Today’s blog is from OPA Master, Dan Gerhartz, with some insights he shared during the 2012 “Weekend with the Masters”. Though it is a few years old, the information is timeless.
Portrait Demonstrations… Weekend with the Masters
I have had the privilege of teaching the art of painting for the last twenty years or so and have chosen the portrait as the vehicle to explain the concepts because of the exacting nature of the subject, forcing the student to be precise in their seeing and drawing.
What remains my greatest challenge in the process of teaching is conveying in the simplest of terms the most direct, systematic approach to solving the problems before us. As we stand with loaded brush before the model, so many decisions need to be made at once, often instilling panic in our hearts while we try to sort out the visual information. Organization of thought in the beginning is paramount in the process and seems to be the only way to wade through the ordeal with any peace of mind and success in the endeavor.
“Yes, yes”, you may be saying, “but organize what?”
It has been my goal to stress the critical nature of categorizing the aspects of drawing, value, edge, and color from the outset so as to build on a solid foundation.
This needs to be accomplished before I apply paint to the canvas so I can break down the elements in a way I can wrap my head around and not be overwhelmed as the avalanche of information pours in. So, before I begin to paint, I will make these visual observations and mentally categorize them in terms of hierarchy of value, edge, color, etc…
Value… Look to see while squinting where the lightest lights and darkest darks are and then make a concerted effort to keep all other values in their proper range compared to the extremes. i.e.(Not allowing the reflected lights to become too strong so to break out of the simple shadow shape or applying too many highlights to destroy the subtlety of tone.)
Edge… When squinting, what edges emerge as the sharpest and which visually subdue to create the most variety to add power and drama to the subject.
Color… Where are the strongest colors and how do all of the others relate to them. Also, what is the color of the light and do I see its influence on all of the top planes of the scene.
If I take a few minutes before the work begins, often it alleviates some stress and possible mistakes along the way… Keep Smiling!
These two works were completed as Demonstrations at a conference in San Diego.
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