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Old 09-16-2009, 04:31 PM   #1
Mara Schasteen Mara Schasteen is offline
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Painting outdoors in the dark (?)




I have a question that I am hoping someone might be abe to answer for me soon ... I've got a project painting a rock star during her outdoor performance on stage. I've got one hour to do it in, and it's going to be dark outside. Surely there is a solution to this seemingly impossible dilema?

Any and all ideas will be considered! Thanks for your help!
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Old 09-16-2009, 05:49 PM   #2
Michael Georges Michael Georges is offline
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Hello Mara:

Yes, that is a challenge! I am wondering about this one hour time you have stated...is that all the time you have to do the painting? I am assuming not...

So I will recommend to you a combination of photos and life work for this.

Have them get you a good spot, close to the action. Set up before the show and take pictures of the stage and background in the light so you can understand the details you will be seeing later.

When it gets dark, have power available and a reasonable lamp for your canvas that you will clip on. Have your camera at the ready as well.

Mix up as much of a palette as you can for the situation you will be facing. Painting such a scene will be a bit of a jumble as you will have objects in dark which will be low chroma, and objects lit by stage lighting which will be high chroma..colored lights will make this more complex too.

Rock stars are not stationary objects that hold a pose while you paint away. You don't have time to take pics and paint, so get a friend who understands photography to snap away as the action goes on for the hour, and pray pray pray that you get a shot of your rockstar that you can use for the final painting.

Meanwhile, you are sketching, painting, or whatever you need to do to capture the "essence, atmosphere, and feeling" of the scene - instruments, glare, lights and shafts of light, etc.

I would ask for a sitting with the musician as well, or at least some close up photos that you can use for reference.

In the end, you are going to end up with a composite painting from multiple sources and reference. I cannot see any other way to pull something like this off.

Hope that helps!
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Old 09-16-2009, 06:06 PM   #3
Michael Georges Michael Georges is offline
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As an addition, if they are not willing (or able) to accommodate you in your requirements for this painting, then I would pass on the commission.

You will likely not be happy with the work you produce and there is an increased chance that they would not be either. We are not magicians and we cannot make bricks without straw.

There are extremely few folk on the planet that can paint and capture the likeness and essence of a highly animated figure on a stage from 20 or 30 feet away...if you get that close!
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Old 09-16-2009, 07:43 PM   #4
Debra Rexroat Debra Rexroat is offline
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I, too, question what you can accomplish in one hour. Painting at night is tricky, and the motion on stage will make it even more so. I agree that a good finished product could be had if you use a combination of photos and quick sketches, taking them back tot he studio to design the final painting.

It might also help to "practice" painting/sketching this musician from photos you may have available to you, to kind of warm up to her look.

I have done some night/dark painting in pastels on dark ground (black or dark neutral) with success. This is one way to limit your work to the bright colors, highlights, and silhouettes, which could make a pretty nice image if you are able to do this.
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Old 09-16-2009, 10:34 PM   #5
Mara Schasteen Mara Schasteen is offline
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OK. Very good advice so far. Thanks Michael and Debra for your quick responses. I truly do plan to do this painting in one hour, as the band is only on stage for one hour ... but I will have plenty of time beforehand to set up and prepare the canvas and the paint. I am hoping to get a block in completed by the time the singer performs a slower number when she sits on a stool with her guitar. Then, I'll sketch her out as quickly as possible (while having a friend take photos), and try to complete her in the studio. Should be interesting.

Michael, how would you recommend I pre-mix the paint? Obviously, I'll have all my paint squeezed out onto the palette, but I think you mean taking time before the performance to mix up some obvious tones?

This project is more of a "performance" than a commission. It is my fifth one this summer (first portrait, however), and the previous four have been really fun and successful.

I guess my biggest issue is lack of electricity. I'll try a Coleman lantern and a flashlight. Yikes. I think I am crazy.

Will post the painting to this topic on Friday.
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Old 09-17-2009, 12:51 AM   #6
Laurel Alanna McBrine Laurel Alanna McBrine is offline
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Hi Mara,

This sounds like fun - quite a change from the usual solitary existence most of us lead.

Try a book light. I used one (battery operated) for an outdoor painting session that began at dusk.

You could also try one of those flashlights that mount on your forehead. I think you can find them at stores that sell camping equipment. Another participant in the painting group used one. It seemed to work even better than the book light, since wherever you are looking you have illumination, whether it is your painting or your palette.

A practice run ahead of time to see if either of these suggestions will meet your needs would probably be wise.

I agree with the idea of preparing your palette ahead of time, since even with the book light, you will have a hard time discerning subtleties in the color and value in dim light and having your "notes" already lined up will be extremely valuable when you have time constraints.

All the best - post some pictures after the event so we can see how it all went down!
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Old 09-19-2009, 06:28 AM   #7
Debra Rexroat Debra Rexroat is offline
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Painting outdoors in the dark.

I recommend against the head lamp. I used them in mountaineering, and they shine light at whatever you are looking at -- imagine looking up at your subject and blinding her during her number! The book light is a better solution.

In the October issue of Artist's Magazine on page 34, in an article about Robert Armetta, is pictured his premixed palette recipes. I know for the life of me I have also seen, within the last day or so, an image of a palette with several skin tones premixed, but I can not locate it. But I found this online: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Eiwce13X73...0/PALETTE+.JPG It shows the artist's palette with anticipated colors and values all premixed. I could see something like this being of great value in your situation!

Addendum:
This is what I was looking for to show premixed colors:
http://www.rexart.com/art-supplies-b...matters_lg.gif
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Old 09-19-2009, 07:13 AM   #8
Allan Rahbek Allan Rahbek is offline
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Mara,
you should try a camping style gas lamp. Easy to carry with you and they give a nice white light.
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Old 09-22-2009, 07:49 PM   #9
Claudemir Bonfim Claudemir Bonfim is offline
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I've already done something like that before. I recommend you to take a look at Daniel Greene's pre-mixtured palette. You can mix it all in about 20 minutes and you won't regret taking the time to do so.
Do two fast sketches before the event, this is a great warm-up.
Vignettes are fast and charming.
Well, I'm against the photographs, specially if they are taken by another person, but that's my opinion only. I think that most professional photographers don't know anything about portraits and amateurs are a total disaster.
I wish you the best of luck.
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Old 09-22-2009, 10:35 PM   #10
Mara Schasteen Mara Schasteen is offline
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Thank you all for your suggestions, and for taking the time out to entertain my question! The event is over, and I hate my painting. Ha! The good news is, this very amazing and beautiful musician has agreed to sit for me for a REAL portrait soon.

Well, I brought several lights with me, but ended up relying on the street light nearby for illumination. I had every single thing against me: crowds standing between me and the stage, people tripping over my easel, everyone talking to me, no lighting whatsoever on the band ... even with all those obstacles, the painting was a hit for the people watching and I sold two other plein air paintings as a result.

If I get the guts to expose myself in such an unflattering manner, perhaps I will post a picture of this disasterous one hour portrait.

Now it's time to get back to business ...

PS: Claudemir, I absolutely loved your honest statement about photos! I agree!
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