Sunday, January 20, 2013

yet another project: geronimo

photo from national archives of geronimo
i have wanted to paint this portrait of geronimo in his later years for quite a while. with this attempt i am trying two things. the first is that it is on bristol board (strathmore 500, smooth surface, about 120# i would estimate) and the second is that i feel i have gotten too tight lately and want to try to loosen up a bit. i am trying the bristol as i had a couple of sheets someone gave me and alex powers, whom i admire for his "people" paintings, uses it.

i used a photo in the public domain obtained from the national archives for the reference. i am still working on a title, but something like , "a swan croons for geronimo."

geronimo initial washes
to start things off i carefully drew the likeness onto the piece of bristol measuring about 15"X19". i wasn't sure how well this paper would take a flat wash for the inital high value tinting so i decided to start right in on the features with some midtones. given what i imagine geronimo's coloration to be i used cadmium red, raw sienna, and cerulean blue for my triad. i was keeping things pretty loosely mixed on the palete so that each color could be readily seen in the mix. in afurther attempt to stay loose and watery i put in a midtone on the background starting at the top with splotches of watery cerulean blue, burnt sienna, mineral violet, and turquoise blue. this was allowed to run down the paper with gravity with just a bit of coaxing if it started to "dam" up in spots. if it tried to run over his face i blotted it off to keep that area fairly unblemished.

working on the features brought up a problem of "flesh" tone. working through this i started with the above triad. hair was ultramarine blue and brunt umber with some palette knife scratches. when all was said and done i felt that this was a bit dull. while i don't have any color photos of geronimo the way the b+w photos look i believe he probably had more of a dark copper complexion. about half-way through his features and general modeling i decided to try just burnt sienna wash over the whole face. this got rid of the white in the highlight areas that was bothering me, but still wasn't quite what i was looking for in the shadows. i finally decided to try burnt umber and alizarin crimson permanent and stayed with that through the end of the painting of his face. i added cerulean blue when i wanted to cool the whole thing down.

i am going to try for a slightly brownish gray for his hat. the color of his eyes is causing me a bit of indecision. the light value in the photo suggests to me that they are blue or at least hazel. however, he is said to be full blooded apache which would probably make that impossible. so i went with brown with a little bit of cobalt blue in spots.
a little closer to the actual colors (artificial light)

 in looking at the close-up of the eyes i recall putting some mineral violet in the shadow along the medial socket. all of this was painted with a #16 round cosmotop brush.

i am not sure i am either liking this bristol paper or am sticking to my "looser" (more like loser???) plan. also, i feel i am at a "go, no go" situation with this. each time i put a glaze over one area some of the paint already there easily lifts and mixes with the new- a recipe for muddiness. it makes corrections easy as lifting is a breeze, but i am not so sure about the multiple layers deal. maybe this would work best for direct painting. lastly for this setting, the whole thing is looking dull to me. the challenge in the next session tomorrow will be to see if i can breathe some life into his and brighten it up.
detail of the eyes
 i still haven't switched to the burnt umber/alizarin crimson yet. maybe that will at least add some value contrast.

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