skintones.

Of course - you know how much I know about watercolor...

Linda T said...

I like the colors you used. I think it works nicely. You have captured a ruddy look. I like the reflected light from the shirt to the lower part of his face.

Nancy said...

I'm glad you posted this - I'm learning from the comments. Skin tones are tough, and blending them smoothly more so -- you don't have to be too unhappy with this! (speaking as someone who has everything to learn) :)

Felicity said...

Wow, I think the skin tones look excellent already! I can't paint so can't help but this does look wonderful. Yes, I like your profile photo too - great to see you!!

Toni said...

Linda I work like Nina and Diahn with yellow and red with a touch of blue andding more or less of one the colors for various skin tones.

bdelpesco said...

Linda, I agree with everyone - there are lots of ways to mix skin tones, and if you're working from a photo, it's easier to see how many colors are in skin by cutting a teeny-tiny window from a sheet of typing paper so you can isolate the area, and really see what color is there. Move it around on your photo as you think about which colors dominate in shadow vs lights, and plan a little before diving in.
I sway to and fro with skin tone colors, but my basic three to start (when painting a caucasian skin color) are cad red, yellow ochre and cerulean blue.
Your figure looks great, and the areas you lifted out are very nicely placed. Keep going!
Belinda

Cin said...

I definitely can't help but look forward to watching your experiments as I want to give watercolors a try one of these days, hoping for a class maybe next year

janey said...

Which is why I'm not painting inclined. I have a dozen different skin tone colored pens. And I like this little guy. The way he seems to be squinting in the sun. I think the skin tone is fine, you have different shades and it's very real. Too bad watercolor doesn't come in skin tones.

Megan said...

Linda,

My painting teacher only teaches us with three colors (prussian blue, alizarin red, and new gamboge (yellow) ) and those are the colors I use to make skin tones. (I LOVE painting people!)

This is what I do. I put on a layer of watered down yellow and drop in a bit of a peach (made by adding a bit of red to the yellow). When this dries I put a glaze of green (how much and how dark varies but age I think... less green for kids) in the darkest shadows (eyes and such). Then I do all my subsequent glazes with various mixtures of peach and red. The final glazes are purple (mixed with my red and blue) which I use for the shadows. (I just put up a painting on my blog so you could see what it looks like.)

I think it might be the greens and purples (which seem counter intuitive) that you are looking for. Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

My usual three for flesh tones (tubes and half pans) have been WN Rose Madder Genuine, or Permanent Rose for a less expensive alternative, along with Yellow Ochre and Ultramarine Blue. I believe I've used cerulean blue in the past but sometimes it's a bit too chalky and opaque for my liking. I also have alizarin crimson in my half pans that seems pretty close to rose madder, maybe just a bit more intense.