Carmel Visual Arts: David, we are excited to welcome you back for another California Vibe Watercolor Portraiture™ workshop with Carmel Visual Arts. This time we will be exploring embellishing these vibrant portraits with fun and experimental techniques you will be showing us. Since we were not able to host a workshop with you in 2020, we are excited to catch up with you in this new Q&A format. We have a few questions that have come up for you. Here we go…
Your style of work, “Happy Vibe” portraits is something many people wish they could have been inspired to paint during the course of the past year’s pandemic. It seems the lively colors, would turn around any dull mood someone may find themselves in – just by pulling out some simple materials and getting started. What is the first thing you do when you decide to paint? What gets you in the “Happy Vibe” mood?
David Lobenberg: I use bright, vibrant, expressive color in most of my portraits, so before I paint, I have at least four puddles of those colors on my palette ready to go. I also like to paint with big brushes using bold, dynamic strokes. With that said, before I apply paint to paper, my mood needs to be both relaxed and fearless, knowing that if I fail, I’ll just hop back onto my palette and with a new sheet of watercolor paper and start over! So… puddles and palettes are ready to go plus being relaxed and fearless equals happy-time watercoloring!
CVA: How many colors do you generally apply to a given portrait? Do you prefer to keep your colors clean and bold rather than mixing them wet? Do you overlay the color relying on their translucence to blend?
DL: I like both colors straight out of the tube and mixed but usually with only two-color mixtures. The colors can be mixed both on the palette and in wet-on-dry or wet-on-wet washes. I sometimes will glaze, but I don’t overly rely on that technique.
DL: With tongue-in-cheek, I tell my workshop students that I hate the term “Happy Accident.” I coined a replacement term (and again with tongue-in-cheek): “Serendipitous Event.” This term gives the medium of watercolor a wee bit more gravitas. Anyway, a happy accident is something that you were not intending to do while painting. An example would be one’s loaded brush drips a drop or two onto your painting before you apply a wash. You have two choices: grab a paper towel and sop it up or look at it and think “that looks good. I’ll leave it there.” I most always apply splatters and drips on my paintings, so this is often what I think when an errand drop occurs. I think artists that accept happy accidents are looser painters and (with tongue-in-cheek), happier humans!
CVA: You have been painting people of color throughout your career, can you share with us some painting techniques to capture a range of skin tones?
DL: You can be very inventive and expressive with portraiture colors. The secret is to follow the value patterns that you see. That’s what all painters do anyway. The trick is that you want your colors to have an eye-pleasing unity. What I do is work around faces and features with analogous colors while carefully following the value pattern. I like the term “Valhue.” Valhue is the coupling of value with color (hue).
CVA: Does a photograph have to be high contrast when you print your reference or do you accentuate the lighting on your computer to create the areas of distinction.
DL: I love to paint my portraits with strong value contrasts. I do this by taking photos of my subjects in dramatic lighting conditions: either a strong light source in a darkened room or outside on a sunny day. I also often fiddle with the value range in my photos on the computer. In my case, it is with the controls that come with my Mac photo library. I can also fiddle with color. The majority of the time, however, I turn my color photographs into black and white prints. I do this to be inventive and not be a slave to color photos or digital manipulations.
CVA: Do you ever find yourself painting couples or are they most always solo subjects?
DL: I paint predominately single subjects. I have seen many multiple subject portraiture paintings that are truly awesome and inspiring, but to date, I just can’t pull myself away from diving into the single, lone subject!
Thanks for your input, David. We always love having you as one of our instructors because your workshops are so full of fun and freestyle expression.
For those interested in joining this online workshop that is coming up, you should know that there are only a few spots left. For info and registration, go to https://www.carmelvisualarts.com/david-lobenberg/