Going directly from concept to canvas, artist David P. Hettinger pieces together narrative figurative scenes in lush oil paintings. The following is a bonus excerpt from his feature article in the May 2012 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.
Building Pattern and Focal Point
By David Hettinger
1. I begin all my paintings with a drawing on the canvas. For less complex paintings, this is a simple gesture drawing in burnt sienna to place my subject on the canvas.
2. I define my subject with a contour drawing and add color to key areas where I intend my main focal point to be. In this piece, as with most of my figurative pieces, the focal points are the face and hands.
3. I sketch my background and add tone to form a pattern of lights and darks. I always know what the setting will be and how I want the figure posed, but the lights and darks involve more guesswork. When I see a pleasing pattern, I move from drawing to painting.
4. I add color to the clothing and surroundings to give me a guide for the fleshtones. I’ll try for the model’s own fleshtone, but an overall pictorial harmony is more important than exactitude.
5. I begin placing darks to act as a guide. I want to control the viewer’s eye with a strong light-and-dark pattern.
6. This close-up shows my key area, where I place the strongest detail and richest flesh color. For me, the face and hands are the most expressive parts of any figure painting, so I always try to include hands.
7. I added a bowl of berries here to give a touch more color. The red sets off the blue-green of the blanket. I’ve also begun to apply thicker paint.
8. Because the face and hands are so important to me, I take extra care with them. For most of this painting, I used a Robert Simmons No. 6 bright bristle brush, but for the face I used a Blick Master synthetic No. 8 brush. The synthetic brush loses its shape after a few cleanings, but I like the way the brush works when it’s new. If I have to buy new brushes for every painting, then so be it.
9. I finished Bowl of Cherries (oil, 16×12) by painting with what I call a “loaded brush.” I like oils for their lush look and the fresh, clean brushstrokes of rich color. Detailed areas have a bit less paint, but I really load up the paint in areas around the center of interest.
For more on David Hettinger, visit his website at: www.davidhettinger.com. Read the full feature article in the May 2012 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.
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