Xiang Zhang: Reading the Light

When I have my model sit in front of me, the face begins to communicate with me. The shape, color, gesture and even the blinking of the eyes express the first part of the person?s story.


Magan (oil, 20×16)

To ensure that my fleshtones look right, I pay particular attention to the color temperature of the light source and the other colors that make up the person?s environment. And since these two conditions are rarely the same in any two given paintings, I use a wide range of colors to produce my fleshtones. In fact, under different lighting conditions, I may use two completely different sets of colors to create the fleshtones for the same person.

Once I decide on the temperature of the light, I pre-mix three fleshtones–the highlight, transitional midtone and the darkest shadow?on my palette. This pre-mixing allows me to see the color, temperature and value relationships before moving to my canvas.

The viewing angle and perspective can also affect the proportion and shape of every facial element. For instance, in a straight-ahead view, the eyes are usually one eye-width apart. But in a three-quarter view, they may appear much closer together.

Xiang Zhang received his bachelor of fine arts degree from the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing, China, and his master of fine arts degree from Tulane University in New Orleans. His work can be found in private and corporate collections in the United States, Canada and France, and has appeared in numerous juried exhibitions and one-man shows in the United States and China. In addition, Zhang?s paintings been featured in newspapers, on TV newscasts, in magazines and in books, including Carole Katchen?s 200 Great Painting Ideas (North Light Books). Zhang is currently based in Plano, Texas, and is represented by a number of galleries, including Southwest Galleries (Dallas, Texas), Artco Inc. (New York City) and Quast Gallery (Taos, New Mexico).

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