June 25, 2009

How to Paint the Effect of Light with JaFang Lu

Yesterday, I started a new workshop with Instructor JaFang Lu (click on the title to visit her website) to learn more about color. Specifically how to capture the impression of light on the subjects being painted.

The emphasis of the class is on understanding color relationships; how to see and paint color relationships as opposed to local colors, and how to key the painting and use colors effectively to capture the impression of light.

My hope is, that by the end of the class, I can begin to use color effectively in all my paintings and avoid the muddy colors and pasty whites that want to creep onto my canvas. We started with a discussion of the method of painting handed down from the impressionists to William Merritt Chase, re-formulated by Henry Hensche, and mastered by Nelson Shanks and his Studio Incamminati students… including Jafang. Then, we toned our canvas with a grey mid-tone that can be mixed either warmer or cooler depending on what you want to achieve. Each student picked out a composition comprised of two still life objects, a table cover color, and background color. The composition is purposely kept simple at this point so that the artist can see the color relationship between the 4 basic colors. Our goal was to achieve the harmonious effect of the warm light on the objects. Jafang asked us to study a problem and come up with a solution through a study of the still life.

"We paint problems in order to be able paint pictures and if we are good we keep doing problems
all our lives and the more humbly we stick to that attitude the better we paint."
- Henry Hawthorne

I chose an apple in front of a paper towel roll on a purple table cover with a green background. The reason I chose this is because of how hard it is for most artists, including me, to paint white (i.e.: the paper towel roll.) First we drew a grisaille to establish the composition and darks associated with the color shadows. Then we quickly painted in our best guess of the color of each object. I scanned over the whole composition looking for my first impression and quickly mixed the colors, putting them in the light areas of the objects while leaving the hardest object (the paper towel roll) for last. O
nce these colors were in, I made my best guess at the paper towel color and mixed a cool blue with white. The instructor asked me to step way back from my painting, glance at the still life setup and then look at my painting and tell her where I was off. The paper towel roll stuck out like a sore thumb. It was actually much warmer than I had painted it. I added a couple touches and she also made some adjustments based on her own impressions. Usually, we have a homework assignment to do after class so I've posted a picture of each week's class study along with the following week's homework assignment.

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