In my Amsterdam drawing lessons, we explore the idea of when to consider a study as finished. In this short entry I'll try to provide you with some things to look for, as well as show you the finished charcoal piece that I was commenting on in the previous post.
It's generally accepted that the study of a final painting need not be made in the same material, and usually has less detail than the finished piece. The purpose of making a study is to creep up on the project and solve several of the potential problems before committing to the final piece.
If you think of it in terms of what an architect does, creating a master painting is like creating a building. You wouldn't dream of buying all the materials and putting people to work, before having a very clear idea of the blueprints, discussing different ideas with the client and exploring them, often using 3D software or miniature models.
This is the idea behind making study sketches. Even painters with a highly spontaneous reputation as Van Gogh, created endless studies for projects that were important to them. Having been lucky enough to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, I have seen the charcoal studies and a fully painted study of the Potato Eaters, one of his most famous figurative paintings.
My last post went into a bit of detail about this process and the resulting finished charcoal study of this piece is here:
I was quite pleased with the final composition, tones and general level of finish, the drawing quality being a given.
You can notice a large amount of detail work on her face which contrasts with the almost single tone nature of the sweater and the scarf. Even the hands were not rendered, since I wanted to use them as a light element within the dark area. The hair itself is a bit more illustrative than realistic.
So to know whether your study is finished check:
- First and foremost, is the drawing correct?
- Does the composition work or are there things you wish you would have done differently?
- Is there an attractive value abstract quality to the piece?
- Have you worked out compositional decisions about the light and edges?
- In the case of a realist piece, does it look real?
At the end of the study you should have the feeling that you have a real grip on the piece. You could say the study may stand as a fairly finished piece in its own right.
Time to begin thinking of the painting, which I have indeed begun. In my amsterdam art classes I try to delay using paint as much as possible because there is so much to learn about drawing, and because unless you have, paintings tend not to work.
I did not document the painting stages because I used a fairly direct method, and therefore made too much progress too quickly before the thought of documenting it hit me.
The current stage of the painting:
The areas of back-lit wall consist of nearly bare white canvas with a very light yellow gouache, as opposed to thick highlight paint. There is plenty of detail left to drive into the ear and hands, as well as the scarf.
A major change has been the decision to make the stripes on the scarf and to break down the sweater into basic areas of light and dark. The idea for the scarf came up when I noticed that my photo reference, as good as it was for tone and charcoal work, was terrible color-wise and gives me these very warm beetroot colors on the face, which I'm somehow trying to fix. It was clear that the face in general would not be the main focus point in terms of color and making the scarf stripped with slightly higher chroma seemed like a good idea.
However it still puts me in the terrible position to have to invent colors for the face, and my attempts to create a cooler mixture have quickly made the face look chalky, which likely means I would have to cool everything else together with it. I may have to accept that this simply was not a flattering light condition for the model.
Long story short, I'm not yet sure how this experiment will turn out in terms of color, thought he charcoal result is quite encouraging.