“Pink” is just a name for a broad category of colors.

So last week I talked about how the appearance of a color can be deceiving. Colors shift and take on the properties of light and shadow. In the photo above I have some nice pink pastel sticks selected. Artists are normally ready to pull these sticks out when painting a portrait when the model has caucasian skin. So which of the colors above would be the best fit for a good “skin” color?

Here is my arm and the same sticks from above on the side. Which sticks would be a good place to start using to render my arm? ( if you are going for realism that is…’)

So let’s see what they look like right on my skin. These are the exact same sticks from the top photo above and I marked all of them on my arm like so…

If you guessed the none of them … then  you would be right. None are a close approximation to my skin tone. They are all too acidic, too “chalky” (meaning too much white in the mix) and the ones with more color are too “high chroma” (a good term to know).

But if I take these sticks below, which I tried to keep under the “pink family” as much a possible, guess what happens? First photo has them sitting on a black background and then on white… yes, these are the exact same sticks… cool how they get lighter or darker based on what they sit on yes?  But I digress.

These more apparently yucky, dirty, “neutralized” pink sticks look like this on my arm… each line is lined up across from the stick.

Yeah, now we are talking… the sticks are darker and have less “color” in them – they are desaturated and therefore LOW-CHROMA. But now they match up better. Otherwise, you run the risk of painting portraits that look like the models are made of plastic. Think Barbie. A few of the colors above now have an apparent greenish or blue cast to them now. They changed based on being up against my skin. Color is relative, remember?

And important to note- I tried as hard as I could to “match” my skin tone here. I have thousands of colors at my disposal. (yes, I have a lot of pastels). And guess what? They meld in, but none are really “exact”… skin is too complex! There is no “right” color.

If you want more good stuff on portrait painting, my next Monday Portrait class starts on March 30th. All levels and all mediums welcome. You don’t have to paint in pastel either. The class is based on learning about light and the portrait. You can even just draw if you want.

…. and if you really want thrown into the fire and come out the other side never painting portraits the same way ever again, then please come and be dunked into the deep end of the pool with my 3-day intensive workshop this summer on pastels and the portrait. Live models, understanding the law of light and pastel dust… what’s not to love?

July 31- August 1. 9am until 4pm. Sweetwater Center for the Arts, Sewickley PA. Links to sign up below…..

Portrait Class for 8 weeks starting March 30th. Mondays, 9:30 am.
oh yeah, we talk a lot about color on Mondays!

“Master Series” Class- “Power of Pastel”
(Don’t be scared of the title- beginners are welcome!)

I promise I won’t let you drown.

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