Portrait of Madalyn at the Fechin Studio
In this initial lay-in, David masses in the entire head as he adjusts her position to get the desired light and shadow pattern. He determines the size and placement with a mass instead of line so that his visual thinking is always in the language of painting. Using an Inner Glow panel that has been given a medium tone with burnt umber and ultramarine blue, he enjoys the smooth surface it offers, allowing every brushstroke to be visible.
He explains the logic behind what he is doing and shows how important it is to understand the why of what you see, not just accepting these optical illusions at face value. He talks about the importance of making brushstrokes that describe the structure of the model’s head. Already the image captures the quality of the model with almost no paint on the surface.
He continues to focus on the darks, laying in a rich, warm shadow on the head. David begins to put in the background to set up the lights so they will carry visually.
David starts with answering some questions from the students about the balance in a portrait between the model and the artist and how to know what to put in and what to leave out. These are two very important things to understand if you want to learn to paint portraits. He goes on to explain that these principles apply to every subject matter as well. He simplifies students’ concerns, explaining how these different questions are all part of the visual concept.
So often students think the background is just filler and really isn’t that important. He paints enough of the background to get a sense of the size and placement of the light, letting it extend all the way to the edge, and yet leaving it unfinished. The color and value of the background also determine how dramatic you want the light to be, as well as set up the color relationships in the painting. Not finishing the background is important to give the painter a place to warm up the next day before addressing the more critical parts of the painting. He shows you how to use the brush as part of learning to paint.
In this third section of the portrait, David starts with the light on the portrait. Using two different whites—stack white and Rublev Flake White # 2—he extols the benefits of each. With his great sense of humor, he confesses that he didn’t mean to put the light on the forehead to start. He then moves to the nose and talks about that as a better place to put on the light. Controlling the chroma in skin color, he uses descriptive brushstrokes and answers questions about symmetry and edges. This film has wonderful close-ups that show these elements in great detail. You can follow each brushstroke as the palette and model are always onscreen with the close ups. It is amazing to see how solid and structural the painting is despite the slow development of the portrait and its seemingly unfinished state. Because David explains everything in detail, you are able to follow what he is doing, which makes you feel that you too could one day paint as well as David!
Because the demonstration unfolds slowly, it is easy to understand the depth of David’s understanding of the human face. It happens at a pace you can follow. This would be a great film to paint along with David to strengthen your understanding of portraiture.
The strength of David’s methodical start is that when he puts in the features, the foundation is so solid, that the painting quickly comes to life. The skin suddenly feels lit up! And when doing the hair, it is startling to see how little David mixes color on his palette, merely letting one color ‘meet’ another color before placing it on the surface of his board. It’s as though he uses his board as his palette. This shows how he keeps the life in his paintings by not over mixing and we see how this is surely one of his secrets concealed in plain site.
After the close camera work, it then pulls back to show the emerging likeness. David shows with great patience how he controls edges in the portrait. This demo shows you how abstractly David thinks throughout a painting and reveals the great understanding he has of painting.
This demonstration breaks portrait painting down for beginners and professionals alike in ways that make it easier to grasp. David also explains what he doing every step of the way making it one of the more comprehensible portrait demos you will ever watch.