Go with Green
If you are contemplating painting a portrait, and the white canvas or paper is intimidating, start with a large and bold swath of green. It is such an unlikely color to be the foundation of a portrait. I did a painting for my brother-in-law after he had surgery to remove a brain tumor. The staples on his bald head were astonishing. He asked for a portrait, I took photos, and the canvas mocked me with its whiteness. Smack, Permanent Green light! And it was so shocking that I did the portrait called “Zipperhead”.
On New Years Day, 2012, I was … scared, conflicted, fat, etc. Who was the bozo who thought up Resolutions? I started a self-portrait. I’d been struggling with acrylics, and this was back to my tried and true oil paints. Hookers Green, Indian Red, Golden Ochre, Cadmium Yellow, and Ivory Black. I don’t work with black paint. Someone had said I shouldn’t. Someone else said try a new color, an artists New Year’s Resolution. My hair is dark. I decided to do a self-portrait with black hair and a bit of black humor. The oils drip marvelously. Since I’m new to black, I went easy on it. That helped, but a palette knife full of green smack across the middle really loosened me up. Take this, you smug Resolutions!
I’m enchanted by cadmium yellow dark, whether oil or acrylic. It’s like cattle escaping the stockyard. It is not a polite color. I love it, because it gives me fits. It’s like plants that reseed in your garden, in the WRONG spot. Wrong according to who’s rules? Wearing brown shoes with black pants is wrong, according to WHO?
The Indian Red mixed well with the other colors. Instead of painting my wrinkles, I scratched them into the opaque paint with a skewer.
Don’t be afraid to start a portrait. Slather on a wad of green paint at the beginning of a painting, and you’ll get something unexpected, and not boring. Remember a portrait is about who someone is, not how they look.