Skin Tone Struggles

Sabrin, No. 1

My painting of Sabrin (pronounced Sabrine) is the result of one three-hour session with the model yesterday.  It was quite the exercise in skin tones, and I am still not happy with the arm closer to us–it’s too gray.  It’s so easy to tip over from a fresh color into mud, and I believe white is to blame most of the time.  I must have painted her chest a dozen times trying to get the value and the color just right.   While I labored over the skin color and her facial features, I succeeded in portraying the hands with my initial strokes.  So I am leaving them alone.  No finishing touches for them.   I wish I could produce an entire painting with that kind of verve and bravura.  Some day, perhaps.

Earlier in the week, I reported to Cameron Bennett at my contemporary portraits class with the two works I had done the previous Sunday (see previous blog).  Got good marks on one and failing marks on the other.  He didn’t like the quick head sketch one bit.  Not one tiny bit.  The other, the whole figure pose, was “charming”, but the head too small and the neck too long.  I received orders to fix that.  He gave me some really interesting suggestions on how to go about fixing a head that was already very good, just too small.  The best one:  take a photo of the original painting and use that to copy a larger version onto the original.  I never would have thought of that.  Here is that painting again, so you can see what we were talking about:

Adrienne in her tough guy outfit

He especially liked the feet, by the way, singling them out right away as a major contributor to the charm of the gesture.  Yea!  (I had started with the feet because they were my favorite feature of her pose.)

In other news from that class, I may have finished the reclining nude that I started last week.  Her head is looking too small to me now, but it is farther away so maybe I can argue perspective.  I labored over painting her face with just enough definition and would hate to have to start that over again.  You might recall that this is one of the heads that Cameron did not like in the original charcoal version of it.

With about a half hour left in the class, I started on another translation from charcoal to oils, this time looking for some new aspect to try out, to make my work “contemporary”.  I decided to paint the skin tones without white–or less white–and to isolate the red and yellow ochre ingredients.  Red for the shadows.  I ran out of time just at the point where I had wiped out the face in order to start it over, so what you will see below is truly a “work in progress”, not just an almost finished work needing a few tweaks here or there.

Study in Perylene Red and Yellow Ochre WIP

I also managed to put in a few hours this week tweaking older paintings.  One that is nearing a finished state is my original portrait of Sammi and Noodles.  I added yellow reflections in Noodles’ eyes, which gives away the origin of the image as a photograph.  But so what?–the image just cried out for that yellow in just that place.

Sammi and Noodles No. 1, almost right

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Gallery at 100 Market Street in Portsmouth; at the Sage Gallery in Manchester; at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester; at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at the McGowan Fine Art Gallery in Concord; and at her studio by appointment.

Link to website:

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