Portrait: Ann – 28/04/16

28/04/16

Portrait: Ann – 28/04/16 & nn/05/16 – Two Sessions

Ann is to be with us for two sessions which will have about a month in between them. Therefore, this is the story so far…

Ann often wears “costume” for our sittings and this time she is a gardener, complete with hat, gardening gloves and secateurs (which are shiny and red and I can’t wait to add in!). I am tempted to add a couple of pots and a bag of compost to the composition in between Ann’s sittings.

As usual, we didn’t know who was sitting for us in advance, so my canvas board (20 x 24″), was prepared with an acrylic ground in fuchsia pink, blue and white in a random fashion. As I was working, I was imagining Ann surrounded by peonies! It was left up to us how much of the figure we incorporated into the composition, and as it was such a lovely pose, I really wanted to capture the entire figure. At the end of session one, I was pleased with the placement and proportion of the figure. I wiped out the face as it was getting too detailed and will look forward to that challenge next time.

Ann (work in progress) Oil on canvas board (20 x 24")

Ann (work in progress)
Oil on canvas board (20 x 24″)

 

 

Portrait: Ti – 07/04/16

07/04/16

Portrait: Ti – 07/04/16 – One Session

Resuming classes after Easter Break, we had an intensive drawing class with Ti, who, again, has sat for the class before and always wore beautiful dresses. It’s a shame we weren’t painting.

This time we had an interesting challenge set for us. Using charcoal and putty eraser on white A2 paper, we were to make a tonal drawing, at first avoiding line as much as possible. Nothing unusual there one may think, except we had the lights off and curtains drawn. There was very little light to see either model or paper, so all we could see were the darkest tones. Initially, avoiding any detail, the darkest shapes were worked into the paper and, after about 10 minutes, a curtain was partially pull back to allow a small amount of light. From this we continued working into the drawing only with what we could actually see. This continued at intervals, gradually increasing the light and working back into the drawing focussing only on tone, both adding and subtracting. I really enjoyed this as it gave solidity and form to the figure drawing and the detail could be imagined and seen in the mind’s eye.

 

Ti Charcoal on A2 white paper

Ti
Charcoal on A2 white paper

After tea break, we all moved around so we had a different view-point. We repeated the exercise as before, but this time concentrating on the head and shoulders. The was great practice and made me really look at the planes of the face and form of the head. My tutor suggested I stop at the point below and maybe start another drawing in the time we had left.

Ti Head and Shoulders Charcoal on A2 white paper

Ti
Head and Shoulders
Charcoal on A2 white paper

Ti Small head and shoulders sketch Charcoal on A3 paper

Ti
Small head and shoulders sketch
Charcoal on A3 paper

 

 

The second small head and shoulders sketch was completed in the 15 minutes or so remaining of the lesson on A3 paper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portrait: Annabelle – 10 and 17/03/2016

17/03/16

Portrait: Annabelle – 10 & 17/03/16 – Two Sessions

A nice two-week sitting with Annabelle who has sat before and doesn’t move a muscle! As it was a double session, I had the luxury of having time for almost a full figure portrait. Using a nice sized 20 x 24″ canvas board, with a ground of mixed colours from a left over acrylic palette that included cadmium red, ultramarine, white and various mixes that was randomly brushed on. This gave an exciting and dynamic base that was inspiring to work on. I made a couple of sketches to firm up the composition, deciding on an approximate three-quarter length portrait. The first week, I concentrated on composition, blocking in, establishing colour ranges, tone and loosely establishing the background shapes. At tea break we were fascinated to hear about Annabelle’s exploits at being an extra on the TV drama Mr Selfridge. I spent my lunch hour scanning every second of the episode but, disappointingly,  I couldn’t be sure I saw her – that’s the trouble with a period drama, the costumes and wigs completely disguised her!

The second session was working on the details of the face, clothing etc. I also decided to leave some of the dynamic brush marks from the acrylic ground visible for added interest.

Annabelle Oil on 20 x 24" Canvas Board

Annabelle
Oil on 20 x 24″ Canvas Board

 

 

 

 

Portrait: Ann – 26/11/15 and 03/12/15

26/11/15 & 03/12/15

Portrait: Ann – Two Sessions

Session One

Ann, our model, arrived wearing a fabulously coloured satin dress with a full skirt that draped beautifully. Ann was tiny in stature and opted to sit up very straight-backed. After mapping out the main shapes and composition as usual and beginning the under-painting, I considered the background. As the pose was fairly formal in appearance, and the chair was covered in a striped fabric in oranges, ochre and muted green, I was inspired to use a bright background to liven up the image. The dress was purple so using a loose mix of cadmium yellow and red gave a vibrant orange. I allowed the dilute colour to run and mix on the board and added some dark umber to balance the tones and brightness.

