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  1. #1
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    Whitaker flesh painting


    Iíve been asked how I get my flesh tones Ė more specifically, Northern European flesh tone. It is mostly a factor of getting some early vital training, working for decades in natural light and from life, and of course endless practice. However, over the past month Iíve been amusing myself by trying to work out a simple basic formula that might help some of you. Today I did a little experimental oil painting and took photos.

    My demonstration panel is a piece of 6x8 inch ABS plastic material. I carefully sanded the shiny surface off, then toned it with a little Mars Black thinned with odorless mineral spirit and alkyd resin. I let these panels dry as long as possible.

    ABS is far superior to hardboard with acrylic gesso, and if the painting doesnít work out, I can simply sand it off and paint a new one.

    For practice work, I recommend ABS (I get it at a plastic wholesaler), or frosted Mylar, or high quality tracing paper. I did most of my early practice work on tracing paper. It doesnít need to be prepared and the paint doesnít soak through.
    William Whitaker
    www.williamwhitaker.com

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  3. #2
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    My medium is simply linseed oil. Nothing else. I keep it in an eyedropper bottle. Walnut oil is another very good oil. Iím not using resins or any fancy mediums currently.
    William Whitaker
    www.williamwhitaker.com

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  5. #3
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    I rubbed the linseed oil over the panel with my fingers. It wonít poison me.
    William Whitaker
    www.williamwhitaker.com

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  7. #4
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    I wanted only the lightest film of oil on the panel, so I followed up the rub-in with a quick wipe with a paper towel.
    William Whitaker
    www.williamwhitaker.com

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  9. #5
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    I added a little linseed oil to some of the stiffer colors. If I do my preparations right, I wonít need to add any additional oil or medium as I paint. My colors are the best I can buy, but I wouldnít worry too much about paint brands and until youíve mastered your craft, in fact, I wouldnít use the most expensive ones.

    I mixed the oil into the colors using my painting knife, and then transfered the result to my palette.
    William Whitaker
    www.williamwhitaker.com

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  11. #6
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    The colors are:
    Titanium White, Ivory Black, Transparent Earth Red (sometimes called Transparent Red Oxide) Raw Umber.

    The grey is my special flesh tone I invented to save time. I call it Mary Sauer Flesh Color, after one of my students whose delicate pale flesh inspired it. It consists of Titanium white darkened with Raw Umber, to which Iíve added Terre Verte.

    Next is Yellow Ochre, and then a darker flesh color made of Gamblinís Caucasian Flesh Tone to which I added more Yellow Ochre and a little more Cadmium Red Light. Then follows Gamblinís Caucasian Flesh Tone. For those of you who cannot get Gamblin Oils, the color is merely Titanium White to which Yellow Ochre has been added until you get a light yellow. Then add tiny bits of Cadmium Red Light and be careful. The red has a lot of tinting power and itís easy to add too much and make this color too pink.

    Next is Cadmium Red Light. Iíve learned to squeeze out very little color when I know I wonít need much of it. Then Permanent Alizarin Crimson, then a little Permanent Sap Green, and finally a little Ultramarine Blue. I donít think Iíll be using the blue in this demo, so this is just an in case color.
    William Whitaker
    www.williamwhitaker.com

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  13. #7
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    Thanks for this, Bill, I've been wrestling with flesh tones lately so this was extremely helpful!

  14. #8
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    Fantastic! Thanks for taking the time to put this together. There's some great info here.

  15. #9
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    Lovely post Mr. Whitaker, thanks of sharing.

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  17. #11
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    Thanks for taking the time to post this thread. As someone starting to get into oils it's great to see these process shots from someone who knows a considerable amount about painting. Cheers!

  18. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by aefx View Post
    Thanks for taking the time to post this thread. As someone starting to get into oils it's great to see these process shots from someone who knows a considerable amount about painting. Cheers!
    Yeah, I'm starting oils too so this is a great help, thanks heaps mr whitaker!
    I'm trying to find as much knowledge about oils so I don't waste a whole lot of time and paint.

  19. #13
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    thanks for another great painting demo!
    a real lifesaver with practical recommendations and a straightforward working process
    "The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe."
    Bob Ross
    'Updates every other decade' Book
    Death by Hue Shift!

  20. #14
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    Thank you very much sir. I just started painting this week and this small tutorial helped me understand process alot better

  21. #15
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    William you set such a great example. I am thinking about reverse adopting you officially. Thank you so much for doing this. We are very very lucky to have you posting here with us.


