Portrait: Demelza and Daniel


09.30 – 12.30 One Session

I was really looking forward to this as we had never attempted a double portrait before.  As we had one sitting only, we were allowed to choose media, either drawing or painting.  I had some loose plans in mind before the class and had decided to make a rough compositional sketch, and then paint.  My thinking was, as we only had one sitting, a paintbrush makes larger marks than a pencil point, so I could probably achieve more by painting. Plus, knowing the models, I knew they would make an effort at costume, so wanted to use colour.  I was thinking of zooming in on the heads/faces and eliminating most else.

Demelza & Daniel Double Portrait. Preliminary sketch A3 charcoal.

Demelza & Daniel Double Portrait.
Preliminary sketch A3 charcoal.


Even though we had only one session, I felt it important to establish composition and the space between the two models.  It was, in some respects, easier with two, as there were multiple reference points to assist the drawing. As it was such a nice pose, I decided to paint more of the figures.




Our models were placed sat at a table, fairly close together as if in a cafe or bar.  Their costumes were subtle, a headscarf for Demelza and a hat and waistcoat for Daniel, however, they did imply a couple in a European country, sat in a small bar. I envisaged a rural area possibly warm, Spain, Italy, Turkey…

While we were painting or drawing, it was lovely that they were quietly chatting to one another and trying not to giggle – it really felt as if we were observing a realistic tête a tête in a corner. Their expressions were changing and I tried to capture the little grins and half smiles as they were attempting to keep still.  As they are husband and wife, it made for an intimate scene.

Demelza & Daniel Double Portrait. Oil painting in progress - 60 x 40 cm.

Demelza & Daniel Double Portrait.
Oil painting in progress – 60 x 40 cm.

I had a warm grey, acrylic ground prepared and as there were two models, I used a landscape orientation.  Using the sketch as a guide, I sketched out the composition in dilute burnt umber with a large flat brush and rag.  The darkest darks were added and then I felt it important to put in the background as the space between them was a crucial element. Working loosely from there the figures were built up, leaving the faces till last really. As mentioned above, the changing expressions were great as it allowed some personality to be worked in.  It was so nice to have smiles as most models sink into a relaxed state that can look a little glum.  This is by no means finished, although, I feel only the table, chair and fabrics need more work – I don’t want to lose the spontaneity.

Half term next week, so no class, but still plenty to do.


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