At the end of session one, I had the bare bones of the figure, composition and colours down. The likeness was starting to appear – I felt this was a good place to stop and be ready for the next week’s session.

Ann - end of session 1 Oil on canvas board 40x60cm

Ann – end of session 1
Oil on canvas board
40x60cm

Session Two

In between the sessions, I propped up the painting in a position at home that I could review it away from the model. At this stage, the painting had been worked on quite evenly, however, looking at the face, I realised that the flesh and background were too similar in tone. Without actually painting, (always dangerous for me with the model), I rubbed back the colour around the face to make me remember I needed to address this area next time. I also noted the hands were a little oversized and that the legs needed adjustment. The skirt needed more variation of tone, particularly darkening the lower section. I really liked the fabric over the chair – it seemed to be good and solid and gave the impression of the chair beneath. I would have to ensure that this was not lost when the rest of the painting was worked up.

The whole painting needed to be given more solidity. The tones on the dress were modified and enhanced, this gave the legs more shape beneath the fabric. Highlights were added to the face and the neck was strengthened. This was important as it emphasised the straight posture and put some tension into the ligaments of the neck. The hands were resized and the feet were modified. The background around the face was brightened which helped draw the profile with more strength. Unfortunately, as often happens, the likeness evaded me with these alterations, the upper lip was particularly key to this. Ann’s lips were slim yet well-defined and from my viewpoint, was against the light from a window so difficult to see clearly. Moving around so that the profile was against a dark, I could see the shape but ran out of time to rectify it. My last stroke of the paint brush was to give a bright dash to the fabric on the chair. I am particularly pleased with the fabrics although the likeness is minimal.

Ann - Session Two Oil on canvas board 40x60cm

Ann – Session Two
Oil on canvas board
40x60cm

 

Research Point: Figures in an Interior

Research Point: Figures in an Interior

Look at some paintings of figures in interiors from different periods and choose two or three pictures that particularly appeal to you… At least one of these should be from the twentieth or twenty-first century. Consider what you think the artists’ intentions are and look at the technical and creative solutions that they’ve brought to the subject.

(NB The images reproduced here are for editorial purposes only and not for any commercial gain.)

Again, as with other Research Points in this section, I have found many examples that really appeal to me. As with the others, I have set up boards in Pinterest and added some of these feeling that I have been selective, however, now having to choose two or three from these is so difficult. I have realised that this is part of the process, as narrowing down which to use also makes me think harder about what I am looking at. This is something I also need to do when painting myself – learn to be selective and think about what I want to say.

Boy in an interior oil 1911 by Jan Mankes (1889-1920)

Description: Boy in an interior oil on canvas Painted in 1911. Jan Mankes (1889-1920):

Boy in an interior oil on canvas Painted in 1911. Jan Mankes (1889-1920)

This is not an artist I’m familiar with at all. Mankes was a Dutch painter who specialised in self portraiture, natural subjects and landscape. He died young, only 30 years old from tuberculosis, a common illness at the time.  This is particularly sad as he was a prolific painter and draughtsman and was evolving into interesting abstraction – who knows what he may have gone on to produce. The painting I have chosen is Boy in an Interior. It’s a simple title, yet on further inspection quite an unusual composition. There is definitely a nod to Vermeer and his interiors paintings, however, there are uncomfortable aspects. It is assumed that the boy is sat at the table but the chair is turned away towards the wall, the table doesn’t actually appear to be where you would expect. The light should be coming through the window you would think, and initially it seems so, yet there is no light on the boy’s face. I have read one account of the work and it suggested that the book that the boy is reading is a special one to the artist as it appears to be the source of light. This I can understand but again, there is no light on the boy’s face and it appears to be bounced beneath and in front of the book. I think this is a fascinating painting that draws the viewer into it and makes he/she work hard to decipher it. Not only this though, it is beautifully and sensitively painted, it has a limited colour range and is tonally interesting. I’m glad I found it in my searches.

