Figure in Graphite and Oil
by Gail Postal
Connie has modeled for me several times over the years. She has a dignity and nobility about her that makes her seem much larger than life, and I try to convey this in my paintings.
Color is pure joy. I have probably a million different colors but only use a few—the most intense and transparent.
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1. Begin drawing: During a series of 10 to 15 three-hour, live sessions, I draw the model on Ampersand Gessobord, using mainly a Derwent Graphic HB pencil. I start with a tentative drawing of the whole figure and then go back to the head to make sure that the shape and size are correct. When I feel the head is right, I go back to the whole figure, remeasuring and altering the proportions to fit with the head. Then I usually work area by area, starting with the neck and shoulders and arms and working down.
2. Finish face and invent ornamentation: Once I’ve completed a full pass through the figure, I go back to the head to add facial details. The face is usually the last area that I work on with the model present. On my own I add fabric and pattern details and jewelry (Connie hadn’t been wearing earrings during her modeling sessions).
3. Begin layering paint: I then begin applying paint layers to the background and the clothing. Here you see one layer each of Holbein gold (background), manganese blue (background of patterned fabric), manganese violet (design on patterned fabric), Winsor & Newton transparent maroon (wood of the chair), manganese violet (fabric of chair) and phthalo blue (solid fabric of dress). All paints were Vasari, unless otherwise indicated. I always paint without the model, choosing fabric colors and shapes as I please.
4. Build vivid colors: To build color intensity, I continue to add layers of each hue, the number of layers varying, depending on the properties of the paint and the intensity I want. In this painting, I applied four layers of gold to the background; manganese blue had the most layers (eight), and phthalo blue received the fewest (three). This process can take weeks or months because the paint must dry for two days before another layer can be applied.
5. Develop the patterns: I developed the patterned fabric with ruby red and white. I’d established the fabric folds during the drawing phase; they remained visible after the application of multiple layers of translucent paint.
6. Apply finishing coat and crystals: Once the paint dries, I apply a layer of Liquin with a large goat-hair hake brush. Once the Liquin dries, I can add crystals. In this case, I added red crystals to the earrings and patterned areas of the dress. To do this, with a small brush I applied Aleene’s Original tacky glue to the appropriate locations on the painting and then placed the crystals on the glue. Here you see the completed painting Connie II (graphite, oil, and crystal; 36×24).
Gail Postal’s father, who worked for a fabric company, often gave his young daughter fabric swatches to play with. When Gail received a souvenir Rockette doll, she began creating new garments for the toy from her father’s swatches—inventing clothing, very much as she does today for her models. Before seriously pursuing art-making, however, Postal earned a doctorate in education from Fordham University in New York City and spent 27 years teaching preschool and primary-grade children. Upon retirement, Postal signed up for a drawing class taught by Sharon Sprung at the National Academy Museum and School and eventually found herself in new a career. She has also studied at the Art Students League, SculptureCenter and the New School, all in New York City. Postal was one of 10 winners of The Artist’s Magazine’s 2012 Over 60 Art Competition. Visit her website at www.gailpostal.com.
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