Lessons from a Sargent #2
Upon further observation, what also caught my amazement in this portrait was Mr. Sargent’s use of color temperature to define and turn form instead value ( light and dark) in certain areas.
As I remember my own early artistic development and frequently witness it in others, there seems to be a progression to maturity in beginner’s work that follows this course in one form or another. When one first identifies that there is a form change, their first assumption is that the transition is achieved with value only. Also, this is often overstated with a value shift that is too dark creating a sunken or overly dramatic change, not accurately representing the light quality. To more accurately accomplish this, either strictly using color temperature or coupled with the slightest value shift and temperature, the form change can be much more subtle and luminous. Notice how Mr. Sargent achieved the beautiful spherical effect of the forehead by using peach tones on the frontal plane and ochre/olive tones on the far side of the forehead to spin the form with no value shift. Absolutely beautiful!!! You will also see this happening on the bridge of the nose as it turns from (orange/pink) flesh tone to the more olive note on the far side.
The next stage in the progression is that the student recognizes the color transition, but overstates it, using bright blue or viridian greens to state the coolness to turn the form. This was a great temptation for me early on. In the thrill of actually seeing the color change, I would overstate the transition, brandishing viridian so the whole world would see it too. I am so drawn to the beauty of what Sargent has done achieving a stunningly simple, solid form with the subtlest of transitions both in value and color.
I have taken the time to extensively describe these color mixing principles in our videos for those interested in further explanation. Click image to see more… Enjoy!
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