Friday, March 16, 2012

#60 Madeline - One Hundred Alla Prima Portraits of American Teenagers

(Teenagers are concerned about) "Teenagers are incredibly concerned with body and self-image today. We are very easily influenced...(Advice for other teens) Do your homework, know who truly is beneficial and important in your life and who isn't, speak what's on your mind. 

Below is a series photos of this painting in progress. I use the painting methods I have learned at Studio Incamminati, and adapt them to suit my needs. 

 The first stage is the "grisaille", a monochromatic underpainting of the model, using burnt sienna and ultramarine blue.  First I constructed the head with straight lines, and then blocked in the shadow masses.  If necessary, I wipe out and adjust the light shapes with a paper towel or brush. I really try to get the shapes correct at this stage, using a few lines to indicate the basic landmarks, and then go for the large, simple shapes. The canvas was previously toned with a grey ground.

 Next I like to indicate a color for the background, and try to communicate the effect of the warm light on the drapery.  This initial color gives my something to relate to, or "key" off of, when I start to lay in the skin tones. I try to keep the background painterly, knowing I can go back and simplify it with another layer of paint. I may use some stand oil or turp at this stage.

After the background I often put a color in for the clothing, again so I can use it to relate other colors to.   These initial colors are often easier to figure out than the skin colors, so its helpful to have them in first. Next I will lay in a skin tone for the light mass on the face, starting with a middle value. I have added a lighter value on top of that, for the lighter planes and highlights in the light mass of her face.

 Now I have gone into the hair and massed in the color, indicating the darkest values so I can get a sense of my full value range.  I don't think of individual strands of hair or details, I am just massing, indicating simple planes, and being careful to get the shapes.

 This photo of the finished painting was taken  under the warm artificial light.   I added  color to the darks of her skin, and developed these shapes, and added a few details around her eyes. The highlights have been put in. I added another layer to part of the background. The photo below of the finished painting was taken outdoors. Its amazing how different they are. All  the paintings in this series are done in 4 hours, so its probably closer to 3 1/2 hours after the breaks, and we always wish we had more time!  But its a good challenge and it has really forced me to get to what the essentials are.


  1. love the the painting!!! great shadows and color....

  2. Thanks for explaining the steps.

  3. Pam just introduced me to this blog. Your series of paintings of teens is wonderful, love seeing your process too!

    1. Thanks, Dana. I just checked out your blog, nice work!

  4. This is a great post, Natalie! It's really interesting to see the painting develop from this perspective. And the color change from artificial to natural light is truly amazing. Either way - wonderful painting!!

  5. Found your blog on Daily Paintworks and am really enjoying it! Fascinating series...and thanks for posting this demo as well. Curious to know about the backgrounds, since they are so varied in color and sometimes seem to key off a feature of the sitter...are these imagined, or "found" in the circumstances, or are you providing them?

  6. Thanks, Melle,
    I choose the background drapery colors in response to the colors of the model, so I think I am intuitively choosing a background that somehow "works" with the model's color. I am not making the colors up, just trying to see the impact of the light on the forms. I think what you are perceiving, if I understand you correctly, if the fact that everything is being portrayed as under the same light condition. And this means that I am successful at what I am attempting to do, which is essentially to paint a portrait of a light condition. Hurray! its working! all of the color studies are paying off!