Using Color Strings to Create Flesh Tones in Portrait Paintings by Terry Strickland
The science of color mixing can be very important for the student to grasp early. We were taught color theory in art school, but the actual skill of mixing colors and values was left to chance and experimentation. Working that way can be frustrating and time consuming, but need not be so. Over the years we've researched traditional methods of color mixing as taught by the old masters and the Academies in Paris and the great portrait painters such as Zorn, Sargent and Sorolla looking for a reliable, logical system which would serve our art. This research led us to “color strings”, which are simply premixed layouts of the major color masses in our subject, from warm to cool, and dark to light.
This has several compelling benefits which we find useful. First, by identifying and mixing the major mass-tones at the very first, we avoid the mistake of continuously remixing slightly different colors throughout the course of the work. This ensures that the color scheme of the work remains harmonious and clean. Also, by premixing, we are able to speed up the painting process and work uninterrupted by the need to mix new paint. In addition, by having our cools, warms, highlights and accents already on the palette, value and temperature comparisons can be made and selected quickly and accurately, thus saving much overpainting and scraping out on the canvas itself.
We found this demonstration of the use of a color string in portrait painting on Terry Strickland’s website and asked her permission to republish it here.
For more on this topic, see Color Mixing Secrets for the Plain Air Painter.
Using Color Strings to Create Flesh Tones in Portrait Painting
by Terry Strickland
This is what I have developed over the years. It works for me.
I am constantly trying new things but for now this is my go-to starting place. I develop 4 basic flesh tones. Having a method helps me and seems to help my students.
Article and images copyright Terry Strickland
and reprinted here with permission.
To see more of Strickland's work, visit her website: Terry Strickland Art
Terry Strickland graduated with a degree in Graphic Design from the University of Central Florida. She pursued a career in graphics for several years before devoting herself full-time to her fine art work in 2005. Since then she has become well known for her portraits and still life work.
She writes: "I'm intrigued by the idea of a work of art looking like an old master's painting but with a contemporary edge, as an artist I want to be a filter for the time I live in. I'm frequently inspired by fairy tales, superheroes, or works of literature, and reexamine them in a contemporary way. Mythical characters may become a device to explore our responses to modern day situations, for example Superman becomes a symbol for the mighty dreams each of us hold close to our chests."
Become an Artist's Road Member Today!
Click here to become a Member and enjoy access to all the in-depth painting and travel articles, videos and tutorials. Guaranteed!
Already a Member?
Log in here. To renew your membership, log in and follow the links.
Not ready to become a Member yet? Subscribe to our free email postcard "Perspectives". Enter your email address below.
Search the Site
New Member Content
An Interview with
PBS Video Interview of John Hulsey Painting
Color Mixing Secrets for the
Plein Air Painter
Step-by-Step Watercolor Demo:
A Votre Sante
A Mini-Tour of Venice
A Mini-Tour of the Dordogne
Adventure and Inspiration in Glacier National Park
The Artist's Road Store
Our new eBook (also available in softcover edition), A Primer on Painting Nocturnes.
Get inspired and then get out there! Filled with examples of night paintings, technical tips, night palette colors and a step-by-step demonstration.
Quarter Past Purple -Get lots of "complements"
It's Time to Paint!
with this fun and useful timepiece.
Check out the Leonardo DaVinci backward-moving watch, or the Salvador Dali rotating mustaches watch.
Also in our Store: check out our tips and guides for the artist/traveler, and some of the tools and other products that we use in our own art and travels. We only offer things for sale in our Store that we enthusiastically believe in.
The Artist's Road School
We are artists, authors and teachers with over 35 years of experience in painting the world's beautiful places. We created The Artist's Road in order to share our knowledge and experiences with you, and create a community of like-minded individuals. You can learn more about us and see our original paintings by clicking on the links below.
About Ann About John
Hulsey Trusty Studios
We are also regular contributors to the Plein Air blog at Artist Daily.