Project 1 – Exercise 3: Tonal Figure Study

This study’ aim is to convey form through tonal gradation in color.

Final painting

Acrylic paint on paper (48 x 36 cm)

Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 3

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 3

Sketchbook studies

Looking with my model for interesting poses and viewpoints. I decided eventually for the sitting pose with the light from the window in the back. As it was a bright daylight and the room was quite light the front areas of the model were light enough to see clearly shadows areas.

Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 3 - sketchbook prep

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 3 – sketchbook prep

Work in progress

My approach:

  1. Imprimatura with a middle values ‘skin’ tone mixed from yellow, red and blue with white.
  2. Starting to block in first the lightest and continuing with the darker values.
  3. Modulating and adjusting values with brush
  4. Applying bolder and more expressive strokes with wide brush for the shirt as a contrasting element to the flesh.
  5. Working out bolder contrast around the head with the light from the window (luminosity) with blurred edges.
Stefan513593 - Project 1 - Exercise 3 -- work in progress

Stefan513593 – Project 1 – Exercise 3 — work in progress

Overall, I captured the essence of form in a believable environment. I have the feeling that this study was rather a safe play more on simple approach to place the values next to each other with at times some blending. I would like to continue from here with a more expressive painting approach.


  • Working with broken colors and starting instead of a white-black tonal values range directly with a coloured value range made the painting and working with a model faster and directed. Preparation is key.
  • I feel that step#2 in above work in progress has a certain visual appeal that I wold like to follow. It is quite unfinished but despite or perhaps because the forms are already believable and nearly solid.

Next time:

  • A more expressive and loose painting approach now that understand well working with values in cooler and working more in broken colors for flesh.
  • I am wondering whether I could have worked out the edges differently as I experimented in part 2 with coloured edges to depict better the fuzziness of light around the contour.
  • I find that I overworked the shirt areas too much, as it is harder to get it right with wet paint on the surface. I think I need to be bolder in applying right strokes more consciously in the first place.
  • As the shirt was black I used black mixed with blue for simplicity. Considering my tutor’s feedback on being more careful with black I could have prepared some darked colors for the shirt beforehand what I didn’t do. But I had to continued working with the model within the allotted time.

Contextual inspiration

and one work that inspires me to work more on (unprimed) canvas:

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