Sunday, June 3, 2012

Experimenting with Mattelson's Palette

So a few posts ago I mentioned that I was looking at changing my palette to one that I read about in my Artist's Magazine.  Since I like to paint portrait and figure, I am always looking for new or better ways to achieve skin tones.  The article in Artist's Magazine sent me to the web, where I then searched through and read several related links about Mattelson's palette.  I had a commission of my friend's baby to paint and since baby skin is so soft and delicate, I thought I would try the new palette on this commission.  What you see below in the first image is my original palette that I would use for most projects with the main colors for skin tones being white, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, crimson red, and sometimes ultra marine blue or burnt umber to darken for shadow areas.  

Underneath that is the new palette that was developed using the Mattelson approach.  His approach uses value strings.  There are four main colors that are mixed into strings of 10 values from light to dark.  There is a grey string based on black and white, a yellow string based on yellow ochre, a warm red string based on terra rosa, and a cool red string based on indian red.  Just mixing the values strings took me over an hour!!!  

But I have to say it was worth it.  What I noticed while using this palette was I was able to achieve the cools of the shadow skin much better and more realistically with the grey values and the cool indian red values than I was with the ultramarine blue or burnt umber I was using before.  Additionally, as I was painting I could see the value number of the paints I was choosing and I noticed I was staying in the middle value range, which is never good when painting.  You want to have a full range of values in a painting and particularly good contrasts of values.  Seeing myself reach time and time again for a color that was in the range of 4 - 6 showed me how I was not using my full value scale.  I was also able to achieve the subtle value changes that occur around the nose and mouth much easier than when I was mixing the colors as I went, which is  what I did with my previous palette.  I haven't conquered this palette yet, but I have to say I am pleased with my initial experiment with it and will definitely use it on my next project.

So below you can see the initial underpainting done on a toned canvas with terra rosa paint.  The next is the background lay in just using loose brush work and a greenish color.  The next is the painting at an 80% finish.  The flesh tones are looking good but may need a few more shadows.  Also the clothing is not complete.  The last painting represents a 90% finish. I will now look at it for a few days to determine what I want to enhance to bring the painting to a finished state.  The lightest lights and darkest darks will be added and then it will be complete.  I'll post the completed picture in the next week as this commission is a Father's Day gift so it must be done by next weekend.

Hope you enjoyed reading about my experimentation with Mattelson's palette:)