Painting with Fred Crayk

As we are about to enter a second lockdown in England, I am taking a look back at my Summer project with Fred Crayk at Heatherley’s School of Fine Art.

After 4 months of the first lockdown and painting from home, my school Heatherley’s reopened its doors in July. It felt so good to be back in the studio with other students, the tutor and a model! Now I realise how lucky we have been.

Painter Fred Crayk made us start with drawing studies concentrating on the values (i.e. how dark or light something is).
I had to break with my habit of drawing lines first and used a charcoal stick to fill the paper with medium to dark areas that gradually gave form to our model’s face.

Charcoal drawing studies of Carla Borel by Clara Niniewski

A very useful exercise was looking at Caravaggio’s paintings and tracing the dark values from a detail of one his paintings – as shown above. I chose John the Baptist (John in the Wilderness) from 1604 (see the original here). It helped me see how effective simplifying the light and dark values can be.

Following these studies, I started painting our sitter Carla Borel, a visual artist as well as a portrait model (you can check out her works here and her Instagram here).

I first painted two quick studies, starting with color blocking general value areas before bringing any detailed outline. I found this process really helpful in achieving a sense of form and volume.

I used a new palette suggested by Fred Crayk, using for the first time Indigo Blue, Paynes Grey, Indian Red and Indian Yellow. Paynes Grey has a lovely blueish tint and, mixed with Indigo Blue and Indian Red, renders a wonderful purple for the shadows on the face. The brighter flesh areas were mixed out of Indian Yellow, Indian Red, White and a hint of Paynes Grey.

Fianally I painted a more elaborate head study on a linen canvas. I really enjoyed looking at and recreating the negative space around Carla’s head and ponytail. The muted colours subtly render Carla’s features and volume.

Oil Portrait of Carla Borel by Clara Niniewski
Study of Carla, oil on linen, 21x29cm

What do you think about this way to do value blocking rather than line drawing to start a painting? Do you like the palette I worked with?



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