Today in class we started a new project of painting portraits. I asked you to bring in a photograph of someone you want to paint and something else related to that person that you would like to include in the painting.
I want to continue the conversation that we started during our last project about how we can use "visual language" to say something about the subject matter we are working with beyond simply getting an accurate representation. One of the many ways we can create a sense of psychology or emotion in a portrait is by manipulating the colors we use.
I talked a little about "skin tone". We looked at two artists that used very different color palettes to represent human skin: Lucien Freud and David Hockney.
Early in his career Freud painted skin almost monochromatic. The skin in his figures seems to get much more colorful throughout his career but even the early monochromatic skin felt was believable as skin tone.
Hockney has always used very rich saturated color no matter what his subject matter is. We looked at some of his portraits and they all have a full palette of color. Much of his "skin tones" fall well outside of the range of colors we would typically consider a healthy color for skin but even his portraits read as fairly believable (if not a little too saturated).
Between these two artists I think you would find every color possible being used somewhere as a "skin tone". I want you to think about how you can use color to communicate something of what you feel about the person you are painting. Look at how different artists use color to express something about their subject matter.
Finally I focused on the importance of getting value relationships correct if you want your portrait to feel three dimensional. You can use any hue (color) you want as a skin tone as long as you are getting the correct value (lightness or darkness). I want you to push yourself to experiment with colors that you don't think have anything to do with skin. See how your feelings about the portrait change as you use different colors.