Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Quick Brushwork Tip for Artists and Two Great Books to Read


The images in the post are works by the artist Harold Speed (1872 -1957).  I've referenced him before in my post titled The Optical and Conceptual: Components of Perception.  You can read that post by clicking "here."

Study for figure of Boreas by Harold Speed


Much of the time while I am painting, brushstrokes are constantly cutting across one another. Yesterday while I was painting I recalled a statement by Harold Speed from his book Oil Painting Techniques and Materials.  In the passage I was recalling he was describing “painting such details as the under eyelid…” And made the point that “Generally speaking, remember that you can only attend to one edge of the touch that you are making.  If you try and paint a touch that needs variety on both its edges, and you try and get the variety on both sides at the same time, you will fail to get either right. ” In essence when we place a stroke of paint we can only focus on the exactness (drawing and placement) of one of its edges at a time. To get the other edge to be exactly as we wish we can then recut into it with the next stroke of paint.  This is such a simple and obvious thought and yet it can be tremendously helpful at times.

Frank Pomeroy, 1898 by Harold Speed


Within the classically-based art circles I’ve been most associated with, Harold Speed’s two books, The Practice and Science of Drawing and Oil Painting Techniques and Materials, are well-known and widely read. If you are a representational artist and you’re not familiar with his books I would highly recommend them. The Practice and Science of Drawing can be read online for free here:


or here:


Even though I don’t necessarily paint in the exact manner prescribed by Harold Speed, I find his books are full of insightful material—every time I go back to them I seem to pick out some new bit of information. If you’ve got any useful insights or tips you’ve gained from reading either one of his books I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Paint Sketch and its Role During a Commission

Recently I shared an image on Facebook.  I had originally intended to only post it there, but I was surprised by the amount of interest it received.  For this post I wanted to share that image which I believe may be interesting to both collectors and fellow artists alike.

The image below is small 5” x 7” paint sketch. Very often for commissioned work before I start the actual painting I will complete a sketch like this and present it to the client. Ideally, I prefer to present the actual sketch, rather than a photo of it, since a photo can appear quite different from monitor to monitor. Of course the commissioned painting will be considerably more detailed and carefully executed. However, a sketch like this gives a feel for the composition and colors I intend to use and I want to make sure the client is happy with the direction of the project before investing any significant time into the actual painting. With respect to this study, the client has already shared their approval and so I am moving forward!

I hope you enjoyed seeing the image and thanks for taking a look!


Friday, November 1, 2013

Painting a Still Life Video now Available & New 2014 Workshops


I have two items to share in this quick post.  My "Painting a Still Life" video is now available on my website for purchase as a download and I have added two workshops to my 2014 calendar!

For the video I worked hard to pack as much content as I could into its roughly 74 minute time frame. It documents the creation of one of my still life paintings—taking the viewer through each of the stages involved in the creation of the artwork. Along the way I share a number of insights about my thought process and the concepts I utilized while working.

If you would like to see more details about it please visit my website by using the following link:


You can also watch the preview below if you would like:




As for the workshops, they will be held back to back—so that you might attend both if you would like. 

For more information please click "Here" 


Thanks for taking a look!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Painting a Still Life" Video Preview


I am pleased to share a preview for my upcoming instructional video first announced a few weeks ago. 

With the final edits being made, I can now share that it will be available for purchase as a download from my website on October 28, 2013:

I hope you enjoy the preview!



Saturday, September 28, 2013

Still Life Painting Instructional Video


I am pleased to share that I have a new instructional video in the works. I have had numerous requests for instructional videos and this will be my first release. I am hoping it will offer insight into not only my current painting process but also a number of the ideas I consider during the creation of an oil painting. Over an hour in length, it will be available as an instant downloadable video. The exact release date along with other details are still to be announced. If you would like to receive updates, including a notification when the video is available, please consider joining my e-mail list by visiting the link below:

Join Douglas Flynt's Mailing List

The painting featured in the video is currently available through Scottsdale Fine Art:

7116 E. Main Street
Scottsdale, AZ 85251


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Newly Available Paintings



For this post I wanted to share a few newly available paintings.  The John Pence Gallery in San Francisco will be looking to find homes for them.

If you have an interest in acquiring one (or more) of these pieces for your own collection please contact the gallery:

John Pence Gallery
750 Post Street . San Francisco . California 94109
Phone: 415.441.1138 | Fax: 415.441.1178
Hours: 10 am to 6 pm (Mon - Fri), 10 am to 5 pm (Sat)

If you are in the area and would like to see them in person please stop by the gallery.

Below you will find images of each piece, with and without their frames, along with pertinent size and medium information.

