29/01/15 & 05/02/15
09.30 – 12.30 Two Sessions
This week it was our decision how to portray our sitter, Daniel. Daniel, I believe, is a performance artist/dancer and as such, he arrived dressed in costume of a deep blue, long-sleeved shirt, a bright, rust/orange suede waistcoat and checked trousers in blues, greens, rusts and whites, these had similar orange stripes to match his waistcoat down each leg. He sat as he felt comfortable in a hard, plastic chair. Daniel is another of our sitters’ husband (Demelza), and I had previously painted her, almost full length, in a similar position from one side, and thought it would be nice to repeat the pose from the opposite side.
In the first session, I made a quick charcoal sketch in my A3 sketchbook to establish the pose and composition. I intended to use an 18 x 22″ canvas board as I did for Demelza. Because of this I accepted that the feet would not fit the sketchbook but should fit the canvas board. I had already prepared the board with a mid tone acrylic ground. The placement of the figure was sketched out in dilute raw umber oil and worked into by using rag – redrawing and wiping out as necessary. By tea break, my first error of judgement became obvious. So intent was I to include the feet, that I had, subconsciously, shortened the torso and the figure was proportionally incorrect.
Returning after the break, I decided to wipe off the bottom half and reiterate the length of the torso and fade out the bottom of the legs for now. This was, after all, how I had painted Demelza’s portrait – although that was intentional from the start. It also became apparent that the background needed to be established tonally, even if I wasn’t to go into detail – the figure needed a sense of space and placement in that space. I continued on, establishing tones and structure in the face and the underpainting generally to be worked on the next week.
This is the work in progress at the end of the first session. At home, I leave the painting propped up so that I can continually review progress and make mental notes of how to proceed next time. Currently (the day before session two), I am considering the length of the torso again, it still seems too short and the seated legs too high, which in turn makes the arm appear too short. As I am the only student painting more than head and shoulders, I will also have to ensure that the pose is repeated faithfully. More challenges to come!
Session two with Daniel, whom I established is in fact a Circus performer and dancer and is hoping to take a BA Degree course in Circus Arts!
I reviewed the pose in situ and compared it with my painting. It transpired that most of the proportions were correct as Daniel is tiny – very slim and about my height – which is vertically challenged shall we say. My main alterations were to bring down the horizontal of his right leg to be slimmer, shave off some thickness of the torso and, unexpectedly, shorten the hanging arm.
This is by no means finished but may be in a state for me to continue without the sitter. Initially, with this session, I was reticent about adding to or altering the face in any way – the likeness was already there, even my tutor said it would work as it was. However, once I’d worked on the figure, clothes and background, I was uncomfortable with the leanness of the paint in the face and felt it needed more substance. I was very careful not to overwork it and just about stopped short. As the face was small in the overall painting, too much fiddling would have been out-of-place and proved incoherent. My main bone of contention is the stiffness of the arm, this may be rectified by reworking the fabric of the sleeve a little to give more fluidity. Other than that, a little more depth in the abstract background and more tonal contrast in the clothing and I think I’ll be happy. As a side note, my in-depth description of Daniel’s costume mentioned things like the check in his trousers. Instead of slavishly copying the patterns of verticals and horizontals, I tried to pick out the strongest tone/hue in a particular area, the knee for example, and use that to describe the fabric. I was hoping for more of an impression of check but think I was right to err on the side of caution.