Painting an Animal Skull Using a Sight-Size Set Up
Hey Everyone, I wanted to take this time to post another painting demo base on how I paint red fabric. Countless times people asked how I did it, what colors that I used and what was my painting process. Well to start this is a technique that I learned while studying still life painting at The Angel Academy of Art in Florence, Italy. After cast painting learning to render red cloth was our first task to tackle in still life.
The idea behind painting red is having a wide range of value maintaining a high chroma throughout. That being said how does one lighten red without changing it to pink or orange? Any addition of white will not only make pink but lower the chroma. Orange can work well to lighten red only a couple of values while maintaining its chroma but not 100% convincing. The way in which I was taught was a type of glazing technique. In the nature of glazing, applying a thin and darker value over a light ground will with most colors retain and heighten it's chroma. So in this demo I will be using the lightest value ground I can think of, the white of the oil primed linen. The majority of the glazing will be done with transparent and semi-transparent reds.
Sight-size set up
I started the drawing for this still life using the sight-size method. I find it the easiest way to check my proportions, angles and form relationships. I can simply flick my eyes back and forth to check for drawing errors and then change them just as fast as they are noticed. Instead of drawing with oil paint directly on the linen I opted to start by using pencil on paper. I find I have more control over the composition of the painting before I transfer it onto the linen. Starting in this way is also beneficial in this painting in order to maintain the white of the ground. Any stain or residue of color on the white ground will detract from the luminosity of the future red glazes.
The skull transferred to linen
After I have transferred the finished drawing onto linen I can then start the underpainting. I carefully wash raw umber into the background and skull being mindful no to contaminate any of the areas that will be red.
The Raw Umber wash drawing.
When the Raw Umber wash was dried I toned the background and shadows with Ivory Black.
Wash drawing toned with black.
The next stage is what they called the first painting stage at the Angel Academy. This is the stage where all of my first guesses are made in establishing all the other colors and tones. This is the first time that I visit the red cloth area. I used Scarlet Red from Winsor and Newton for the first layer in rendering the cloth. I don't use any medium to apply the red, I just scrub it in with a bristle brush. The important thing to keep in mind is to apply leave a thin even layer.
First Painting Stage
I continue to rework the skull and background elements trying to resolve drawing errors. Because I was able to state in a general way the the colors and tones I'll be using I can start to render and bring to a finish the small forms. At this time I'd like to finish as much as I can to let the red I just applied to dry thoroughly. Each layer must be dry so that older layers do not lift.
Refinements of first-painting.
I used Cad. Red lt.,Cad Red med. and Alizarin Crimson to scrub over the dry bright red base. I started with Cad Red lt. first working from light to dark. My brush was almost dry so that I could incrementally darken the cloth with the most control and not over work any of the areas. For every darker value red I added I had to let the previous layer dry. The shadow areas of the red I used a Persian Red base and glazed with Alizarin Crimson and Ivory Black.
The final Product.
With a lot of time and patience you can arrive at an impressive affect that is difficult to achieve with Direct painting methods. I hope that I could answer some of the those technical question people have asked me over the years. If anyone has any other question feel free to leave a comment. Thank you very much.