Modeling the Figure By Robin Smith
MODELING THE FIGURE
Drawing: extrasoft vine charcoal
Surface: thick, preprimed cotton duck or linen with additional acrylic gesso applied
Oils: mostly Old Holland, some Winsor & Newton
Palette: flake white (to mark lightest passages), Mars black (to correct the drawing), Naples yellow, cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow, cadmium orange, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, viridian, yellow ochre, raw sienna, Winsor & Newton light red, raw umber, Vasari red umber
Brushes: Robert Simmons bristle brushes, Utrecht series 212 kolinsky sables, Princeton Snap! flats, filberts and brights of all sizes
Medium: Winsor & Newton Liquin
1. Sketch in charcoal: With extra-soft vine charcoal, I loosely laid in the head, torso and a hint of the legs. I spent about three hours on this sketch, using plumb lines and abstracted angles to find proportional relationships between the body parts.
2. Establish proportions: Having laid in a loose approximation of the figure, I shifted to drawing with paint. I generally try to nail down the proportions of the head and facial features and then use those measurements to help me find the size of the torso and body parts.
3. Block in major shapes: I continued blocking in the figure. I like to establish my major value shapes early, massing in the shadow shapes broadly, looking for the big abstract shapes they make and filling in the background with color.
4. Push contrasts; explore volume: I deepened the background further to help bring out the effect of the bright light falling on the figure. I also explored the volumes of the model’s form, by letting my lines wrap around the figure in cross contours.
5. Set light values with white: I used a painting knife loaded with flake white to work out the light side of the face. I like painting with a knife because I can get fine lines with the side of the knife, make crisp triangular shapes with the flat trowel shape, or drag a loaded knife over dry paint. The thickness of the application allows me to go back in, scraping into the paint with the end of a brush handle or blending a thick application into a neighboring thinly painted area. I also like the expressiveness of thick paint. When this thick, whitish paint is dry, I often glaze over it with transparent color.
6. Address the darks: With the broad masses established, I began working out my dark accents. I looked for anatomical details and smaller plane changes.
7. Tune contrasts and harmonies: I started subduing some of my initial construction lines while looking for harmonies within the separate light and dark masses. I further darkened the background to increase its contrast where the upper part of the body faces the light.
8. Make final adjustments: I continued to develop the halftones and lights, building up the paint quality throughout the canvas. I added more mass, color and detail to the hair, shifted the subject’s right hand slightly and further developed both hands. I also added movement lines to the background. Here you see the completed piece Julie (oil on canvas, 48×30).