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Old 02-04-2018, 09:11 AM
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Theodorablau Theodorablau is offline
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A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

In Spring 2017 I had the chance to participate in a two-week pastel portrait workshop with Cuong Nguyen in the beautiful Belgian city of Bruges. He is a Vietnamese-American artist who works in oil and pastel and is renowned for his life-like portraits and his glowing naturalistic skin tones.
Although we were only 5 participants, Cuong had insisted on teaching the course which gave him time enough to attend to each of us individually.
During the workshop, we worked from life models and from photographs. Cuong always started with a demo and then painted alongside us.

I will demonstrate his technique with step-by-step photos of a painting I did during the workshop from one of my own photos.

Material: Sennelier LaCarte in dark grey (Cuong’s preferred paper
colour), light blue or brown.
Stabilo Carbothello pastel pencils

Cuong has developed a palette which he adapts to the individual skin tone.
Cuong starts his portraits by measuring the proportions and putting featherlight marks on the paper. That way, he develops an ‘envelope’, a kind of outer frame for the head and then adapts the measurements and refines the individual features. A superb draftsman with experience of more than thirty years, he infallibly produces an amazing likeness while subtly enhancing his subject’s best features.

1. Cuong uses two values of caput mortuum for sketching and shading.
2. He then uses a light pinkish pastel to establish the highlights.
3. The next step follows Cuong’s famous ‘green foundation’. The concept is not new; oil painters have made use of a ‘Verdaccio’ underpainting for centuries. Cuong explains it this way: ‘The green layer is effective because it helps to balance the subsequent layers of earlier colours. Green and red are complementary colours, at opposite sides of the colour wheel, so their juxtaposition creates a more vibrant effect. The hint of green visible below the surface also suggests the veins just below the skin’ (Excerpt from Cuong Nguyen’s eBook ‘Creating realistic skin tones’ Volume 1).
Cuong uses two or three shades of green for the light and mid tone areas and for the shadow areas. He uses a very light touch, so the original drawing stays visible.
4. Cuong adds a light layer of dark ochre (shadow areas) and sienna (mid tone and highlight).
5. Cuong then adds a layer of Light Caput mortuum over the whole face. A layer of skin tone is added to the highlight and mid tone areas.
6. After so many layers, the highlights have to be re-established with a very
light flesh tone or ivory colour.
Now the magic begins; Cuong applies red to the nose and cheek bones and
around the eyes. All of a sudden, the portrait is becoming infused with blood
and the subject becomes alive. This is the end of the underpainting stage.
All the values have been established.
7. In the next stage, the colour temperature is refined and details are being worked on. Cuong now goes back and forth to build upthe individual skin tone. He also works on the eyes and the hair. This stage can take quite a long time, but the final result is a portrait that glows with life!

For a more detailed description of Cuong’s technique and the pencils he uses, visit his website and download his excellent e-books at:
https://www.icuong.com/books/

Our host during the workshop was the ‘Flemish Classical Atelier’ which is housed in a historic hospital building in the old town centre of Bruges. For more information about their courses, visit:
http://www.flemishclassicalatelier.com/



Free-hand sketch



Highlights



Green foundation











The finished portrait
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Last edited by Theodorablau : 02-04-2018 at 09:15 AM.
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Old 02-04-2018, 11:26 AM
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Re: A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

Wow Dorothea! Thank you so much for such a great demo and a very thorough explanation of this particular process! Your portrait is wonderful; very skillfully done with a good feel for the character of the person as well. If you learned any tips for getting those initial facial measurements correct I would love to hear them. A good likeness must ultimately depend on the accuracy of those marks, I would imagine. Thanks again for this!
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Old 02-04-2018, 05:51 PM
pastel65 pastel65 is offline
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Re: A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

Fabulous!!! Pam
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Old 02-04-2018, 10:51 PM
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Re: A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

Thank you for sharing the process, Dorothea. The skin tones are very life like. How fortunate you are, that you were able to spend one on one time with Cuong. While your portraits have always been wonderfully painted, you have taken your work to the next level. Do you have portraits to share?
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Old 02-05-2018, 07:21 PM
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Frances Obie Frances Obie is offline
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Re: A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

That was so informative...and such a wonderful result! Thank you for sharing.
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Old 02-06-2018, 05:26 AM
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Charles Perera Charles Perera is online now
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Re: A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

I have seen Youtubes of Master Cuong a great teacher and you have absorbed his mastery of pastel work. This I see as an exceptional exposition of talent that makes us go back to it again and again. Thank you so much for presenting it .

Charles
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Old 02-06-2018, 09:21 AM
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stapeliad stapeliad is online now
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Re: A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

I love Cuong Nguyen! Lucky you to be able to take a workshop!
Really beautiful work. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 02-06-2018, 09:30 AM
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Re: A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

It's almost too good of a portrait. It's amazing what can be done in paste. Congrats to you on a stellar job
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Old 02-07-2018, 08:07 AM
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Theodorablau Theodorablau is offline
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Re: A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

Dear all, I am glad that you enjoy my step-by-step. It was a wonderful experience to study with Cuong. He is a great teacher, very patient and very supportive. And he is a sweet and humble person despite being such a well-known artist. We all studied very hard but we also had a lot of fun!
Here are a few pics of a portrait demo Cuong did of the brother of our participants.



Sketch



Highlights



Green foundation





Detail



Finished!
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Old 02-07-2018, 01:11 PM
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Re: A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

Superb portraits and very interesting step-by-steps!
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Old 02-08-2018, 07:50 AM
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Re: A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

Thanks for this demo too, Dorothea! I am so amazed at how well that green underpainting works to create such natural skin tones.
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Old 02-08-2018, 08:37 AM
Moises Menendez Moises Menendez is offline
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Re: A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

Great explanation and great work as well Dorothea. In fact, last year I communicated with Cuong and I purchased his video, The glowing Portrait, and was able to do some work on portraits. It is amazing how he is able to accomplish the glowing effect with the pastel pencils! He is great and above all he appears to be very humble.
Your great portrait showed his technique at work.
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Old 02-08-2018, 08:11 PM
michaeljarman michaeljarman is offline
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Re: A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

I love this!
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Old 02-09-2018, 03:05 AM
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Re: A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

Thank you, Arsinoé and Michael!
Donna, the light green contains yellow which adds luminosity. It has the same effect as Christine Swann's yellow underpaintings.Check out her blog!
Moises, thank you! It was a wonderful experience to study with Cuong. If you ever have the chance, go for it!
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Old 02-09-2018, 08:00 AM
Rockport123 Rockport123 is offline
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Re: A long day at the market - Portrait WIP

Wonderful!!!!!!!!
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