Portrait: Les


09.30 – 12.30 One Session

Over the next three weeks we have a different sitter per session, this week Les is doing the honours. He was asked to wear predominantly black clothing and dark glasses to test our mettle.

I used an approximately A3 sized canvas board with a mid tone acrylic mix of burnt sienna, ultramarine and a touch of titanium white as the ground colour.  As usual I made a small sketch to ascertain where to place the head and shoulders, deciding to put them slightly off centre to the right. The thinking behind this, as I was left with a profile view, was to give the sitter some space to look ahead, rather than cutting off his gaze with the edge of the support. Again, as usual, I blocked out the shapes with dilute raw umber, lifting out, smudging and reiterating tonal areas and shapes to gain an accurate under-painting.

As Les was quite tanned, which was enhanced by the dark glasses and clothing, he had quite a high colour. As the ground was not dissimilar, I decided to introduce an imaginary blue background, which worked well with the warm flesh colours. I have been trying to apply what I have been learning about colour theory and complimentary colours in both my mixing and painting. As is often the case, applying the theory can be hit and miss but I will persevere.

At the end of the session, we all put our work up for a group review and I could immediately notice a couple of things at a distance that passed me by close to:

  • The highlight under the eye was a little sharp and jumped forward, so I quickly smudged
    Les  Oil on canvas board A3

    Oil on canvas board

    this to reduced the contrast with my finger.

  • The ear had become too stretched and would benefit from lifting the ear lobe to be more in line with the top lip rather than the turned down corner of the mouth.
  • The nose, although correct in shape was a little too pronounced and would have benefited by cutting the background in around it more.

These points I would like to think I would have addressed given another short session – others in my class often take photos and finish a portrait from these at home. However, on the one occasion I did this, I completely flattened and killed off both the painting and the spontaneity of my work, so refuse to do this now.  Another lesson, is to get to class early – otherwise I may find myself wedged between easel and wall again, unable to move back to view my progress at a distance. Live and learn!


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