Tonal Painting Exercise in Burnt Umber

Tonal Painting Exercise in Burnt Umber

Many years ago, when I was first I was looking for work as a Concept Artist, one of the skills that helped my portfolio stand out from the crowd was the way I used color. My approach to color was something I learned by first practicing a simple and powerful exercise. Understanding the principles of this exercise not only helped me get a job as a concept artist on the Star Trek Online MMO video game, but helped me get a cover illustration for Star Trek The Magazine.

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This color exercise is tonal painting. It's the first exercise that I recommend to anyone who wants to learn how to paint in color. In this lesson, I'll cover tonal painting using watercolor and I'll paint several different examples. I'll start with simple shapes, then a cool skull still life and finally a figure study. Don't worry If you've never used watercolor, or are not comfortable drawing skulls or figures. Instead, focus on the principles, concepts and the process, because the principles and the process applies to any subject and any painting medium.

The videos in this lesson demonstrate the tonal painting in Burnt Umber process. In Part 1, I cover the principles and concepts and also talk about the materials I recommend, specifically the brand of watercolor I like and use the most. Part 1 also has a full tonal painting demonstration of a cool skull still life.  In Part 2, I demonstrate a tonal painting of a female torso. By focusing on the torso, I can spend less time on drawing the figure and more time and energy on the painting.

PART 1: Skull Still-Life

PART 2: Figure study in watercolor

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Part 2 of this video series, along with the full article with detailed process images and a text breakdown is available only to subscribers of my monthly Newsletter, Private School. To watch Part 2enter your email below to subscribe...

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Why Tonal Painting and Why Burnt Umber?

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If you've never painted before, this is the best place to start. Tonal painting is really the process of using drawing techniques and principles in a painting medium. For the demonstration I will be using watercolor, but any painting medium of your choice will work. Gouache or acrylic are two other mediums that are good for beginner painters. If you are more experienced and have used oils or just want to try, then these concepts will also apply. The reason why I am recommending watercolor is because it's inexpensive and easy to find. I'll go into more details in the materials section below.

The reason why we're starting with Burnt Umber is because it's a color that has two unique properties that make it great for beginner painters:

#1. It can get a nice range of value from dark to light. In a way Burnt Umber is a lot like using ink wash or any black water based medium. It doesn't go to a full black, but it still gets really dark, especially when contrasted with a bright white paper.

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#2. Burnt Umber isn't a saturated brown. This means it is not as colorful, rich or intense as other colors like a pure Cadmium Red or Cadmium Orange. Using a less saturated color will allow your eye to start to see and experience color without being too distracting or intimidating. See the image below for a comparison of Burnt Umber to Cadmium Red and Cadmium Orange.

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Recommended Materials

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The brand I am currently using the most and recommend is M. Graham. There are other "fancier", more expensive brands, but I keep coming back to M. Graham. The pigment they use produces a nice temperature of Burnt Umber. This means that it's not too orange, not too red or not too blue. It also gets dark when used more opaquely or thickly.

M. Graham. is an American brand and can be ordered online or found in larger art stores. For those outside of America, another brand I recommend is Holbein. Since I am currently based in Asia, I've been able to find Holbein at many art shops I've visited.

Holbein is a lot like M. Graham in terms of color temperature and pigment quality. It's also less expensive that most brands and is great quality paint for the price.

Click the image to buy Holbein Burnt Umber watercolor paint online...

Click the image to buy Holbein Burnt Umber watercolor paint online...

If you can't find either of these brands, don't worry. Start with whatever is available or whatever tube of Burnt Umber you can find. The important thing is to just start painting!


Process Images

In this section I'm going to break down the process in text form to help you review the material from the video lessons. The full article with the detailed process breakdown is available only in the November '17 Issue of my Private School Newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will not only have access to the detailed process images, text breakdowns, video demonstrations and lessons, but you will also get access to the archive of past articles and video lessons.

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Tonal painting process in Burnt Umber by Chris Legaspi

Tonal painting process in Burnt Umber by Chris Legaspi

[VIDEO] Limited Palette Color Sketching

[VIDEO] Limited Palette Color Sketching

One of the most successful American artists working in the 1970s and 1980s was David Grove.  He painted movie posters for blockbuster films and illustrated covers for best selling books.  Almost every major studio and publisher including Disney, Fox, MGM and Warner Bros. wanted to hire David Grove. He was living every artists dream, making a lot of money to draw and paint what he loved, and having millions of people love and admire his work.

