So Many Challenges to Choose From

by KC
(Florida, US)

finished painting

finished painting

finished painting
sketch for

I love working from the human figure. It became my comfort zone years ago when I first got back into drawing. I have two kids and if you’re a parent, you know that most anything you want to do for yourself needs to be done in a kid-free zone.


For me, that was a Sunday morning figure drawing group in my city. At the time, I hadn’t drawn from the model since college so once I could be sure the kids were not going to burn the house down if I wasn’t there, I started attending the drawing group. That was over 12 years ago. I started painting from my own drawings again, for the first time since college--about 6 years ago.

Now I work from a combination of drawings and photos. This particular piece had been something I’d been working towards for a while. It took quite a long time for my nagging, begging, cajoling and convincing to talk the model into posing but he finally caved and we got to work.

What I noticed right away was that I’d set up a sticky foreshortening challenge by selecting this pose. I struggled with the drawing for a couple of hours and just couldn’t manage to get everything intersecting at the right angles and in the right places. I tried turning it upside down, taking a break, quitting art…the usual options.

I finally, in desperation, tried drawing with my left (non-dominant) hand and unbelievably, that worked. The line quality was wobbly but had a sort of charm and most importantly, stuff started to fall into place. There are a couple of errors but they don’t stand out so I called it good and transferred the drawing to the canvas via tracing paper.

To do this, I traced my drawing onto thin tracing paper, then applied vine charcoal to the back of the tracing paper and finally, re-traced the drawing with the vine charcoal on the canvas to transfer the charcoal. I then filled out the drawing using compressed charcoal, indicating darks/lights.

I’ve since learned to use fixative to fix the charcoal so it doesn’t loosen but at the time I did this, a few months ago, I didn’t know how to do that. I used raw umber and water to do an underpainting and that mixed with the charcoal.

I almost felt like just leaving it at the underpainting but there’s no work I am somewhat happy with that can’t be messed up by continuing to hack away at it, so I went to subdued color. I’ve since learned that it’s helpful to set a darkest dark and a lightest light and stay between them but again, at the time (only 5 months ago) I didn’t know that so one of my ongoing challenges was keeping the values in the correct relationships. I don’t know if this effort was entirely successful.

My other challenge, and one I continue to work on, is keeping the paint application loose. The application of paint here is inconsistent and it’s apparent where I struggled with values in comparison to where it came more easily. For example, I like the application of paint on the hands and lower arms and not so much in the shoulder area where I fought to get the values where I wanted them.

I used Golden Open Acrylics and keep them very workable with an Open Gel medium. I have an erratic painting schedule because of a day job so when I have the time, I like to be able paint as long as possible. The Opens do sometimes get to a point where they’re wet but they’re also starting to lift the not-dry layers beneath so I’ve learned to keep two pieces going so I can maximize my time.

Comments for So Many Challenges to Choose From

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May 09, 2016
Wonderful work NEW
by: Shaparak

I loved the painting. The mood of the figure has been captured artistically. Beside the man, I like the values of the sofa too, I can feel the material. The only think that might need improvement is the chest, it looks like a woman's breast to me. Maybe that's the part that you are not happy of the values, or maybe I have to look at it from another angle to get it right. Overall, stunning work. Hope to see more from your paintings.

Mar 09, 2016
Masterpiece NEW
by: Pam

It's a real masterpiece! I love the original pose, and the values and colors!

Mar 09, 2016
Awesome NEW
by: Linda

Beautifully done!

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