Here is the first work from my studio this year. You can see the preliminary drawing of it here.
After some discussion I have titled it Red Plaid Jacket. It is oil on canvas and 20×30” which makes the head about one and a half-life size.
I conceived of the work last summer as a piece which would embody some of my developing ideas about painting. Like many artists I think all the time about the purpose of visual art and its role in our culture, and because of my own creativity I think mostly of painting and drawing. I am particularly interested in the capacity for painting and drawing to evoke states of being that go beyond simple communicating ideas when people spend time with work. This isn’t any kind of news that visual art works in this way but I am considering what if this is the most important way that it works, the most valuable thing about it- that beyond the representational image, there are things that emanate from a painting that cause a resonance with the viewer or environment around it.
So in this work, through colour, composition texture and image I was making a piece that would emanate peace. As for the “picture”, it is an archetypal image of a sacred greeting so that the viewer is being looked at with reverence and is part of a peaceful and sacred moment. While painting I was focused on creating atmosphere of beauty through the materials-colour and texture-and order in the composition. I was very aware of making a most honest and simple painting that literally offers peace.
Many thanks to my daughter Dante who was the perfect model and the work is available through Jarvis Hall Fine Art (link to the right).
Here are just a couple of progress shots including the gridded drawing under all of the paint.
I really enjoyed the scale of the piece and would really love to explore this aspect on commissioned portraits for those interested.
That’s all for now and thank you for reading!!
After a longish period of working at commissions, which take me a very long time, my focus is back on studio work. This piece here is both a finished drawing and a study for an oil painting. It is a little different for me as it is the first time I have pushed the scale larger than life-sized. My desire to experiment with this size to put emphasis on the marks that often get lost in my work on the smaller scales. Texture and noise in drawing is very creatively satisfying for me. The whole piece is 20×30″, about one and a half times larger than life.
Another feature of this work is my interest in expressing archetypal characters that express universal ideas.
The working title is Namaste, and it is graphite on paper. It is available for sale through Jarvis Hall Fine Art (link on the right column)
In the coming weeks as I work on the painting inspired by this drawing, as well as other work in my studio I will be posting regularly for those who are interested in following the progress.
After three months of showing you the progress on this portrait it is finished.
The technique that I have been using on the last stages of painting is one that I have been evolving for a while. Once the under painting is dry I brush onto a passage a layer of medium, a mixture of Gamblin’s cold wax and neomegilp, wipe it down a bit and then into this I work with paint that has no medium added whatsoever. You can see here the medium brushed onto the drying paint and only on the passages where I am painting that moment. The medium needs to be sticky wet to work into.
The most satisfying part of this technique is that the new colour layer seems to melt into the paint below yet keeps a thick and buttery consistency. In the very final layers I work with glazes mostly to shadow certain passages. My technique has changed very much over the years and I’m sure it will continue to evolve as I learn from each painting what is most satisfying and how to get the effects I want.
So before I show the finished image I have a series of images showing how the painting developed. I think I’ve told you before that I am fascinated by the technical aspects of painting and how illusion is created so this explains my interest in sharing this sort of thing. The experience of doing the work demands a lot of patience, preparation and foresight. It is all a learning process. My vision for my painting is to be able to cut back on all the stages I go through, take all that I’ve learned from them and have my process be much more direct and efficient… we’ll see.
Showing these groups of images is a little misleading because it takes me a very long time to get from one to another. It isn’t just a single layer between each stage but a process of painting, adjusting, refining and shifting colour. You should be able to see here shifts in values, lights in the shadows, softened edges and refined detail as I was getting the atmosphere right where I wanted it. Looking at representational paintings in photographs and on screens is also misleading as it suggests that paintings and photographs are more similar than they actually are. In my experience paintings have a completely different life to them than photos do because they are, obviously a completely different medium. But for the purposes of sharing work on a blog and on a website these will do.
Also with these full figure portraits in an environment, there is a complicated array of elements that all need to be balanced correctly to have a harmonious result. I’m sure I make it much more complicated than it needs to be like I said above, for me it is all a learning process.
So here is the finished work and thank you so much for following the progress! With this piece done I have no more commissions in the queue. I am very interested in taking on more with special interest in those that are drawings or smaller than full figure. This work takes less time and will let me dedicate more time towards getting some studio work ready for a small exhibition. If you would like to know more about having portraits done you can read more here or contact me with any questions or for more details.