The Outsiders (1983) and Lethal Weapon (1987) movie poster art by David Grove.

The Outsiders (1983) and Lethal Weapon (1987) movie poster art by David Grove.

David’s work was well crafted and of the highest quality, but it also had a unique look. One of the things that made his work special, besides his excellent drawing skills, was the way he used color. He used a very simple and powerful strategy and technique. This technique is so simple that it has become a mystery to most of the art world.

Today I’m going to reveal that mystery to you, which is the topic of this week’s color lesson and demonstration...

Using a 2 Color Limited Palette

For this lesson, we’re going to start with two of David Grove’s favorite colors: Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine blue. Burnt Sienna is another earth tone like Burnt Umber but is more orange and more saturated. Ultramarine Blue is “cool” color that is part blue with a little bit of violet.

These colors are what’s known as complimentary colors. Which means they are on opposite sides of the color wheel.

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I don’t want to get too technical here, so if you want a more information, see this video on the properties of color.  The important thing to know about these colors is that they look great together! Especially when used correctly.

In this video demonstration below you can see using a limited palette of Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue on a series of figure sketches. In the video I also talk about the importance of knowing when and and where to use more warms colors (more Burnt Sienna), and when and where to use mostly “cool” colors (more blue). And of course, when and where to use them together is pretty important too. To see a limited palette in action, check the video below…

PART 1 - 5 Minute Poses


PART 2 - 10 Minute Pose

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Part 2 of this video series and the full article with process images are available exclusively to subscribers of my monthly Newsletter, Private School. Subscribers will not only get access to exclusive videos, but other great content like handouts, reference images and more. To watch Part 2 and access past archives of the Newsletter, enter your email below and click "Get Updates" to join...

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[VIDEO] Life Drawing Exercise #3 - Graphite Pencil

[VIDEO] Life Drawing Exercise #3 - Graphite Pencil

When I first arrived in Los Angeles, I didn't become a professional in the entertainment industry right away. It took some time before I got my first opportunity.  One of the early successes I had was getting an art test and interview for a character designer position at Nickelodeon Studios. I didn't get the job at Nickelodeon (I got my first break in video games instead), but I knew that being picked as a finalist for such a high profile position was an accomplishment. Especially considering I had no college degree, no contacts and had only been in Los Angeles a few months.

Even though I didn't get the job, I knew my portfolio was strong enough to get noticed, and the one skill that got me that interview was good old figure drawing. There is no substitute for excellent drawing fundamentals and figure drawing is the fastest way to get good drawing skills. Especially if you want to work in animation, excellent figure drawing is required.

This month's content is a video recording and process breakdown of a recent life drawing exercise. For this exercise, I used graphite pencil and ordinary printer paper. The materials don't sound very exciting, but that's the point. I wanted to show that with ordinary, common tools like graphite pencils and plain paper, magic can be made. All an artist needs are good fundamentals, a reliable process and a few useful techniques which you'll see and read about here.

Part 1 - 1 minute and 2 minute poses


Part 2 - 5 minute and 10 minute Pose

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To watch Part 2 and to read the full article with process images, subscribe to my free Newsletter, Private School. Subscribers will not only get access to Part 2 video, but you'll get access to more of my tips, tricks and insider knowledge that I used to become a professional artist and successful illustrator in Hollywood. Enter your email below and click "get updates" to join....

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[Video] More Ways to Add Story, Emotion and Meaning

[Video] More Ways to Add Story, Emotion and Meaning

This article continues the series on adding story, emotion and feeling to your drawings and paintings. Making my work more meaningful is something I've been working on for a while and continue to practice and develop every time I sit down to draw or paint.

In this 2 part video video series, I will share 4 more tips and techniques that I personally use and have developed over the last year. The first 2 tips are covered in Part 1 below.

To demonstrate how I apply these techniques, I draw a figure study of a Thai boxer. Instead of describing the technical aspects of the drawing, I talk more about the philosophy and thought process I have when trying to tell a story with the drawing instead of just trying to copy the reference.  Along with the video, I have a full text breakdown with process images and a high-resolution handout for your reference.

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The hi-res version of the handout and Part 2 of the video series are available exclusively to Newsletter subscribers. Newsletter subscribers will not only get access to this month's exclusive content, but to video archives, my private reference library, updates and discounts on courses and much more.