Sleeping Woman  1961 by Richard Diebenkorn

Sleeping Woman by Richard Diebenkorn, Oil on Canvas Figurative Painting:

Sleeping Woman by Richard Diebenkorn

I was lucky enough to go the Diebenkorn exhibition at the Royal Academy earlier this year. I had very limited knowledge of this artist too until then, and although he is revered particularly for his large abstract works, I fell in love with his figurative paintings. Not that there isn’t a large element of abstraction in these, there plainly is. This painting is an example of a fabulous cross-over. The interior is tonally fairly simple, yet it is easy to see the bench/seating that the model is lounged on. The strong diagonals are trademark Diebenkorn (from my limited exposure), and give a dramatic set for the character to play her part. The mirror gives another dimension to the figure and expands the interior without widening the frame of the image. Another painting I could look at for a long time and keep coming back to look some more.

 

I am desperate to add some Edward Hopper in here but let’s move on to the twenty-first century…

Andrea and Myrtle 2014 by Simon Davis

Simon DAVIS RP - Andrea and Myrtle 2014:

Simon DAVIS RP – Andrea and Myrtle 2014

This artist is someone I discovered at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters annual exhibition. This painting was displayed at the BP Portrait Exhibition 2014 and could be seen as a modern-day version of a Degas painting being a lady in her bathroom (with cat?). I have only previously seen portraits by him with no significant interiors, so I was blown away by the complexity in this one. There is such a sense of depth in this, considering that there are only two small rooms, however, the addition of the window takes the viewer further on and out of the picture and the tiled floors lead the eye in. There is an obvious second light source from the right in the anterior room that casts interesting shadows. The colours used make me think of early morning, maybe on a weekend as there is no sense of urgency in getting ready and out of the house. It’s a painting that makes the mundane and routine picturesque and beautiful.

 

 

 

Research Point: Portraits Conveying Mood and Atmosphere

Research Point: Portraits Conveying Mood and Atmosphere

Go onto the internet and find some portraits that convey a distinctive mood or atmosphere rather than simply a physical likeness.

(NB All images are reproduced for editorial purposes only and not for commercial gain)

Rembrandt’s Mother by Rembrandt

portrait of rembrandt mother - Google Search:

Portrait of Rembrandt’s Mother

Rembrandt’s portraits are always more than just paintings of people’s faces. He seemed to look deep within their souls and put what he found down on the canvas. This portrait of his mother shows a certain weariness but also a life lived. The illumination of her face is mesmerising with the warmth in the shadow that gives a translucency. It makes you wonder what she was thinking at the time.

Head of a Peasant Woman with Greenish Lace Cap by Vincent van Gogh

Head of a Peasant Woman with Greenish Lace Cap - Vincent van Gogh:

Head of a Peasant Woman with Greenish Lace Cap – Vincent van Gogh

 

This portrait by van Gogh tells the viewer so much just by the way it has been painted. The brush-strokes are thick, angular and convey the pressures and worries of this woman’s every day existence. To me, he hasn’t made her old in years but has etched every struggle to feed her family with meagre means. I like the way it appears van Gogh has painted all the canvas dark and put in the mid tones and lights over the top, sometimes allowing the dark to show through. This gives an overall depth and mood to the painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mother and Child by Picasso

paintings of picassos blue period - Google Search:

Mother and Child by Picasso (painting from his blue period)

Picasso’s blue period, by its definition, is one of melancholy and sadness following the suicide of his close friend. He has taken this tragedy and sought out subjects in which to pour his grief. This painting is so simple yet heartbreakingly moving. The mother is turned away and the baby is clutched to her with a gentle fierceness.  There is nothing around them apart from what looks like a basket of clothes or maybe it’s where the baby sleeps.  Apparently, during this time, Picasso used to visit a women’s prison to draw some of the inmates, many of which had young children incarcerated with them. Could this be one of these women?

 

 

Party in Paris by Max Beckmann

Party in Paris - Max Beckmann:

Party in Paris – Max Beckmann

What a mixture of assumed moods and characters in this picture! Overall, I don’t really pick up much of a party atmosphere in this snap shot of a social gathering. There only seems to be three or four people enjoying themselves and one of those is the singer lost in his own world. Having said that, Beckmann has picked up on common characteristics of party goers. There are those actually enjoying themselves on the left. However, the boredom of the woman rear right having to listen to her assumed partner and his friend’s lengthy conversation – about politics probably, has noticed she has caught the eye of the single man on the left. The way Beckmann has put these two figures at the same eye level connects them. The couple in the middle are ignoring each other’s existence as they ran out of things to say to each other 10 years ago! The eagle-eyed social climber is keeping watch for potential useful contacts and the gentleman who really doesn’t want to be there in the bottom right (or maybe it’s the volume over melody of the awful singing?). What triumph in observing and then depicting the scene so cleverly, and, in a way that colours, positioning of the figures etc are balanced so perfectly. The more I look at this the more I see and like it.

