Friday, April 29, 2016

A Palette Three Ways

-By Howard Lyon

I have been doing a lot of studies and portraits lately with a palette, for the flesh, limited to Flake or Titanium White, Vermillion, Yellow Ochre and Ivory Black.  I have also been experimenting with converting my photo reference to a black and white image and inventing, or looking at old masters as a guide for skin tones.  I have been doing weekly paintings from life in my studio (3 hour sessions every Wednesday night if you are in town), and learning a lot about painting flesh.  This is of course the best way to learn to paint people, from life, but I also think there is value in having to invent, based on experience.

Here are a few examples along with a couple time-lapses.  That seems to be my thing lately.  I find a learn a bit after the fact by watching the process playback.

All three of these palettes used the palette I mentioned above and Phthalo Blue for the backgrounds and the green of the leaves in the floral crown.

For the painting below, I worked from a black and white image and had paintings by Jean-Baptiste Greuze up to try and learn a little about his approach to skin.

Meghan, 8" x 10" oil on aluminum panel
This next painting was done the same way, from a black and white image, and is of the same model, but this time I referenced several heads by Bouguereau.  I have a long way to go to paint like either Greuze or Bouguereau, but I felt like I learned a lot trying to apply their colors.

Meghan II, 8" x 10" oil on aluminum panel
 This last painting was done using the color that I obtained from the photoshoot, but pushing the temperatures a little more.

Rebecca, 11" x 14" oil on aluminum panel
Here are a couple time-lapses of the paintings above.

Thanks for taking a look.  I regularly post images from my weekly portrait sessions as well as studies like these on my Instagram account if you are interested.




  1. The first one has a lovely warm feel. The second one definitely has those Bouguereau eyes. The third one has a gorgeous face. However the combination of warm flesh, squared shoulders, mink, and the angle of the head makes it feel a bit like her head is floating.

  2. I do love the way the warm colors in the shadow really make the first come alive! And of course the Bouguereau skin of the 2nd has that delicate milky alabaster feel. Even still, there's something about the 3rd I love the most! I think because you pushed the contrast between color temperature and the amazing physical nuances of that model that really make her stand out from the traditional models. These are all lovely. How you make me envious of oil painters! I still need to take the plunge when I have better ventilation.

  3. Thanks Howard, very enlightening - I'll be trying that limited palette out next time.
    I must say, the warmer temperature palette along with the phthalo blue used in Rebecca has a certain 'Don Dos Santos' feel about it somehow!

  4. These are beautiful. I especially love how you pushed the color on "Rebecca." By the way, do you use your cell phone for a time-lapse video? I've been wanting to try doing that on my own paintings, but not sure how to best do so. Thanks!

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