Friday, December 16, 2011



I often do quick painting demos for my classes using a live model where I introduce some basic medium information, materials and discuss color theory for beginning, intermediate and advanced painters. There are many ways I work with acrylic paint but in this demo I will summarize a portrait study I did of my model Karen using acrylic paint very loosely and applied in thin transparent washes. One of the advantages to the fast drying time of acrylic paint is the ability to build up layers of color and shadow very quickly! Enjoy!


This can be done in pencil (2B graphite), but here I used a synthetic round brush (#6) and phthalo blue acrylic paint. I concentrated on blocking in the major forms, lights and shadows, and paying particular attention to proportioning. This is done loosely with watered down paint. I am attempting to establish a three value painting, creating highlight, middle value, and core shadow areas. The phthalo blue could be applied in a light wash over the top of a finished graphite drawing later if you prefer to do the drawing in graphite first.


A mull is anything you do to the surface of your painting in the form of a wash applied uniformly over the entire painting. I even get a little loose and throw some paint around creating drips around the edges. In this case I added a cadmium orange wash thinned with lots of water. A touch of alizarin crimson can be added in to deepen the orange. By having used a blue paint to do the drawing I now have established a chromatic relationship with the highlights set in a warm cadmium orange and the shadows in a cool phthalo blue. Using color to strengthen your forms makes for more interesting and colorful work.


I now added more alizarin crimson (thinned with water) in the form of washes to help transition from the warm cadmium highlights that I established in the mull to the core shadows I established with the phthalo blue drawing. It is in this transition to the core shadows that I establish a local color, in this case a rosy colored (blood-flushed) cheek. I also add some of the alizarin crimson to the head wrap that was violet colored. I apply the color more thickly and saturated to help "colorize" the the wrap.


I now need to deepen my shadows to provide a more full set of values and create contrast. There are a number of color combinations that could be used for this (mixing cool-compliments for example) but in this case I reach for one of my favorite shadow colors paynes grey. Paynes grey is a great color that is deep enough to feel like black but is actually a blue-greyish color. Using solid black would only de-saturate my existing shadow colors and flatten the illusion of form. Using paynes grey can deepen shadows while preserving a harmonious color palette.


To finish up this study I add some bright highlights and what we call specular highlights. Specular highlights are the reflections of light on moist or wet surfaces making them read as smooth in texture. This can be the most fun adding finishing touches of paint (very thickly) that create the greatest impact in their effect. Don't over do it though, preserve the bright whites for the truly bright reflections. The greater your contrast in your lighting set-up, the easier it is to see where these highlight areas will be applied.

High contrast images are fun and easy to render and look at, but remember truly GREAT painting comes in the subtleties of color mixing, value, and application of the paint. So enjoy the gradual build up of color and discover the world of mixing color, creating contrast and mixing paint.

Happy painting!

Artwork and Demo: ©Copyright Trey Gallaher

"Karen Head Study"
11x14 in.
acrylic on bristol

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Drawings from Journal: Hummingbird
(click images for larger preview)

©Copyright Trey Gallaher

Saturday, December 3, 2011


Last year a friend, illustrator and old classmate of mine Kristina invited me to visit her daughter Mia's first grade class. It seemed that the budget for art at their school was a little shy and needed some voluntary inspiration and instruction. I jumped at the chance to work with a younger crew of artists than my usual batch of salty dawgs. Meet Mrs. Stephens first grade class of Pleasanton, California.

My charge was to lead these youngsters for fourty-five minutes during their allotted creative art making hour. Portraits it was! They were welcoming of my company and steadfast in my command, but a little uncertain of my credentials at first. But after a brief introduction and a few samples of my work I brought along, these scally-wags were ready for my lead!

Paint began to fly as I guided them through the rudiments of proportioning the face. Slowly I began to see the wheels start to turn and the look of determination and fury fill their eyes. I couldn't have been more excited. It was working! Even with our limited bunch of poster paint colors and brushes the magic was happening. My crew was hard at work!

Fourty-five minutes past and these youngsters weren't about to quit! They were carefully studying their subjects faces and capturing the likeness. Teaching them to mix primary colors to get skin tones and hair color had them green with envy and anticipation. In their eyes I was conducting magic, coaxing their brushes to make colors appear out of thin air! They were really in love with Color Theory!

I was a little worried about blowing past the deadline but Mrs. Stephen's said "by all means continue, I didn't think they would last twenty minutes". By the time an hour and a half rolled around we were hangin' the work up on the walls and studying their efforts carefully! Smiles appeared on the bright faces of my new found cohorts and feeling of accomplishment. Hi-fives all around!

I want to send a hearty "thanks" out to my dear friends Kristina and Mia for asking me to be a part of this class. It was a fantastic experience. I will never forget it. I also want to thank Mrs. Stephens for her patience in letting us paint past our deadline. And to my new young artist friends, great job and thank you for letting me work with you.

The thing I came away with the most from this visit was the importance of keeping that youthful spirit in everything you do, to not be afraid to learn something new, to remain open minded, to keep asking honest questions and to just keep trying, even if you make a mistake.

These little people gave me more inspiration that afternoon than any artbook had in a long time.

photos: ©Copyright Trey Gallaher