Finished Expressive Portrait.

I stayed home today from class, seeing as I’m one of the only two students from Special Projects who consistently attends.  I did miss seeing the other person whom I’m pretty sure went; but then, I also checked in to class yesterday and then went straight home, too.  (I passed said guy on my way out.)

In any case, I got up around 8 AM and was just basically dreading carrying all my studio materials in to the place with the tables to be marked Present.  Especially with the fact that attendance isn’t really being counted.  The biggest draw to go to class, really, is for community.  Basically, the draw is social; and to try and get help from the prof when she isn’t with the Beginning students.

At around 11, I got up again and started playing around with my gouache.

Ah!  I didn’t mention it here!  D was cleaning around the house yesterday and found a box with three unused sets of transparent watercolors, some opened watercolor tubes, and my entire set of gouache (opaque watercolor) from Color class in 2007!

What I was doing today, partially, was just trying to see whether these things were still usable.  So I got my actual good palette, cleaned it out, and then started in with the earth tones.  (Yesterday was the day where I determined which tubes I could still even open — today was trying to use them.)  The tubes which smelled, basically just smelled like I remember them.  I could see that in a number of tubes, the paint near the opening has discolored, dried, and/or shrunk…but there’s usable paint below that.

I’m…not too proud of what I actually used the gouache on, so I’ll wait a while to settle myself, before sharing it.  However — I did find that gouache works relatively wonderfully on Illustration Board.  Or, in any case, it was much easier to handle than the transparent Sumi ink I had been using.

…yeah.  Maybe I won’t get so much into that, right now…I can make another post about what goes here (transparent Sumi ink and its uncontrollability, negative space, opaque over transparent media…etc).

Anyhow, I was able to work on the portrait today, and I’m pretty satisfied with it as it is.  It could probably use 3-5 more hours of work, if I wanted to make it really good (I’m learning that developed areas of the painting have layer after layer of paint), but this is what I have now:

Looking pretty close to being finished, at this point…

I really have to give props to my professor for letting me know that a wet rag can erase acrylic paint, before the paint dries.  I wasn’t entirely aware of it before I started, but I realized quickly that pupils in the wrong place make this look weird.  I had to erase and reposition the pupil on the left, at least once.

M told me to soften the sharp delineations of value or color transition which were in the painting.  I worked on this, majorly around the mouth and forehead.  I didn’t work on it around the right cheekbone, and it’s obvious to me now.

What was really unnerving about trying to blend the tones in the face is that I am not entirely certain that I remember all of the paints which went into making each variant shade.  There are at least three constituent pigments in the most basic of the tones — Titanium White, Yellow Oxide (I was using this and not Yellow Ochre, as I said before; I’m still not exactly sure what the difference is), and Burnt Sienna.  The most complex tones are probably made up of six or seven colors.

When I add new color on top of old color, I end up having to blend in the new section (glazing medium helps) and make tiny formula changes to the paint on my paintbrush and palette.  The only way to do this…that I can manage, at least, is to trust my eye.

That is, the color mixing is somewhat intuitive…if asked to explain how I do it and why I add what I do and how I adjust the color of the total mixture, I’d be somewhat at a loss.  I could attempt to explain it, but I’d be relying on my Color Dynamics training…and considering how I can’t even recall offhand what the complement to violet is…yellow? ehh…right.  But it has to do with masstone and undertone (overtone? gah) and how to use one or both to cancel out what you don’t want, and then modify the resulting mixture the same way, over and over again.

This could be the reason why my prof doesn’t attempt to explain it, but just basically sets us loose with canvas and paint (and in this case, pastels and glazing medium).

Last time I was there for an entire class, I did see her working on a painting, just to show us how to do it.  The _entire_ surface of her canvas was covered in soft pastel, and it had been fixed with glazing medium.  All of it.  I have no idea how she did that without smearing the pastel away, unless she built up layer upon layer of pastel (which is what it looked like she did).

What I ended up doing, in contrast — you can see in my previous posts — is working out a line drawing and taking my cues from the preparatory drawing and the original photo, as to what colors went where.  But this, worked straight through, results in sharp color delineations dividing rather flat blocks of color, which is what M was trying to caution me against, today.  I’ve had the same issue when working with the ink pencils.

I did work the gel medium into the ropy part of the headwrap, but it’s basically almost unnoticeable.  I’m thinking that it isn’t supposed to be that way…the major thing with me is that I don’t want to screw this up, after I’ve put however-many hours of work into this.

But then, not wanting to screw things up is basically the biggest thing making it hard for me to work on art, right now!  (This is probably the reason why I actually like the gouache so much — it’s more forgiving than transparent watercolor…at least, until the lower layers start to get pulled up by the brush.)

Anyhow…at least it looks alright, even though I know it could be better…(and knowing it could be better is the key to improving, in the future…)


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Haru ("Codey") is a second-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

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