Saturdays at the Atelier we have a model come in and hold the same pose for five hours, for five weeks in a row. Gruelling for a model, and the rest of us work reasonably hard too, trying to push our drawings as far as we can, or to churn out a painting from life. I finished my first full five week pose just before Christmas, under the attentive guidance of Ryan.
Having done quick pencil sketches of several poses, and the group having selected the loveliest of these poses for the long haul, I was putting paintbrush directly to canvas, sketching out a raw umber underpainting of Allanah, complete with contour lines. She already had something of a presence about her.
The second week I busted out my colours, and Ryan insisted it was time I sampled the intoxicating delight of using lead white. We mixed a simple palette of white, yellow ochre, alizarin crimson and French ultramarine to get the rich colours of skin under a yellow spotlight. The blue took the place of black, so our shadows were a heavy purple, while skin in the full light was an orange only neutralised by white. We mixed a small range of tones and I blocked in the rough colours, thinking of light and shadow zones, tanned and untanned skin, and the relations of each tone to the others in the context of the painting and under a yellow light.
The third week we talked planes, half-tones and knees, and began carefully modelling the form over anatomical structures. The light was shining from a particular angle, hitting certain upward-facing planes with the fullest light–such as Allanah’s right thigh. We made decisions about how far away other planes turned from the light, and how much they were foreshortened as they wrapped around the form, and set off tones against each other to convey this. Then I went to Sydney, and skipped a week, occupying myself thus.
The final week saw more careful modelling, many discussions about twisting clavicles and how they fit on the shoulder, lightening of half-tones that had gotten carried away, and softening of sharp turns. I finished in time for the customary end-of-five-week-pose party, and cracked open a much-needed beer while Allanah knocked back a well-deserved wine.