Start your free trial now, and begin learning software, business and creative skills—anytime, anywhere—with video instruction from recognized industry experts.


Establishing shape

Establishing shape provides you with in-depth training on Design. Taught by Mary Jane Begin as part … Show More

Artist at Work: Color as Shape

with Mary Jane Begin

Video: Establishing shape

Establishing shape provides you with in-depth training on Design. Taught by Mary Jane Begin as part of the Artist at Work: Color as Shape
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1h 9m
    1. Introduction
      2m 56s
    2. Establishing shape
      5m 45s
    3. Highlights
      11m 17s
    4. Color blocking
      23m 28s
    5. Color blocking the face
      11m 1s
    6. Adding final details
      15m 5s

please wait ...
Establishing shape
Video duration: 5m 45s 1h 9m Beginner


Establishing shape provides you with in-depth training on Design. Taught by Mary Jane Begin as part of the Artist at Work: Color as Shape


Establishing shape

For me, the way to make a more interesting picture is really to think about the balance of the shapes, so that everything that I'm creating isn't exactly the same size or weight. So with that in mind I'll start with what I always start with, which is the ground color. And in this case I'll be doing something that may seem strange or odd to the eye. And that is I'm going to start this with a base of color that is lime green. And I've done this with my students at RISD, much to their chagrin.

Initially at least. I paint with this color because it helps, especially when you're painting flesh tones. It's a trick that the renaissance painters used, which is, to start with a base of green, because it reacts to the warmth of the color of the skin that you put on top of it. It either creates a neutral color in shadows, or with opaque pinks and things it pops off of that green ground. So I'm going to start with that here and this may seem very vibrant to the eye, but it'll actually help make the skin tones look more like skin.

I'm also going to paint with the green because, I looked at this picture and saw a lot of like cools and purples and warms and I thought they would really well to their compliment, the green ground. So I'll coat this whole picture with the green, and then I'll tone it down a little bit with a neutralizing color of raw umber. But this is a common device used in the Renaissance or was and for me it's something that also gives me a point of reaction, for opposite colors on top. So I'll get this ground down and then I'll lay the raw umber on top.

I'm bearing in mind that the most important shape is the focal point the face. And what will react is a pink face against a green ground. And his face is fairly pink in tone. He's young. So I'm keeping that in mind as a really potent reactionary point for this green ground. I'll get to the bottom and it's getting a little bit dry. Even though I wet this surface it dries out pretty quickly. And then I'll coat in the raw umber. So now that we've let the lime green dry, I'm going to add raw umber to this, and the reason why I'll do that is just to kind of knock back this vibrancy a little bit so it's easier to work with.

Sometimes when you have an overly vibrant color the first thing you should do is start just neutralizing the color just a bit so it's not too much for the eye to take. So I'll add a layer of a green brown, which is the raw umber color, as a kind of neutralizer. But I want to be careful not to just kill that green. Especially in the face where it's most important. Its main purpose is really for the flesh tone, the focal point. To make sure that green shows through. So I'll just layer a thin layer of raw umber, and you'll see that it's still nice and green, but not, just not quite as vibrant as it started out.

And, I had to make sure that the color was dry before I layered this on, because with a medium like watercolor, if the color is is too wet when you're laying the second color on top. The brush will just pick up that color, and that's not ideal. So I'm going to wet the surface a little bit more, because as I'm looking at this, I'm seeing a little bit of streak, and I don't want streak in this ground, I want it to be really smooth. When you add water to the surface before you lay the pigment in, what happens is, it moves the color around more effectively.

The brush has hairs on, it's made of hairs, so it tends to create, more of a streak effect, which can be great, but if that's not what you want, then it isn't great. So I'm just going to add a little more of this umber tone to create a sort of even surface for our ground before we start blocking in the color and when I say blocking I just mean breaking down the whole painting into shape. But we can't do that until we have a binder color, the ground color.

And when I say ground I simply mean the surface of color that I'm working on. And the ground can be white, some people like to work on white. I like to work on color, because it gives me something to react to and it's fun to have something to react to. I think I'd like to go a little deeper with this color so there's a stronger reaction when I go to the next stage. So I'll just layer one more layer of the raw umber, in this case. Mixed with the lime green. When I mix the two colors together they're a little more neutral than if they were layered one on top of the other, but that's okay.

The color is exactly where I want it to be, and I want there to be a really nice color reaction. When I start to, think of this as a color system with shape. And I'll do that by pulling out highlights, and then blocking in the colors. But first I want this ground to be just a little bit deeper in value and really just a little bit richer iIn this greener color. And hopefully you can still see the drawing underneath.

I hope for myself, too, so I can see what I'm painting. Just a little bit more, keeping it fairly light as a layer, but deepening the, the whole picture. So what I'll do is just let this dry before we continue.

There are currently no FAQs about Artist at Work: Color as Shape.






Don't show this message again
Share a link to this course

What are exercise files?

Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course. Save time by downloading the author's files instead of setting up your own files, and learn by following along with the instructor.

Can I take this course without the exercise files?

Yes! If you decide you would like the exercise files later, you can upgrade to a premium account any time.

Become a member Download sample files See plans and pricing

Please wait... please wait ...
Upgrade to get access to exercise files.

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Learn by watching, listening, and doing, Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along Premium memberships include access to all exercise files in the library.

Exercise files

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

For additional information on downloading and using exercise files, watch our instructional video or read the instructions in the FAQ .

This course includes free exercise files, so you can practice while you watch the course. To access all the exercise files in our library, become a Premium Member.

* Estimated file size

Are you sure you want to mark all the videos in this course as unwatched?

This will not affect your course history, your reports, or your certificates of completion for this course.

Mark all as unwatched Cancel


You have completed Artist at Work: Color as Shape.

Return to your organization's learning portal to continue training, or close this page.


Upgrade to View Courses Offline


With our new Desktop App, Annual Premium Members can download courses for Internet-free viewing.

Upgrade Now

After upgrading, download Desktop App Here.

Become a Member and Create Custom Playlists

Join today and get unlimited access to the entire library of online learning video courses—and create as many playlists as you like.

Get started

Already a member?

Log in

Exercise files

Learn by watching, listening, and doing! Exercise files are the same files the author uses in the course, so you can download them and follow along. Exercise files are available with all Premium memberships. Learn more

Get started

Already a Premium member?

Exercise files video

How to use exercise files.

Ask a question

Thanks for contacting us.
You’ll hear from our Customer Service team within 24 hours.

Please enter the text shown below:

Exercise files

Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.

Mark videos as unwatched

Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.

Control your viewing experience

Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.

Interactive transcripts

Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.

You started this assessment previously and didn’t complete it.

You can pick up where you left off, or start over.

Resume Start over

Learn more, save more. Upgrade today!

Get our Annual Premium Membership at our best savings yet.

Upgrade to our Annual Premium Membership today and get even more value from your subscription:

“In a way, I feel like you are rooting for me. Like you are really invested in my experience, and want me to get as much out of these courses as possible this is the best place to start on your journey to learning new material.”— Nadine H.

Thanks for signing up.

We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

Keep up with news, tips, and latest courses with emails from

Sign up and receive emails about and our online training library:

Here’s our privacy policy with more details about how we handle your information.

submit Lightbox submit clicked
Terms and conditions of use

We've updated our terms and conditions (now called terms of service).Go
Review and accept our updated terms of service.