Thursday, January 23, 2014

Reilly or Mattelson Palette vs. Colourist Oil Painting

I recently received this comment from "anonymous":
I found your blog while searching for the Mattelson pallette. Thanks for posting it. I noticed this painting was done using Reilly or Mattelson technique. Yet your other paintings are done in a colorist impressionistic manner. My question is can you start a portrait with the earth colors and then bring it up in chroma? Or should you decide on one or another approach before you start the painting? You seem to use both approaches.
Hi there, anonymous! Thanks for stopping by.

For this recent portrait, the palette is not exactly from Reilly or Mattelson (although you are right that it has been an influence on some of my methods) as I have added a few extra colours and do not pre-mix the strings of colour. Although I think it is an excellent approach, I personally find it too tedious and time consuming to mix up all those values. By the time I am done, I am too exhausted to paint. Also, I can never seem able to keep track of all the brushes and end up using a dark value brush for a light value, not to mention having to wash all those brushes at the end (which is why I sometimes paint solely with a palette knife)! It just doesn't work for me so I just mix values and colours as I go along.

My subject in this case posed in a north light studio. For reference, I use a colour study I painted from life and however many live sittings I can finagle, plus photographs. I do use a variety of approaches, depending on the subject. I tend to use the underpainting approach for indoor portraits, since the chroma (especially in human flesh) is naturally subdued. It is all about the light.

When painting out of doors (and for still life indoors) I usually use more of a colourist approach. I will sometimes use a "wet" underpainting, using various colours, not necessarily raw umber. Sometimes I use the Cape method of patches of bright colours, starting with a palette knife. Also, when doing alla prima portraits I do not use an underpainting and my palette would include more colours since it is necessary to get the final effect in one session. I don't think that high chroma is necessarily desirable throughout a painting, especially a portrait - greys are important so that the touches of chroma can stand out, although outdoors under the sun you will have more brilliance and less greys.

I am showing this painting as a work in progress and the stage you commented on needs more colour, it is still at an underpainting stage, so you will see more life in her cheeks soon.

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