Push Processing


I was out doing some life drawing the other day.

I often say I learned everything I know about drawing from the model. Back in college it was the only observational drawing in the curriculum. So it’s still where I go when I want to test a color, or try out a technique.


I’m still working on this approach using shapes, rather than (relying on) line. This one (above) is probably the only good one from this session. The drawing is made of three shapes. From left to right: The light side edges are drawn with the background tone, then there is a gap of reserved white, and the shadow side edge closes the light-shape with a fused midtone. I don’t count the darks laid on top such as hair, under hand, knee and thigh. It’s just three shapes – with accent touches :)  So, that is a goal of mine. To be able to do anything with three shapes.

I’ve done so much drawing over the years, I can’t seem to break myself from using line. I’m not even sure that I would want to :)  But it’s a thing that’s always in the back of my mind these days. Banishing ‘artificially’ drawn contours might be the skill that unlocks the next level of painting.


Still, most of these are more like 50/50 line and tone.

I suppose – if I keep working on the white page, there’s no choice except using a line to create an edge. So the answer next time will be: do them all with a background tone! I dunno why that’s so hard for my brain :) But the truth is, when faced with a 5 or 10 minute drawing, you fall back on instinct. You draw by reflex. There’s not much time for conscious thought.


Right about now, someone will be asking me about the color.

Hah! Well, it’s just my normal favorites for dark-haired Caucasians: Perlyne Maroon for the base of the skin, Buff Titanium for pastelization (not a real word) and Raw Umber Violet / Bloodstone Genuine / DS Moonglow for darks – BUT – then I’ve been playing around in Photoshop.

I like to mess about with curves adjustment layers, just to see what it might look like had I painted it differently. Every so often you come up with something by accident, that you might want to do on purpose another time.

This sort of digital color grading is how I learned to paint stronger, darker watercolors over the last few years.

Back in the day, my watercolors were always too pale and too primary. I used too much water, and too pure color – cadmiums, and blues like Ultramarine or Cerulean. So – I would adjust the scan in Photoshop and see that if I’d pushed the values deeper, darker and more desaturated, I liked them so much more. Over time, I learned to match what I liked in the digital corrections, in real life by changing my palette and using more pigment.

I don’t mean to say anything deep here – just showing how I’m always doing the same sort of things, but also – always experimenting in small ways. Stretching a tiny bit each time. Gradually creeping towards better paintings.


4 thoughts on “Push Processing

  1. This was interesting to me. I tend to like the primary look when it comes to the figure or portraits. I love your work tho and I can see that I am in need of some experimentation when it comes to my values and color saturation/value. What I really need to do is paint, paint, paint!!

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