Monday Study

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I've been collecting photos to use as reference material for painting studies. I follow the website Shorpy which is a treasure box of old photos. Some are official photos taken of newly opened office buildings. Some are old vacation slides. Some are normal people doing normal things normally, just 50 years ago. It's pretty great. Most of the photos are black and white. Without color as a distraction, they make good subjects for training your eye to see shape, form, value, and line.

On Monday I pulled up this photo of a woman leaning from her apartment window for practice. I'm trying to break myself of needing to draw an image before painting the image. Drawing first does give me a good sense of structure, but the painting on top tends to feel flat, like I'm just coloring between the lines. A painting should really sculpt an image from blocks of color. Not there are no lines, it's that lines largely become edges. Shape is sculpted with value and color.

I'm pretty happy with this result. A strong likeness and a loose style without overworked fiddly details. In this painting I tried a new trick I learned from an artist on Instagram - when painting eyes, fill in the entire eye socket as shadow. This defines the overall recess which cradles the eye. Then build the eyelids on top. This makes it much easier to build out the roundness and depth of the eye. It's amazing how the eyes just pop out with this technique.

Michael Barrett

Tacoma, WA 98402