An oil demonstration with Mary Saurer
Camille, oil, 10 x 8" (25 x 20 cm)
STAGE 1: I begin by sketching out a gesture of the head with a pencil, triangulating major facial features. I usually don’t spend more than 10 to 20 minutes on this stage.
STAGE 2: I usually use a raw umber diluted with some medium to lay in the darkest darks of the painting.
STAGE 3: I paint in planes on a raw white canvas, so I work dark to light all over the entire form. This way, I am reusing the same color in more than one portion of the face, unifying shadows and darker midtones as much as possible. I also look for the most saturated hue in the flesh tones and try to lay that in quickly to give myself a guide for how vibrant to make the rest of the palette. In this case, that is the red in the lips.
STAGE 4: I try building up the same values in multiple forms as much as possible. Now that I have the hue of the lips in, I can more easily gauge the more delicate pink in the cheeks. I am using a stiffer brush so that I can apply more paint at once. This stage is particularly important for paint application. I try to lay down my biggest and thickest strokes early on as I am simplifying shapes and trying to see large planes. As I refine the form in the painting, the strokes become smaller.
STAGE 5: I get the rest of the midtones laid in, including the forehead, cheeks, nose and chin. I am abbreviating the form by choosing to find strong flesh tone colors first. STAGES 6 AND 7: I am now trying to refine my transitions between colors and values. I will typically find more neutral colors between the midtones and shadows and try to soften hard edges. At this stage, I use more care in turning the form, especially trying hard not to kill the life of the earliest brushstrokes. At times, I will leave a bolder, early stroke even if I discover that it was the wrong color or value. This stage is about finding a balance between accuracy and spontaneity/energy.
STAGE 8: Once I feel the form turns, I find that I typically need to cool down some of the warmest colors in the palette to balance. My tendency is to see the initial colors more vibrant than they are. Not until the context of all the colors are laid down can I judge what the colors
actually are. When adding strokes to even out areas, I let the edge of the stroke be dictated more by the shape of the paintbrush than the actual line of what I am seeing. The more texture created in losing and finding edges is one way I think the painting breathes life. I can do this by putting enough paint on a brush that is maybe too large for what I actually need. In this way, I cannot completely control every stroke. When I feel that painting one more stroke will begin to kill this energy, I know I must stop while I’m ahead.