    Jason

  22. #16
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    Jason,

    In reference to reverse adoption, folks around the Bonneville Beach studio think I'm getting younger all the time, or at least more juvenile. I expect my hair to grow back any day.

    The kind of mini-pointers and lessons I favor would be much better on video. I simply must get hold of a video camera. I'm going to have EmilyG check around and see where I could rent one.

    Meanwhile, I intend to do a little more with the oil sketch posted here and then post more photos (and comments) of my progress.

    Bill
    William Whitaker
    www.williamwhitaker.com

  23. #17
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    For this demo Iíve wanted to keep my materials simple and easily obtainable, especially for those of you living outside the USA. However, I couldnít remain entire pure, because I enjoy working with a little Oleogel from www.naturalpigments.com. This is merely a gel medium made of linseed oil with silicate added. The silicate thickens it and a jelly medium will stay in place easier than pure linseed oil alone. The tendency for linseed oil to slide down a vertical painting surface has traditionally been checked by adding a resin to the oil. I donít particularly like resins, so Iím a fan of Oleogel.

    I usually turn Oleogel into an even softer jelly by at least doubling the volume with more linseed oil. I keep my soft mix in a black film can.
    William Whitaker
    www.williamwhitaker.com

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  25. #18
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    Yesterday I decided to work more on the torsos and take a few more snaps.

    My palette is the same as I gave at the beginning of this post except for a few more colors of convenience. Just up from the grey at the lower left, is Gamblinís Asphaltum. It is simply Black plus Transparent Red Oxide. The mysterious dark color just below my Mary Sauer Flesh grey is a mix of Raw Umber (1 part) and Terre Verte (2 parts). Just below it is Raw Umber. Both are very useful. Above the Mary Sauer is my dark Flesh mix. This shot makes it look much lighter than it really is. Next is Gamblin Caucasian Flesh, (also appearing to be much lighter than actual fact) then Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red Light and then a very useful mix of Terre Verte and White. The rest of the colors are not really important here.

    When I prepare my palette, I often add a little more linseed oil to each paint pile, mixing it up on a glass palette with my knife. If Iíve done it right, I donít need to add any additional oil as I paint Ė or only just a little for the thinnest applications. I almost never thin my paints with solvent.
    William Whitaker
    www.williamwhitaker.com

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  27. #19
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    I lightly sand the surface Ė just a simple dusting Ė with a fine tooth soft sanding pad. Iíve cut it into small pieces because Iím such a cheap guy!
    William Whitaker
    www.williamwhitaker.com

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  29. #20
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    Thank you so much for posting this Mr. Whitaker. I've learned so much from you through your tutorials, and just going through your sketchbook. I feel like you've taught me more than any painting teacher I've ever had.

    As for your Mary Sauer Flesh color, do you mix up a bunch of that and then tube it up yourself? Or do you mix it up fresh every time you paint.

  30. #21
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    bandaidboy12,

    What a nice thing to say! Thank you.

    My palette has changed a lot over the years, but I hope I'm making better choices and decisions all the time. I'm finding Mary Sauer useful enough that I've put it in tubes. I start with a lot of white, add Raw Umber to taste, and then add the Terre Verte. Terre Verte is a very weak color so I have to add a lot.

    I've mixed colors long enough that I can do them by instinct. However, if you wish to make a tubed tint, I suggest you measure and keep notes. So many inches of white, so many inches of this color, so many inches of that.

    I'd like to make a series of videos. One of them would be on tubing your own paint.
    William Whitaker
    www.williamwhitaker.com

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  32. #22
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    For someone like me, who is only looking at being able to start with oils in a year or two (don't have the space to keep oils away from my very young children but they are getting old enough) These, as well as your sketchbook are pure gold.

    I preparing to learn oils from the base I find that I can see a lot of theory that I wish to try out in practice.

    Tubing your own colours is not even a term I am aware of and anything like that would be just wonderful to learn.

    Thank you!
    __________________________

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  33. #23
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    Studio C,

    The folks at Massive Black are going to make a few DVD's on me. I am planning one on tubing your own paints.

    I have other ideas too, and of course Trekell made a little video on brush care with me.

    http://www.trekell.com/Caring-for-yo...hes_ep_29.html

    I would like to make DVD's on the way I mix colors, paint skin, paint figures, paint heads, prepare my painting surfaces, studio setups for those with limited space, and a lot of other stuff. If any of you have subjects you'd like to see covered, let me know.
    William Whitaker
    www.williamwhitaker.com

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  35. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by William Whitaker View Post
    Studio C,

    The folks at Massive Black are going to make a few DVD's on me. I am planning one on tubing your own paints.

