Not long ago I finished this portrait of my brother Jarvis. It is 36×36″ and oil on canvas. In this work I continued to explore a larger scale than I am used to as I did in the last painting, Red Plaid Jacket. This scale is quite a bit larger still. The canvas is 36×36″ making the head about 3x life size. I am attracted to working on this scale because of the opportunity to get lost in the deeply fascinating landscape of the human face.
There are hundreds of colours and textures there to capture and it is my experience that painting this subject is less about eyes and noses and mouths than arrangements of abstract shapes colours and textures. This size of composition really let me indulge in this kind of painting experience. Of course I still have an arrangement of meaningful items in the portrait besides just the face as I usually do and the passages that surround the actual head on the work also benefitted from my being able to stretch out and explore details on a larger scale than I am accustomed to.
It is hard to see on the screen of the internet but it is this mix of representation and abstraction and materiality and idea that is so powerful in painting and drawing for me. And whether it will lead to larger scales or larger compositions with the life scale I’m not sure, I am just really trying to be as honest with and true to what each work inspires in me. There are two or three in progress that I will be able to share in another month and strangely enough currently on my easel is a portrait commission that is a much smaller scale than I am used to with the head being only 3 inches or so
So there is lots of activity in my studio and the blog will busy this next while as many things come to their finish. And as always I am looking to have more portrait clients this coming year and so if you are interested please ask for more information.
I hope you enjoy these pictures of the work and thank you so much for reading. If you would like to follow the blog, my Facebook page or my Instagram the links are all to the right.
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!!
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!