New work. The top three of these are my best work ever, I think: best in the sense that I have finally learned some skills and found some tools that allow me to evoke (THAT'S the word I've been looking for all these years) my subjects, the lovely women I get to work with and their beautiful skin.
There are four vital lessons, technically:
1. Use good paper. The paper for these paintings has to stand up and keep standing up through many washes and under much scrubbing, fading, and mixing. I use Arches Aquarelle hot press satin paper in blocks. No rough tooth for me.
2. Use good paints. Professional quality really matters. Even more, for my particular purposes, I look for a very finely grained paint, one that does very little in the way of clumping or peppering, if that's a term. Smoooooooth is the way. Lately I've been using a lot of quinacridone gold mixed with a good light red and overlain with a lavender I picked out specifically because it was so fine-grained. I'm in my purple period.
3. Wash, wash, wash. Build up the tones and textures with many thin washes of complementary colors. That's the only way to approximate the depth that real skin has.
4. Luminous greys. This is the key. You make a luminous grey by overlaying complementary colors in those thin washes. The paintings above emerge from yellow first, then orange, then lavender, then orange again, then more lavender, with deep shadows tricked out in ultramarine or a mix of ultramarine and burnt umber, which makes a rich black.
I suppose there is one more trick: accurate drawing. As ever, I use the realist's tools: grids and photos.
The figure is still the great subject. I was thinking earlier today that what I do is actually pretty rare: trying to paint the real subject, the model with her true features: her true mouth-shape, her true characteristic stances, the true curves of her breasts, her hips, her arms. Her, evoked accurately. And with no other purpose than to love, through paint, the piece of creation that she embodies. I want to honor the sublime beauty of the everyday miracle of being human, in a body, but not any body--rather, in this particular body with its perfect particularity and idiosyncrasy.
I'm a lucky guy.