    I have other ideas too, and of course Trekell made a little video on brush care with me.

    http://www.trekell.com/Caring-for-yo...hes_ep_29.html

    I would like to make DVD's on the way I mix colors, paint skin, paint figures, paint heads, prepare my painting surfaces, studio setups for those with limited space, and a lot of other stuff. If any of you have subjects you'd like to see covered, let me know.
    This is great! Its fantastic to have a fine art veteran to follow. Your work is marvellous!

    Thanks for taking your valuable time out to do this tutorial. I am just starting oil painting myself and really took a lot from that lesson. Looking forward to more.

    Hope you don't mind me asking you a question....

    ...I know the learning process is different for everyone but, what would you say is the best learning curve for a beginner or perhaps the best bit of advice you can give to a beginner?

    Thank you again!

    James.



  36. #25
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    I believe preparing painting surfaces and studio setups for limited spaces would be most helpful.

    I recently ordered some trekell brushes after seeing that you used them, and I tested them out today and was a little disappointed. They are very limp and unresponsive. Also this is probably only a problem with filberts, but the two sides of the brush criss cross eachother, and while I can shape them with paint, they don't hold that shape. Are these just qualities of the brushes? Or are mine defective?
    "A drawing is not necessarily academic because it is thorough, but only because it is dead. Neither is a drawing necessarily academic because it is done in what is called a conventional style, any more than it is good because it is done in an unconventional style. The test is whether it has life and conveys genuine feeling."- Harold Speed
    [[Sketchbook]]

  37. #26
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    Quick (and possibly stupid) question Mr. W., In previous posts you talked about studies on tracing paper, did you back them with a consistently coloured paper or leave them as is?
    It seems that for anything on tracing paper/velum, the overall effect would be massively influenced by what is behind the thing.?

    Or is it more a case of "just a study that will be thrown away, doesn't matter.."?

    Love your work btw.

    OK, one last random fanboy question, who do you look to as inspiration?

    Edit: Ta Bjoern, missed that post.
    Last edited by Flake; November 11th, 2009 at 09:01 AM.

  38. #27
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    Flake Hereīs the answer to your question (grey Canson paper between the frosted Mylar and the foam core board).
    www.ClassicalAtelier@HOME.com
    My website for learning traditional fine art on your own! --- Derived from THIS thread at CA.org
    ------------ ♦ ♦ ♦ ------------
    www.cast-drawing.com
    drawing casts (geometric shapes, anatomical casts, skull), tutorials on Bargue drawing and cast drawing, Willow Charcoal, free drawing exercises

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  40. #28
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    Pariano, I too had trouble with Trekell filberts, but then someone on a different forum turned me on to their Long filberts. They are outstanding. For my style, they are the best general purpose brushes I've ever tried.

    Brushes are very personal beasts. Their Kolinsky watercolor rounds are exactly right for my personal oil painting style. You will have to experiment with brushes until you find the perfect ones for you. When you do however, I suggest you buy as many as you can! There seems to be an unwritten law that says when you find the perfect tool, the manufacturer will discontinue it!

    Flake, For tracing paper sketches, I usually just work on the pad and then tear them out when I'm finished. I tape them on the wall until they're dry and then keep them in a flat portfolio. I have no plans to frame them.

    When I use frosted Mylar, I usually tape the mylar to a sheet of black foam core board. The Mylar over the black foam core looks like a midtone grey.

    Inspiration? Vast number of artists, living and dead.
    William Whitaker
    www.williamwhitaker.com

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  42. #29
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    Eep I should have specified, I actually meant the long filberts. My most favorite brushes are Winsor and Newton's Monarch's and American Painter. Both of which are synthetic and so I wanted to try some natural brushes out. Problem with Monarch is that they dont have any bigger brushes tailored to larger format paintings which sometimes indirectly determines my canvas size for me. I cant be too disappointed, at least with what I paid for trekell's brushes. I got two very large size 8 long filberts for only $4 each!
    "A drawing is not necessarily academic because it is thorough, but only because it is dead. Neither is a drawing necessarily academic because it is done in what is called a conventional style, any more than it is good because it is done in an unconventional style. The test is whether it has life and conveys genuine feeling."- Harold Speed
    [[Sketchbook]]

  43. #30
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    So insightful - especially the mediums you use and the tip for using old telephone directories for brush-wiping (something that never dawned me at all!).

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