Portrait: Ann’s Daughter – Single Session 09.30-12.30
I’m ashamed to say I can not, for the life of me, remember our model’s name! She is the daughter of one of our students, Ann, and is 37 weeks pregnant. We had been told previously that our model was heavily pregnant and I was quite excited about painting her. However, I made an error of judgement regarding the size of the support, I was thinking that it is only one session and chose a small support again. This proved to be limiting as I wanted to paint at least a three-quarter figure to take advantage of the “bump”. Our model also had a striking face and was beautifully natural with strong bone structure and I was envious of others who were concentrating on the face only. I still wanted to paint a three-quarter view but wanted to model the face too. I got to half way through the morning and at tea break time, I decided to paint over a previous painting that was 40x60cm to make a second portrait. My other struggle with the small support was that again, it was a recycled oil painting and I had used oil paint as the ground. To make the colour more opaque I had mixed in titanium white, unfortunately, this had not dried sufficiently prior to the class and was making my portrait quite chalky.
With the second painting, I just painted over the portrait from a previous week without a uniform ground. This was beginning to come on but I inevitably ran out of time. Therefore, not a successful session in outcome, but a valuable one in learning lessons for preparation and composition.
Our model at 37 weeks pregnant.
Oil on board
Oil on canvas board
Portrait: John – Single Session 09.30-12.30
Hats and shadows seem to be the order of the day. As it’s a single session, I chose a small support of approximately 12×14″. This is a recycled oil painting, therefore the ground had to be in oil rather than my usual acrylic. Luckily, this had dried in time for the class.
John, our model, arrived with a jaunty hat in a country/Australian style (minus the corks). It was important to make the head sit inside the hat, which was quite difficult as the hat itself was deceptively taller than expected. It was interesting to note that John’s eyes were not really visible and adding a fairly uniform tone under the hat’s brim modelled them with minimal detail. As it was a single session, the painting has a sketchy style. I was particularly pleased as John had a look at the painting and said “that’s me!”
John in his bush hat
Oil on mount board
Portrait: David – Small, Tonal Oil Sketches
Our brief for today’s class was to bring two small prepared boards, large brushes and either oil or acrylic paints.
2 x 10×12″ canvas boards prepared with mid-tone warm ground
1 size 12 & 1 size 10 hog flat brush
Ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and Naples yellow oil paint
During our tutor’s explanation of the lesson to come, he related to a recent trip to the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester where there is currently an exhibition called Sickert in Dieppe. Another student kindly brought in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition. We were to pay particular attention to the figures and the technique of creating tone that Sickert had used. Our tutor summarised it as “scrub and dab” (patent pending?).
Using a limited palette (above), we were to work in darks and mid tones exclusively for the greater part of the time and save the lights till near the end. Working in thinned paint, the darks were scrubbed in, then the mid tones covering the entire canvas appropriately as we saw them on the model. We were discouraged from leaving the “lights” but to build layers so that some of the darks may even show through. As we progressed, we used less dilute paint and evolved into the “dab” stage. Sickert had used little marks and strokes of paint to build up the tones rather than lines and sweeps. (Also reminiscent of Van Gogh in his mark making). The first sketch took us up to tea break, and I unfortunately, ran out of time to put my lightest lights down but the technique was coming.
Tonal oil sketch in the style of Sickert
Canvas board 10×12″
With the second sketch we were to adopt a similar approach regarding the darks and mid tones. Working for as long as possible to build up the structure of the face and shoulders before adding the lights. This time we were to make considered marks – looking at the model and making a definite decision as to where they should be placed. Using a long-handled brush, I tried standing at arm’s length whilst painting – this gave me a clearer view of the entire sketch to decide where to make marks. Standing back, assessing and then confidently putting down a mark was excellent discipline. I had seen Nicky Phillips (who painted the double portrait of Princes William and Harry), and read that Whistler had (as I’m sure had/do many other artists) adopt(ed) that approach. Again, I ran out of time to add the lightest lights, however, feedback from my tutor was that I had worked up the entire sketch equally so that all parts were are the same stage. A little longer and it may have been quite successful?
Tonal oil sketch
Canvas board 10×12″
Portrait: David – Larger than Life
First day of a new term! Typically, as I am nearing the end of the Figure and Portrait section in my painting course, we have just had our summer break from portrait and life classes. Never mind – onwards and upwards!
As per usual, we started our first lesson of term with drawing, but today we had to go LARGE. Well, A2, was the largest paper I had. The brief was to draw our model’s face, in extreme close-up, his features had to engulf the entire paper. The main lesson learnt was that where, in smaller scale, an expanse of cheek may be hinted at and not dwelled upon, in this size, it had a life of its own – it couldn’t be glossed over. It was easy to start to reduce the scale as you moved through the drawing and many students did so – especially those sat down. Those of us who were stood at easels, regularly stood back and could see when we were slipping in to small habits. My main stumbling point was highlights, in my usual scale of working, these are small and less is more, however, at this size, everything had to be exaggerated. We made one drawing up to tea break, and another after – the second had less time. However, we were more comfortable with the scale at this point and managed to produce a more complete drawing, even with the addition of hands. Great fun – next week… smaller than A4 – oh dear!
David – close-up
Charcoal on A2 paper
David – close-up with hands
Charcoal on A2 paper
09.30-16.30 Two sessions in one day
Chris is a regular sitter for our class, however, this time, he had brought props. A small side table in dark oak, with what looked like an antique bible beautifully decorated and a chair. The chair itself was interesting as it’s back was in the corner with the arms making a right angle – I’m sure it has a special name for its design. Chris himself appeared in a costume we assume to be reminiscent of 17th Century attire, which was expertly made by Chris’ late wife, he had rearranged his normal hairstyle and really looked the part. After all that trouble, it seemed rude not to paint at least most of it so I tried a couple of quick sketches to decide on the composition.
Preparatory charcoal sketches
Although I mainly chose the left sketch and composition, as my canvas ratio was slightly longer to width than the sketch, I could include more of the figure.
Strangely, having more time seemed to slow me down and the resulting painting is more unfinished than I would have liked. The head is not yet complete in its form and I needed to find more colour in the tones on the costume.
Chris (17th Century style costume)
Oil on canvas (acrylic ground)
13.30-16.30 One session
Today was slightly different in that we had two sessions in one day – two different models – Joe in the morning and Rosa in the afternoon.
Rosa was a very impressive young lady, only 17 and on a student exchange from Germany, she spoke excellent English and was very enthusiastic about everything – I think she won everyone’s heart! Rosa was tall and elegant in a natural and unassuming way, she wore her denim jacket festooned with buttons and badges and a jaunty little black hat. The challenge here was to try to portray a natural (no make-up) yet confident young girl.
Oil on canvas (acrylic ground)
09.30-12.30 One session
Joe was sitting for two morning sessions, of which I had, unfortunately, missed the first. I decided therefore to paint only head to shoulders although slightly larger than life size.
Joe was from Mauritius with a lovely French accent – which I am using as my excuse for why I appeared to be painting a passable portrait of Tierry Henry right up to tea break! Having spent a few minutes chatting to Joe, I realised that he looked very different – however, Joe had an uncanny way of looking completely different from varying angles – this was very disconcerting and consequently I failed to really capture the essence of him. He’s promised to come back at some point so we can try again.
Oil on canvas board