Thanks so much again and I’ll be back soon with an update of what is on the easel.
The work of the past two weeks has been developing the depth of the setting, and establishing the finished values of the work. By values I mean the darks and lights of all the hues in the painting. The image has many shades of white but when it comes to paint none of it is painted with just white at all. To help me do this I use a paper value finder and Photoshop’s grayscale slider. I sample a spot on the computer image I am working on, see its value and adjust the paint to match the same value on the paper scale. It seems complicated but it is a method I came to because it is impossible to judge the paint on my brush next to the source image when using a computer screen. I think those that paint will understand what I mean. There is further balancing to do because I am not always copying the source image value for value, often I am measuring value ranges instead. If you have any questions I can elaborate in another post.
In these pictures you can see how the space has been developed so that there is depth behind the figure going into a back room and window.
I have also mixed the final colours for the flesh and clothing and so this is the focus from here on in. Once the figure is done there will be a final few hours glazing shadows, light in shadows and highlights on the furniture and shoes. This all should be done within a week or two from now.
Here are a couple of images showing the progress of particular spots.
The wall behind was darkened and the shadows and reflections on the floor added.
The bannisters and window behind are all complete.
These final hours of the painting are the most satisfying because after all of this building up most of the magic of illusion happens with the final touches. Hopefully this will show in the final photos I’ll post over the next while.
So, the note on the last post said I thought I would be finished this next stage in a week-oh my! Three weeks since I posted and the under painting is pretty much complete, all the board is covered in paint and the drawing is no longer visible.
I have made some adjustments along the way, changing some of the scale and measurements but it seems perfect now to begin the final layers of paint. It still appears pretty “flat” because there aren’t yet any glazed shadows and highlights added. The structure is set and now the illusion will really start to take shape. The transitions and edges between colours and values are still clumsy looking and so this is a major focus from here on in.
In these two above you can see that I am still re-measuring and correcting the drawing as I paint.
And here you can see where I have begun to add more colour to the bottom paint layer. For instance, the hands are richer than the knee which is still the first layer with limited colour.
It has been very valuable to show my progress to you as it is making me aware of things I am doing that are habit but not necessary(I think). I’m taking notes and look forward to refining my technique on the next pieces.
I’ll post a little more frequently through this next stage as the work gets closer to being finished.
For now though, enjoy if you are interested!
Over the past few weeks I’ve been sharing my process of developing a major portrait. I’ve composed a reference to work from, drawn out a study and finished the preliminary drawing on the board the painting is done on. After all of this work I finally began to apply the oil paint this week. This stage is always a little different for me. Sometimes I will do washes over the entire image with thin colour to paint into, sometimes I will do an entire rough painting in black, white and greys. I can only say that it depends on my mood and the mood of the painting because each method gives a different feeling to the act of painting. This time I am making a thickly painted and very developed first layer. Because this composition has a very architectural setting I want a gestural method of brushwork and a rich visual texture to the final work. The challenge will be to keep the freshness of this first paint through subsequent layers of refinement that is needed to develop the portrait.
I began with the architectural details and the space behind the figure so that I can have a physical sense of place and setting established while I am painting on the figure. I enjoy very much the sense of illusion in the work while I paint and use its development as a guide to measure when the piece is finished.
I am using only cold wax medium in the paint or sometimes brushed onto the board first as a layer to paint into.
By next Friday I should have the entire board covered in this first layer of paint.
Thanks for reading and see you next week!
Among other things, I finished the drawing on the current portrait. Last week I showed the beginning and a little bit of how I do it. I think every artist has a different way of working and I know for me all of this preliminary work, the drawing and under painting is never seen as it is hidden beneath the finished product. I am very interested in seeing the process of other painters so who knows, maybe it will be of interest to show mine.
The drawing is of course on white acrylic gesso on board. Once it is finished I cover it all with another coat of clear acrylic gesso. I don’t fix the graphite at all so yes, it does smudge, but I like this stage to be smudgy, and brushy (gesso-wise). The lines all remain but there is an uneven grey stain that gives some life to the work and makes it more interesting to paint on than a clear outline and pristine white spaces. Also the grid and numbers are still clear because I’ll be using them quite a bit in painting before they get covered.
So here are a few photos of before and after the last gesso coat.
Next week I should be able to show the underpainting done.