Rembrandt Van Rijn
Gray is a Beautiful Color in Transition Tones.
As we are getting further along in the color portion of our painting, I want you look at one of the Old Masters and learn from your study of their work.
Observe this painting by Rembrandt Van Rijn. When we look at this marvelous self-portrait we are struck by the many different colors, such as, earth tones, pinks and the fleshy yellow-orange color of his hand.
Let us look closer at the master’s use the grays. Notice the use of the greenish gray under the cheek bone and the reddish gray under the chin. These colored grays are used throughout this wonderful work of art to give life and depth to the painting. If Rembrandt, painted this portrait without the use of these grays, the painting would have come across as less three dimensional, almost like a comic book figure. To find the grays while painting the model in our own work, we must look for and recognize these grays in nature. They are just one of the many secrets that the Old Masters used to create paintings that look convincing and realistic.
I remember when I was an art student in Harvey Dinnerstein’s class at the National Academy School of Fine Arts, I would go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, after class each day; I would study the work of the Old Masters, such as Rembrandt, Ingres, and Jacques Louis David. I poured over the paintings and took note of each of the brush strokes and colors. One day I went to class and asked Harvey about the gray transition tones that were between the dark and the light areas in the painting, “The Death of Socrates”, by Jacques Louis David. I asked him about this transition tone that I had seen in the painting and why I don’t see it on the model?
Harvey would tell me that this was the first step; that I am seeing that gray transition tone in the paintings. Now, I need to look for that transition tone in the model that I am painting in my own work. He was correct. To this day, I see and look for these very grays in nature everywhere.
With that being said, now that you are able to see these transitions tones in Rembrandt’s self-portrait, you are now aware of those transition tones.
I want you to begin to look for that patch of gray that is between the lights and the darks. Remember that the transition color is gray because it is not receiving color from the main light source (the sun or lamp) or from of the secondary light source which is the reflected light. It is also, rarely, pure neutral gray but it’s usually a colored gray.
In painting with the “Pastel Palette Method”, I want you to take advantage to the very subtle tones that you are able to achieve. Your pastel paintings will have that “Old Master” look.