Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Self Portrait

Hello Friends: Yes, I know that this portrait doesn't look a whole lot like me-- I'm serious and I've got my mouth closed (!), but as you can see, it's what I would call "experimental".  I can do this with a self portrait, because I know that the client won't mind. I used a loaded palette knife to apply the paint, so the likeness got away from me a bit. But I'm happy with the push that I gave myself in a new direction, so I won't sweat the details.

And Now For A Teachable Moment:  Several of my portrait students have asked that I jot down some of my teachable thoughts on my blog, and I have a couple of them today. In class, I stress the importance of finding the light and shadowed areas on the head, face, and neck and sticking to those areas throughout the painting process. In this portrait, after I found the light and shadow areas, I was free to apply any color I wanted, as long as I stayed true to my original "map". Notice the huge green area on the shoulder. Since it's in the right value, it reads right. This allows me to push my colors into completely new and unexpected areas. Having a plan is actually very freeing!

And now a thought on using the palette knife. Applying paint with a palette knife is a lot like riding a wild horse with really loose reins-- you're not really in control and unexpected things happen at every turn! I maintain just a bit of control by having very large mixtures of paint on my palette in light, middle, and dark values, and I "average" the color in each puddle to what I see in the large areas of my portrait. As long as my values are kept separate, I can add colors and apply them liberally without as much fear as I normally would have. Let's look at that shoulder area again. I started with a very light mixture of paint for the skin in the light, then added light green and light blue to my mixture with the knife. These colors didn't blend entirely on the palette, so tiny streaks show up in the painting. I love this effect. Every time I reloaded my knife, I picked up a bit more color from somewhere on my palette and put it into my mix. This keeps the area alive and gives a feeling of movement.

So stick to your plan, and push your color! You might find new experimental horizons of your own!


  1. Great tips and a great painting!

  2. Great painting, Ann! This is an excellent post. Thanks for the color and knife tips.

  3. This painting is beautiful! Thank you for sharing your tips on using the palette knife.

  4. I also love the painting. It's a beautiful portrait... whether or not it looks exactly like you!
    Interestingly, C.W. Mundy often uses a similar technique introducing bits of unexpected color into an established value. He usually uses a brush however.