View Full Version : Sargent's skin tones

06-13-2001, 09:24 PM
I'm a new member and I'm fascinated with John Singer Sargent's palette, specifically his skin tones. Does anyone out there have any specifics on the colors he used?

06-14-2001, 09:02 AM
Hi, I have not researched this subject (exactly, what Sargent used). Living in Philadelphia, however, We are lucky enough to have teachers who are of the same tradition as John Singer Sargent (Paul DuSold, Patrick Conners,etc.)
I saw a portrait done by their teacher (DeCosta) which was painted with only Blueblack, Transparent red oxide and white. It was as Singerish as you can get.
I am taking classes with Paul Dusold and his pallette usually consists of White, Transparent red oxide, Burnt Sienna, yellow ochre and sometimes Indian red.
In his class, we do an imprimatura in raw umber (can be burnt sienna, Trans.red oxide.,some ultramarine blue). We wipe out the highlights and then go in with opaque colors of white mixed with transparent red oxide. {Warm colors in the wiped out areas and cool (can be a THIN transparent red oxide or other cools) in the dark areas)} In short, you can stick with these few pigments and never exhaust the possibilities. This will provide the foundation for further exploration. I highly recommend finding a good portrait teacher. Skin tones are not a series of color recipies but rather the ability to paint what you see. The human skin is best represented by showing the complex patterns of light and dark, warm and cool. The challenge is to train the eye to become sensitive to all of the skin's nuances...I hope this helps..I am a student of this art, myself.

"Paint light and dark masses, not edges. Later,You can always draw edges around objects, if you want...
Paint abstract shapes of color...
When painting onto a flat surface, think flat shapes of color. Don't try to paint around an object. We're not sculpting...think; flat, flat,flat." - Christine LaFuente...(this coaching was given in a workshop on 'still life' and would also apply to 'portrait' and 'figure' studies)

06-14-2001, 08:23 PM
Thanks Mario, your post really helps. I myself am a firm believer of LOOKING and then responding to the color with your own eyes. I haven't painted many portraits and I find myself being shy about it. The faces I want to paint usually have an amazing glow (which may also have to do with how I feel about them) and I would feel awful if I couldn't put that on canvas.
Sargent's sensitivity to his models never fails to astound me and I am awestruck. What a lover of beauty he was.