Just for figurative practice I took some newspaper images and played around with my pastels, imagining that I was back in the life room and trying to work at pace – as if I had the time limit of a session. I liked the way this figure gripped their cane, with his bottom hand facing upwards, presumably, around the bulb of the cane.
On this, the melancholic gaze of the subject looking down drew my attention. This pose is accentuated by the top of the eyelid and the underside of the eye socket being illuminated from an elevated light from their left. The right side of her face is completely black in the photo, but I hinted at her eye and the edge of her nose and also put a bit more colour in, to lift the mood perhaps.
Last weekend in the UK we had a mini TV Bowie Fest , it being five years since his death and, presumably, a nod to his Ziggy classic. I sat on the sofa with a sketch book idly doodling during one of the programmes. This wasnt one of the doodlings, I`m not that fast. After the lead on my pencil had worn down I got the camera out and, later, worked a few shots up in pastel just to do a portrait – I`m not doing much figurative/portraits these days and I thought that it was a good opportunity.
Five years, that`s all he got – well there was some remission for good behaviour.
It started as a landscape. I was working out different ways to get texture for a beach scene. I normally work at an angle, occasionally vertically, but to increase granulation I had the paper flat and applied the paint unevenly with various warm and cool colours.
When I paint in life sessions I like to work on toned paper – often I prepare it myself. Now, looking at the paper when it had dried, I saw that it had areas of varying tone which could be orientated differently to capture the tonal contrasts of a figure.
I cut out and keep interesting images of figures and faces, with good tonal contrast, to sketch in my sketchbook. So, from the folder I put them in, I plucked out this contemplative soul. So here is an exploratory sketch, keeping the paper flat as I worked. Perhaps I am missing the life groups. I normally work in anything but watercolour at these sessions, but when and if they do restart here, I might prepare some watercolour paper to take along.
It came to me in a dream, Your Honour. Not the green man of yore: helpfully nurturing the fresh shoots of spring and kicking off an abundant harvest. No, this was someone who sowed unease, albeit with a smile that in hindsight you might consider a sneer. Perhaps the devil’s work though in a different shade.
I havent done any life drawing of late, so I thought why not have a play when this idea occurred. I had intended an even more contorted head, but I started the work with just a palette knife and getting tied up with the technicalities of that, I drifted towards the natural – though fortunately not too natural.
Hopefully I got something a little unsettling in some beguiling colours.
I was asked to paint the portrait of a lady, who loves reading, as a birthday present. As she is someone I`ve never met good photos are very important. Fortunately one image had some decent lighting on it. The other was flat and featureless. One issue is that the lady had changed hair styles between photos and I subsequently found out she had lost some weight. All making life interesting.
We are getting there, but slowly, as other members of the family are viewing the image and adding their imput.
I initially had a notion of this painting from a side view incorporating the steam from the soup against a dark background. Looking for suitable images to use I came across one of my dad, but a frontal view. Unfortunately he was wearing a hat and had no shirt which was a step too far for me, so I changed that, and added a book.
The real problem came in filling the 50x65cm sheet. I rescoped the head a couple of times, to try to ensure that sheet was filled, but despite all this I only managed 2/3 of the paper and with all the chopping and changing I lost the likeness – well, it’s a bit like him, but I’ve done better – perhaps a candidate for another attempt.
Compared to that the reworking of the Cambodian woman (an image I posted a couple of weeks ago as a smaller sketch) came out so much easier on this larger format – perhaps there was more to squeeze in so I was struggling to include rather than fill it out.
I might do a bit of tweaking to this yet, but in the main I am happy with it. Perhaps this larger format allows more detail and nuance giving it, for me, more authority.
As well as attending life sessions I have joined a portrait group, so here are a few of my recent paintings all done on a grey undercoat in a similar style, mainly using just three colours, alizaren red, raw sienna and ultramarine blue as well as white of course.
I managed to get the feet in on this one, which for a standing pose, for me is a minor miracle.
Below are the portraits. The first one was a bit over ambitious, trying to maximise the head on the paper and with flat lighting. I have managed to convince the guy who runs the session that he can get more sympathetic lighting on the subject. Hopefully that will show up in the ensuing weeks.
Last night’s session was a bit better, less ambitious in size