Regardless if you are, or are not, looking to acquire a new painting for yourself (or someone else) at this time I hope everyone will enjoy seeing these new works!

Thanks for stopping by!



Pear and Cherries
Oil on Mounted Linen
6" x 10"


Two Tigers
Oil on Stretched Linen
10" x 14"


Sand and Shells
Oil on Stretched Linen
10" x 14"


 



Monday, June 11, 2012

Painting Naturalistic Skin Colors (Part I—Regional Local Colors):


 When teaching workshops related to portraiture or figure painting, I often encounter artists who feel somewhat mystified by the colors they see in skin. From a naturalistic standpoint skin follows all the rules of physics that any other material does. So like any other material, once we have a better understanding of skin, we can begin to demystify the colors we see.

I generally encourage the artists I work with to think in terms of identifying a local color specific to the region of form(s) they are currently painting. This local color can then help guide their color choices rather than their reacting moment-by-moment to the colors they feel they see. From a somewhat simplified standpoint I would encourage painters to consider three main variables when accounting for the local color of a given region: (1) the amount of blood present, (2)the amount of pigmentation, and (3) the color of the skin itself (devoid of or with low amounts of blood or pigmentation). There are, of course, variations between these as we visually detect more or less of each. 

In this post I will try to expand upon these variables in order to help explain what local colors are really present in skin and why. In subsequent posts I would like to discuss how narrow the color range of skin really is under average lighting conditions, and also how a regional local color, when combined with various modeling factors, gives us the full range of the colors we experience visually when looking at flesh tones.

The following diagram shows a range of local skin colors in addition to spheres illustrating the modeling factors seen for 3 different local colors selected from this gamut.



 
The Local Color of Skin Absent Blood or Pigmentation:

I want to start with a discussion of skin imagined with an absence of blood or visible pigmentation. This concept of skin as a "local color" stands as the blank canvas for every individual—regardless of ethnic background. To this we can add factors of blood and pigmentation. Of course in reality this "local color" in its most ideal state is perhaps impossible to fully experience. Even in cases of albino individuals (illustrated in the following images from Wikipedia[1]), who lack any pigmentation, the blood in the skin will affect the color we see. 

 
However, in order to obtain a sense of the skin color to which I am referring, first locate a place on your body that has little visible pigmentation—perhaps the palm of the hand, or some other area that receives little sun exposure. This will, of course, be easier for lighter skinned individuals. On this area apply a generous amount of pressure to displace the blood from the region and then remove the pressure. For a brief moment, before the blood returns, the color you observe will begin to offer a sense of the local color we are conceiving of at it's most extreme state. Trying to classify this color can be a bit tricky. Most scientific accounts of which I am aware typically only say that skin by itself is yellowish in color. I would narrow this down more by adding—from my own experience—that skin by itself is rather light in value and more orangish-yellow rather than the yellow it is often described as. By itself, it also generally offers the lowest chromatic intensity of any local color observed in skin.


 
Melanin as a Pigment:

Within the epidermal, or upper layer of our skin, we find melanocytes or cells that produce melanin. This melanin is responsible for helping to protect us from the sun's ultraviolet rays. Although everyone, regardless of ethnicity, has approximately the same number of  melanocytes, the production rate, size, and type of melanin pigment they create, is what offers the visual color differences between various individuals.  

 
The two types of melanin produced are pheonmelanin which is often described as light yellow, tan or even reddish yellow and eumelanin which is alternatively described as dark brown or even black. After reviewing a number of descriptions and various charts showing the wavelengths both types absorb, it would appear that they show more of a marked difference in terms of value rather than hue. The result is that, in general, the addition of melanin of either type contributes toward skin darkening in value while shifting its hue toward an orangish-yellow. To get a better sense of the color they contribute try looking at moles and freckles. These can offer some sense of their color since their appearance is brought on by an increased amount of melanin.

 
For each individual this melanin production will affect the overall skin color. Additionally, within a particular individual, areas that get more sun exposure will produce more melanin. The result is that these areas will be darker in value than the paler skin regions with little visible blood or melanin.  
  

 
Blood and Hemoglobin:

Within our blood, the oxygen carrying protein, hemoglobin, is largely responsible for the reddish color we see. The following photograph[2] shows human blood magnified 600 times. 

 
In regions with larger amounts of blood present, the blood will, of course, contribute toward shifting the appearance of the skin towards red. Additionally, since this red is more chromatically intense than either the color of melanin, or skin with an absence of blood or melanin, these blood rich regions will have the highest chroma of any of our local skin colors—a relationship that is well to keep in mind in order to produce the appearance of naturalistic skin. It might also be speculated that since blood vessels are found in the lower dermal layer of the skin, individuals with darker skin will not show as pronounced of a local color shift when entering these blood regions since the melanin causing the darker skin tones resides above the hemoglobin—somewhat masking its appearance.  



