Painting the Nude – new sustained poses

Much of my time in the studio during the past year has focused on a series of nudes. Poses have been both short, three or so sittings and sustained when a pose has been held over many months. Working with a variety of models has enabled me to experiment with different light effects, numbers of sittings and studying contrasting skin tones, warm and cool, dark and light. Many of these paintings have been fairly small-scale and have focused on paint application remaining fluid and painterly in it’s approach. These quicker paintings were made alongside ‘Tranquility’ which was exhibited at Medici Gallery during the summer. This painting is the most sustained and largest nude that I have worked on for some years, and following it’s completion ideas for other more sustained nudes began to develop.

Two friends who have sat numerous times over the years were willing to pose for these new pieces, and so work began in earnest during the early summer. The paintings as you see them now are after a day and a half’s work, approximately 9 hours.

‘Seated Nude’ (working title) was conceived as a study of red on red began on a dark Indian Red ground. With the warm and dark skin tones of the model against the deep crimson of the armchair, this Indian Red under-painting adds a richness and depth of tone as the patches of colour are placed over it. Between areas of warm and cool, small flashes of the Indian Red show through creating a vibrancy and glow.

work in progress – seated nude

‘Reclining Nude’ (working title) takes and develops some of the ideas from during the painting of ‘Tranquility’. Against the vibrancy of the rich reds and oranges of ‘Seated Nude’ this painting celebrates the pale and cool flesh tones of the female nude within a composition of a muted palette of harmonious coloured greys.

work in progress – Reclining nude

Throughout the summer I have also taught a number of courses where the focus has been on the ‘sustained pose’, my course at Caterham School, and West Dean College were both five-day poses and most recently on two two-week poses at the Slade School of Fine Art.

Working from the model in this way offers students a much more thorough examination of the figure as evaluation, re-evaluation and revision are taking place constantly throughout the painting process. working on a painting intensively over a longer period of time means that some painting techniques and application differ to those when working on a painting for one session a week with drying time in-between. Working on a painting all day, every day on a course such as these means that as the paint surface continues to build-up it remains wet and becomes increasingly sticky over time. This easily results in colours becoming muddy as paint mixes and loss of colour saturation on a paint surface which has been over-worked.

As I embark on a period of intensive study on Painting the Nude I look forward to further study of the figure alongside an in-depth research on the history of the nude in painting.

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