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[Video] How to Add Story, Emotion and Feeling to your Work, Part 1

[Video] How to Add Story, Emotion and Feeling to your Work, Part 1

This month I wanted to write about something a little different than usual. I wanted to go beyond technique, 'tips and tricks', and 'how to draw this' and 'how to draw that'. This month I wanted to share something I've been working on in my own work, which are how to add story, emotion and meaning to my drawings and paintings.

In this new video series I'm going to share the tips and techniques I've been working on and developing to add more emotion and feeling to my work. In Part 1 and Part 2, I share the first 2 Tips to add story and emotion to my work. In the video I'll also show how I apply these techniques to a figure drawing.

Part 2  and the full article with process images is only available to subscribers of my free Newsletter, Private School. Newsletter subscribers will not only get access to Part 2, but also other great content like handouts, reference images, video archives and more.

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[Video] Life Drawing #2, Quick Poses

I've finally been able to draw from life again thanks to the good folks at ww.drawthis.com who stream a free, life drawing session on Friday nights. This 3 part video series is a recording of the first 2 sets of a recent life drawing session which are the short, quick poses. The first two videos are the 1 minute poses (Parts 1 and 2), and in the third video are the 2 minute poses (Part 3).

These videos were recorded live during the stream so you'll get to see my real and raw life drawing process and I also try to describe my process as I draw. I say "try" because talking and drawing at the same time is a LOT harder than it looks :)

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Scroll down to see the final sketchbook images. Part 3 (2 minute poses) is only available to Newsletter subscribers. Newsletter subscribers will not only get access to exclusive videos like this, but also high resolution handouts, process images and articles and more. To subscribe, email your below to get started:

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[Video] Live Life Drawing #1

Ever since I left Los Angeles (also known as the "mecca" of life drawing), it's been a challenge to organize or find a regular life drawing group in my new home base of Thailand. Thanks to the hard working people at www.drawthis.com I finally got to draw from life again...well sort of :)

Every Friday on their Facebook page they stream a live model for 2 hours. It felt a lot like being there, except everyone got the best, front row seat in the house. As a traveling artist, this life drawing stream was much appreciated. I also got to record a video of the last two poses, a 10 minute and a 15 minute pose. See video below for the 10 minute figure study.

To watch Part 2 (15 minute head study), and to read the detailed text article with process images, subscribe to my free newsletter Private School. Newsletter subscribers will get access to exclusive content like videos, hi-resolution handouts, my private reference library and much more. To join, enter your email below to get started.

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[VIDEO] Figure Drawing and Shading Demo

[VIDEO] Figure Drawing and Shading Demo

For the last few months I have been obsessed with figure drawing and shading. I've been doing a lot of short, 20-30 figure studies and mainly experimenting with shading techniques using graphite or colored pencil. What I'm really searching for are ways to go beyond technique, and add story, emotion and meaning to my drawings. We'll talk more about that in future videos and lessons. In the meantime, check the demo video above to see a recording of one of my morning exercises.

This is a two part series. Part 1 shows the drawing process, also known as the lay-in. Part 2 shows the shading and rendering process. I've also written a detailed text version with two high-res handouts in this month's Newsletter.

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To watch Part 2 and to read the detailed text version, sign up for my free Newsletter, Private School. Newsletter subscribers will get access to more exclusive content videos, high-res handouts, my personal reference library and more. To join, enter your email below to get started.

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Figure Drawing Process Video

Figure Drawing Process Video

This video shows a brief look at my thought process as a I draw a short, 30 minute figure study. The reference is from a New Masters Academy timed figure drawing session.

If you want to read a more in-depth text version, I wrote a full breakdown for this drawing and a head drawing as well in this month's Private School Newsletter. Subscribers also got access to a high res handouts to download and study.

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If you thought this video was helpful, please like and share this article. If you want to see more videos like this or have suggestions or requests for future content, please comment below. Thanks!

Drawing Workshop in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Drawing Workshop in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Highlights and a retrospective on a recent drawing seminar I gave in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Subscribe to download the free handout the covers the fundamentals of shape and value which was the topic of the workshop.

Limited Palette Color Study

Limited Palette Color Study

2 Part video series on painting with only 2 colors. Includes process images and text breakdown.

Life Drawing Exercise #3

Life Drawing Exercise #3

2 part video series of recent figure drawing exercise. Includes process images.