Well, finally - after what seems like AGES - tonight I decided to finally pick up the brushes and put some paint onto canvas...
It had actually been so long since I did some serious portrait painting that I was afraid I had forgotten how. And being as how last time I tried painting, I had success one day and utter failure the next. Needless to say, I was a bit discouraged and most definitely daunted at the thought of trying to get something right onto canvas.
However, after a brief but inspiring conversation with my mentor and instructor Juliette, I realized that all I had was excuses; the alternative was to sit down and just do it.
The good news is, I had success, in some ways better than I had expected.
I stumbled across a reference photo that grabbed my attention (whenever I pay attention to that little 'twinge', it always tends to pay off...) Suddenly, I looked at it and I saw the colors, the values made sense, and I knew just what to do...
I pulled out my color mixing/value exercises, and was able to identify some very simple color mixtures that would get me very close to the tones I needed. It all made sense, and was so clear.
Pretty soon, I was laying in areas of color and value simultaneously, and everything was going along well. After a while, things began to look a little muddy, so I referred back to my color scales and evaluated the colors again. I also realized that some areas had been left blank, and that was affecting the appearance of the values as well as the colors. So I made my best estimates, and laid in the remaining colors.
After that, it was a matter of adjusting, pushing and pulling the color and the value. The interesting thing is, I only used about 4 colors, and was able to get everything I needed from them, (plus white.) The shifts in value and in color were very slight.
In the end, I wound up with a color study that is a lot more accurate than I expected, as well as having many qualities that I have been searching for: the warmth of the skin under cool light, and the color shift to reds, a slight 'flush' in certain areas of the face - without overdoing it. (an excellent example of what I am talking about is Malcolm "Skip" Liepke.)
It appears that, even though I haven't been painting, I have been observing and learning.
The lesson I take away from all of this is that, if I remain mindful and aware, I will always be learning, improving and growing as an artist: sometimes the growth is happening below the surface level of awareness.
Now, the next step is to hit the bricks and put all this knowledge to use!