Summary

There are so many portraits out there that are more than just paintings of faces – it makes me realise how much more has to go into the work.  It is also apparent that, although the observational and drawing skills that allow you to produce an image of a person are very important, it is not just these things and sometimes not even, that renders a likeness of the character or occasion. It is a conversation between painter and sitter that occurs, and, some remnants of that conversation should be visible in the painting that is produced as a result.

Exercise: A Figure in an Interior

15-20/09/15

Exercise: A Figure in an Interior

…Another approach would be to work from a photograph which you can then locate in an interior that you’ve imagined or that you can paint from real life. You could paint a very interesting painting by depicting a stranger or a celebrity in your own living room… Skin tones reflect surrounding colour and shades… How will you locate your figure in the space? How can you suggest depth?

My initial thoughts as noted in my sketchbook were to portray the Queen doing the washing up in my kitchen, Marigolds and all, but decided against this. Another scenario sprang to mind, maybe she could be sat in our lounge in a fluffy dressing gown and slippers reading the papers, as if on a lazy Sunday morning? It then struck me, that she is never really off duty, so I thought I’d replace the papers with a lap top as if catching up on official correspondence in the modern age – after all, one is never away from the office with the internet nowadays, is one?

To achieve a rough composition for the painting, I found a pink fluffy dressing gown and tried out several poses that my husband photographed for me. I am a similar height to the Queen so this would also help with proportions whilst sitting. From these photos I chose a couple to sketch out as trial compositions, altering them slightly to make more sense for my imagined image.

 

A Figure in an Interior Preliminary compositional sketches Pencil in A4 sketchbook

A Figure in an Interior
Preliminary compositional sketches
Pencil in A4 sketchbook

 

The first sketch, I thought, was less interesting and the background was not complete enough to give a coherent image.  I preferred the second drawing as it seemed right in its situation. The head position was changed from the photograph to look to the figure’s left and at the lap top screen.

 

 

 

 

Next I had to find suitable images of the Queen in order to make the pose believable and in proportion. This proved harder than I thought, because of the thousands of photographs and images out there, they all seemed to be looking left of centre or were straight profiles. I wanted one of the Queen wearing her glasses as she uses them for reading, and of her wearing a tiara. I had to settle with a compromise, of the two sketches I made of her head, one was looking the wrong way but had glasses and the tiara and the other was looking the right way without the accessories.

A Figure in an Interior Preliminary sketches of the Queen Pencil in A4 sketchbook

A Figure in an Interior
Preliminary sketches of the Queen
Pencil in A4 sketchbook

 

I found the almost full face image more difficult to obtain a likeness, although it was useful for the glasses. The 3/4 to almost profile was easier, however, it was more severe an expression than I wanted. Many of the photographs I studied, and there were a lot, showed the Queen to have quite a mischievous smile and that would have been nice to use. However, in reality, if someone is reading, they will usually have an expression of concentration, which is what I went for in the end.

 

A Figure in an Interior Tonal sketch Pencil in A4 sketchbook

A Figure in an Interior
Tonal sketch
Pencil in A4 sketchbook

 

I then made a tonal sketch from the photograph, as parts of it were over exposed and therefore, lacking in information to paint from directly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I actually remembered to take photographs of work in progress (see gallery).

The final painting when photographed, is a little harsher in colour than in life.  Some aspects I added are: enhancing lights and darks; adding red, white and blue pyjamas for more colour; a vase of flowers on the window sill – this added more interest on the right hand side of the canvas and lifted the whole painting; the tiara and reading glasses. There was a sense of the head being “stuck on”, this I rectified by lightening the neck and giving a cohesive look to the figure as a whole.  The lighting in this room is complex, with slightly off-set opposing windows, however, as it was morning, the window behind the figure let in the most light and the other, a more subdued light. I did find myself giggling whilst doing this and at the same time, hoping that they don’t still throw people in the tower for treason! On the plus side, I think I achieved my aim and although much more complicated that I had envisaged, was very enjoyable.  This is the first time I can remember, where I have used such a multitude of reference material plus imaginary aspects – great fun.

A Figure in an Interior Never Off-Duty Oil on canvas board 16x20"

A Figure in an Interior
Never Off-Duty
Oil on canvas board
16×20″