It is a very rare occasion for me to sketch and one day I had a brand new watercolor pad sitting in front of me, 15x20 inches and I though, what the hell, why not try to do a quick self portrait study but not worry too much about being realistic. I ended up with an expressionistic portrait of myself that I rather liked. It took me about an hour maybe a little longer to sketch it and I put it aside and never looked at it again.
A week ago I opened that pad planning to use it for the my next piece and saw the old sketch. I didn't want to waste the paper and didn't want to detach it from the pad either. It's a block pad and helps keep the paper from warping when getting it wet so I decided to finish the painting. I started off with just a blueish face. After brushing water over the pencil I added a pattern to the background imitating wall paper using a fabric pattern I have from some curtains I made a while back.
In the spirit of coming back to old things I decided to revisit gold/silver/whatever... leafing. I used this medium a lot during college. I loved the reflective texture and the meticulous process of applying the adhesive, laying the leaf and brushing off the excesses in intricate patterns. I thought this would be a visually impressive but an intellectually simple way of adding something to the piece.
While applying the silver leaf I had much time to contemplate the piece. I think perhaps this is one reason I love the tentative, time consuming mediums. While doing something that is repetitive I have plenty of time to think of things and come up with ideas that may improve either my art, or life in general. In this instance I remembered that all my portraits had unrealistic colors. I always started my portraits with a color scheme in mind and for each color in the scheme I would assign a value, so that instead of using a grey scale for shadows and highlights, or just a value scale in a similar color range I would invent my own value scale using different colors.
In this painting the scale from darkest to lightest is as follows: blue, red, yellow and white.
For the past few months I considered this practice and recognized that in many paintings this sort of approach would be defined as the underpainting. After adding various hews to create depth and represent any reflected colors an artist might add a layer of skin tones. I've been basically dreaming of the day that I could accomplish this level of complexity. This painting having taken me very little time thus far was a good candidate for experimentation. And so I took a peach colored pencil and simply went over every part of the skin and added a thick layer of what was the closest color I had in my collection of pencils to my own skin tone. I was very pleased with the results.