Variations:    

The colors I have offered for blood, melanin, and skin absent either, really suggest extremes. There will of course, be variations in between them so that we may have to consider more than one to distinguish the local color of a region. For instance, on lighter skinned individuals, the areas that receive a fair amount of sun exposure will produce some melanin suggesting that the region will be orangish-yellow. However, when hemoglobin is seen in combination with the melanin, the hue's appearance will shift back toward red, resulting in a local color that might be thought of as more truly orange in character. The following chart shows the color of skin lacking both hemoglobin and melanin in the lower left hand corner and the resulting color shifts as they are both introduced. In theory, this chart should offer the full range of skin colors found in any individual—including various local colors for a particular individual that could be selected from within the array. Please keep in mind that the colors selected for the chart were approximated.


 
Veins:

Although I did not mention veins in my introduction, what color to use for them is often a concern that arises when discussing skin colors and so I thought I should address it. Contrary to what is commonly assumed, veins are not actually blue in color. These blood vessels that generally carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart are actually very dark red in color with some suggestions that along with this darkening of value the red appears more purplish. The following image[3] shows venous blood—offering some sense of it's color. 

 
Although, like Wikipedia, most sources tend to suggest that the bluish color is "because the subcutaneous fat absorbs low-frequency light, permitting only the highly energetic blue wavelengths to penetrate through to the dark vein and reflect back to the viewer,"[4] I am troubled by this explanation. For a thought exercise, let's assume a model where an even spectrum of white light is illuminating an arm with visible veins. Now, try to keep track of the various wavelengths that are somewhat absorbed or reflected, as the light passes through the skin (orangish-yellow), melanin (orangish-yellow), hemoglobin (red) and possibly even the fat (yellowish color) before it then strikes the dark but still predominately red vein, and then passes back up through all of these materials again. Keeping in mind that the color of an object is the result of what is reflected rather than absorbed, the resulting wavelengths available for the viewer to see after this journey would seem to offer a predominance of wavelengths throughout the red, orange and yellow spectrums rather than the blues the Wikipedia quote seems to suggest.

To complicate things further, the same Wikipedia article cites a study entitled Why do veins appear blue? A new look at an old question. The summary of this study states that "the reason for the bluish color of a vein is not greater remission of blue light compared with red light; rather, it is the greater decrease in the red remission above the vessel compared to its surroundings than the corresponding effect in the blue. "[5] With an understanding that "remission," as it relates to how light interacts with materials, means "to send back," the first part of this summary would seem in direct contrast to the previous quote from the Wikipedia article and somewhat closer in line to the results of the greatly simplified thought exercise I offered. As with the second part of the study just quoted, some sources additionally cite visual perception as playing a role in perceiving veins as blue.

To my understanding, visual perception seems to be a more creditable account of what is occurring. Tied to "retinex theory," a very low in chroma reddish-orange when seen surrounded by a field of the same color can easily be judged as bluish or bluish green in color—even though in actuality it is not. For this reason, I often suggest that a very very low in chroma orange or reddish-orange (the color should be more exactly determined by the local color of the region) that is slightly darker than the surrounding local color will often serve just fine to suggest veins.

This effect is demonstrated in the two following images: The first shows two larger squares. The left square is reddish-orange, approximating a skin color, while the right square is chromatically neutral. The smaller squares, contained in each of the larger squares, are the same color. On the left the smaller square appears slightly bluish in color while on the right you can more accurately see it is actually a very low chromatic reddish-orange. With finer lines, rather than squares, the effect is even more striking as is illustrated in the second image.


 
Part I Summary and Future Posts:

Thus far we have been looking at what causes the various local colors we see in human skin. I have yet to address how narrow the color range for skin really is under average lighting conditions (although this may have already been inferred by the discussion offered) or how the modeling factors for these local colors influence any additional colors we might perceive. In future posts I hope to address both. When addressing modeling factors I will discuss highlights, a type of specular reflection, and how, when dealing with diffuse reflection, the loss of light on a local color offers variations of value and chroma of that local color. Additionally, I plan to address other considerations such as reflected light (diffuse inter-reflection) and translucency (diffuse transmission).  


2.  Image by John Alan Elson, http://www.3dham.com/animal/bloodcompare.html
3.  Image by "Flicker" user "montuno," http://www.flickr.com/photos/montuno/2285013430/