Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Skin Tone Painting Challenge

I'd been doing exceedingly well in painting class, so the professor pulled me into her office one day and told me to really stretch and challenge myself on the next assignment, our first color study of skin tones. I ended up spending something like 8 hours shriveling in the bath.

This was a challenging painting for many reasons:
1. While I support the idea that if you're going to regularly ask someone else to pose nude for you, you should be willing to pose nude for yourself at least once, I was also very aware that I'd have to present it to a class of my peers. Bad body image and insecurity about whether that was an appropriate choice for a professional environment plagued me the whole time. I purposefully didn't leave myself enough time to do a second painting to ensure that I'd follow through with my original plan.

2. Any painting where a subject of that scale starts that close to the eye is going to be a perspective nightmare. It is pretty much impossible to use the standard proportion-measuring tools, and it is really easy to get a wrong impression about relative sizes due to the fact that you're translating spherical vision to a flat canvas. This isn't as much of an issue when the subject is further away because you're dealing with less distortion: the smaller the picture plane relative to the total surface area of the visual sphere, the more it resembles a flat plane.

3. To further complicate things, I wanted to play with warm and cools to set up contrast between the wet and dry bits. I started with hot water so that my skin would warm up, both literally and in color terms, but I was in there so long that my water kept cooling off, which would change the skin color.

4. Physical limitations of painting in the bath. I'd secured the bottom two corners of my painting board to either side of the tub, and I ran a big duct tape loop up the back and fitted over the tap. I had a whole set-up of tubes and mixing trays along the edge of the tub and on boxes within reach, and I tried really hard not to splash or drip when getting in or out of the water.

While I don't think I'll be doing any more paintings like this again, I'm glad I tackled it this one time.