Where to Start

Whenever I start a painting, or in this case starting again, I spend some time trying to figure out where to start. Sometimes it is easy and sometimes it is difficult, like today.

I had started this painting a week or so ago in the hopes of letting it dry then working it up through glazing. That didn’t happen, I figured out on the last painting that I really don’t know anything about glazing, which in turn, leads me to avoid it. It is on my list of something to research. Anyway, the drawing and block-in for this painting was done and today’s session was the beginning of the “rendering” phase. I’m not sure really what that means, at this point I’m just trying to faithfully paint what I see.

But, where do I start? Do I go right for the center of interest? Or do I begin with what I like most about the figure?

In this instance I really didn’t have a center of interest and the figure is not exciting me as much as ones previously painted. So in this instance I start with the darkest darks and the lightest lights. I was in luck because the foot and ankle is in a somewhat interesting position and it also has some of the most dark areas and the most light.

Starting with the extremes is a great way of establishing a limited value range. I try to never make the darkest darks as black as my paint will go. I give the darkest dark a temperature and lighten it a bit. So later on if I need to go into a deeper dark range I have that extra bit of room to do so.

The same is true with the lightest of the lights. I don’t go straight white, besides there is nothing in this painting that is just white anyway. Setting this value is in my opinion one of the most important steps. Take the lightest area of the body, which will be a bit lighter than white, than bring the value down just a little bit more. I feel it is always important to darken the lighter values just a bit more than normal.

Editing the extremes here will compress the relative value of the entire work but it will give me room to set some extremes later if I need them. Plus it will force me to work on the reality of subtle value changes. As I have observed from the figure in life, values are almost never garish there is a subtle play of them throughout.

Then I think about chroma and edges… Honestly I didn’t think much about chroma (color intensity) while working today. I should have set the extreme of chroma during this session, but it is early on in the painting so I have time. And, as it is now all my edges are sharp, which is bad.

I feel that edges can give a painting more reality than anything else, or it can destroy that reality easily. Edges are never as hard as they are painted here. Oh yes they may look razor sharp from the photo but this is not how our eyes see things. Almost every edge will have a subtle transition to it even the ones that we may think are very sharp. Again, I should have set some extremes here, the sharpest edge and the softest edge, then compress that spectrum a bit.

So it is all about relativity. A thing, its opposite, and what is around the pair. There is not really any hard rules here, everything is effected by what is around it. Quite a good analogy for life when you think about it.

Where to Start
Where to Start
Where to Start, setup

Session Details