As much fun as the Earth, the Milky Way, The moon, and the space stations were to paint, and as lovely as they are on in their own right, in this painting their real value is the context they provide for the figure. The composition is really all about her, as a symbol for humanity, for human achievement, and for human potential. So when I say I’m finally getting to the fun part of the painting, it’s not that working on the rest of it wasn’t fun (far from it), but it’s particularly rewarding to see the figure coming to life.
My approach when painting flesh tones over an underpainting is a little different than the way I approached the rest of the painting. I have found that working into a glaze layer is actually detrimental to achieving the subtleties and precision both of form and color required to paint a face or a hand. So I am working in straight tube colors directly over the top of the underpainting in pretty much the same fashion that I would have before I started doing underpaintings. The difference is that I have the underpainting as a value guide against which I can judge the lightness and darkness of my colors…a huge advantage, especially in dramatic lighting situations like the one in this composition, where it would be really easy to exaggerate reflected light in the shadows or lighten the skin tones too much in general. The underpainting also provides a background support for the darker colors which tend to be more transparent and can be frustrating to work with over a light ground.
The face, the hands, and the small areas of visible skin at the midriff and ankles were all painted this way…directly applying oil color over the underpainting. For the hair, however, I did apply a fairly dark, ivory and raw umber glaze layer, which darkened the entire area significantly while still allowing the details of the underpainting to show through. Then I was able to use increasingly opaque colors to slowly build up the forms of the hair and eventually add the highlights. For this model’s dark hair, it worked really well and made it much easier to deal with the transition from the hair to the head in the deep shadows on the left as well as the soft transition from the hair into the patterns of the Milky Way.
I’m including a few different images of the painting at this stage, since it’s still tricky to photograph.
First, a shot of the full painting. As you can see, everything is basically finished now except for the flight suit/uniform.
Next, a closer view of the figure from the knees up. There is some glare on the face, hair and upper hand, but it gives a better feel for the texture of the painting and the colors in the lower hand.
And finally, one close-up each of the hands. The image of the figure’s right hand also provides a good close-up of the face and hair.