Monday, March 7, 2011

"old '49...." on hiatus. starting portrait series

drawing for calypso drummer sketch
well, i kind of got a bit bored with the old '49 project and decided to put it on the back shelf.  if anybody was following along and feels jilted i will return to it eventually.  what turned my head was some burgeoning interest in painting people of color....non-caucasians. over the last several years i have worked with the lakota people of the oglala sioux tribe on pine ridge reservation in southwestern south dakota. some dedicated colleagues and friends and i helped to establish an additional medical presence in the little town of porcupine not far from the infamous wounded knee site. during this work we met and grew to be friends with a number of the members of the tribe and i thought that i would like to paint several of them if the opportunity ever arose.  i am going back to see how the whole thing is going with some other friends (cogbill's of "cogbill's find" from a few posts ago, among others) in may of this year. so i have just enough time to get a wee bit more proficient at painting people of color before i go back out. i thought that i would start with trying to paint a black man with a huge white beard and here is the drawing to get us started. it was done on 10"X14" cold press lanaquarelle 140# paper in a block. at the beginning i will say that i tried to do too many "new things" for the first time in this sketch, so it may seem like a chapter from the story "caveat painter." the first caveat is that i rarely if ever use lana paper and so was unfamiliar with exactly how the paint would behave on its surface. this was a mistake when trying to do a different sort of painting for the first time simultaneously. so this was struggle #1. the second caveat was that i have to paint outside where we are living at the present time due to the mess i usually make when painting. outside here, however, we are in the middle of a horrendous wind storm with continual 35 mph wind and gusts over 55mph. my easel was stable enough, but the wind combined with the dry conditions  made the paint dry almost as soon as it hit the paper. this made tie-ins and blending a serious challenge.  there were even times when the paint on a smallish brush dried before i even got it to the paper! the last caveat which is more for the viewer is that these are going to be sketches or at best vignettes as i try to learn and  develop the correct technique for me to paint these.  so don't look for anything even remotely finished.

sketch of calypso drummer
with all that in mind here is the first effort. i started as usual with the nose putting dabs of ultramarine blue and burnt umber on the under plane of the nose and drew it out up and over the top and side of his nose using a damp #8 sable round brush. from there i went into the far side of the face with a darker version of the same paint and then worked on the far eye, eyelid, and brow. i didn't like the monochromatic effect i was getting with more mixing on the palette than the paper so tried to change at this step in the forehead under the brim of the hat by putting pure colors on the paper and allowing them to mix there. starting with pure ultramarine and then moving to burnt sienna and finally burnt umber i was starting to get the effect that i was looking for. i quickly learned that those little patches of white highlights were important for the form and in trying to preserve them may have left them too prominent. something to think about next time. i then worked down the near cheek and ended painting the face with the near eye structures. the only new paint i added to the fore mentioned mixtures on the top of the cheek and lips was permanent alizarin crimson. the hat was defined a bit by loose splashes of color(cerulean and cadmium orange-red) and the beard the same but with the red of his shirt. i put in a few dark hair remnants around the edges of the beard, but i am not sure this was either necessary or a good idea. additionally i am willing to stipulate that i am not happy with mouth.  this starting to be a recurrent theme! all in all despite the various caveats i am relatively pleased with this first attempt.  i have several more photos to use as inspiration and will probably try another later today or tomorrow. until then i will try not to blow away!

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