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Work in Progress: Seated Nude Process Photos

Original Pastel Painting of a Seated Nude Woman

This was a four-hour painting from the latest Monday-night figure model session at Atwood Atelier. Overall, I'm pretty happy with it--enough so that I'd like to finish it up (develop the background, touch up a couple of things on the figure).

During the session, every time the model takes a break, I take a photo of my work so I can see how it progresses over time. This is very informative for me. But the first time someone suggested I share these photos with other people, I was indignant. It was as if he had suggested leaving the house when I only half dressed.

But once I got over the fear of people criticizing my process ("you're not doing it right" or "wow, that first sketch looks really crappy"), I remembered that I LOVE seeing other artist's process shots, and so other folks were probably interested in seeing mine!

I start off every painting by sketching in graphite. I prefer soft, woodless pencils for this. Because I use sanded paper, regular pencils loose their point very quickly. Woodless pencils give me plenty of surface area to work with, so I can go longer without sharpening.

I like to get the structure of the figure pretty well blocked in before I start adding color. But I don't want to spend a lot of time adding TOO much detail. Through trial and error, I've learned how much detail is the right amount at this stage.

Once I'm happy with the drawing, I tone down the dark lines with a kneaded eraser so that there's less of a chance of muddying the pastel with graphite. "Why don't you just draw lighter lines to begin with?" Yeah, I sometimes wonder that, too.

For the first layer of color, I try to simplify the forms and focus on the main masses of color. I usually pick a dark, midtone, and light tone for this stage. Squinting helps eliminate the details and keep me focused on the large masses.

From here, it's a matter of adding detail, refining the masses, and making corrections. For example, I realized that my initial dark wasn't actually the darkest dark, so I started adding that in.

Once I'm pretty confident things are in the right place, I like to diversify my palette and play around with color. I'm always thinking about how to best match skin tones and values while also allowing myself to get a expressive with the color.

Original Pastel Painting of a Seated Nude Woman

Finished for now! We'll see what happens if and when I dive into it again.

Who's this? The model brought along her sweet dog to hang out with us in the studio. Sadie was super mellow and enjoyed all the attention the artists lavished upon her. She didn't even seem to mind that her Mom had to hold still most of the time. :)

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