Monthly Archives: April 2010

Entries for the RP

Father and fur hat

Each year the Royal Society of Portrait Painters has a highly competitive open exhibition of portraits.  Among the entries from ordinary mortals who are not members of The RP, the acceptance level is about 1%.  Nevertheless, it is important to try, to get started, to get ones work out there.  So this year I put two pieces of work in, knowing that they would not be accepted.

 

The first is a picture that I did of my father half looking over and half looking through his glasses.  This is one of the last pictures that I did using an earth palette.  The colours remain vibrant and strong despite coming from this palette and every time I look at it I wonder about going back to the earth palette.  For me it captures something particular about him, that he probably would not easily admit to;  a certain sense of vulnerability and compassion.  Many people would say that these are two of his most endearing qualities.  The picture itself is strong and monumental, asking if strength in the world is a necessary precondition for accepting vulnerability and compassion.

 

The second was a picture I painted in Atul’s class entirely from life and in a bit of a hurry.  However, somehow the paint handling really clicked for me in those sessions and while the picture is not that exciting, the likeness and paint handling were good for me.  In the image I like the balance of the sharp blue with the warmth of the flesh tones and darkness of the fur hat.  The model exuded a sense of exclusivity, like a Tzarist princess.

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Making colour marks with Daniel

Morning and afternoon portraits

We worked with Daniel Shadbolt on two portraits with the same set up, morning and afternoon, Adrian and Gudron.  In many ways the overall artistic objective was the same as in Melissa’s project, ie a representational approach fully balanced with a musical creation of colour.  The driver is the sense of colour, rhythm, energy and vibration.

 

However, Daniel and Melissa’s processes are almost diametrically opposed.  Unlike Melissa’s careful planning and drawing out to start, Daniel goes directly with impressionistic marks of colour and gradually building up with marks and detail as needed to move the overall picture forward, working the whole thing in one.  The result is an image that has more personal energy on the canvas and perhaps less clarity.  A combination makes sense to me.

 

As in other recent project, I worked on the overall picture construction of interlocking blocks of colour, then building up the picture with thicker paint marks.  In both pictures there are parts that I am happy with, Adrian’s leather jacket and Gurdon’s lead arm.  The flesh tones on the two faces were too cold and I need to go back and look at the palette that I am using, which is a very cool one (Yellow lake bright, Ultramarine and Magenta).

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Melissa’s colourful portraits

Stained glass people

Our project with Melissa Scott Miller focused on a jigsaw of colour, as a portrait.  The objective is to create a musical rhythm of colour, clear and clean patches with rhythm, tone and vibration.   Melissa set up a complex subject for the paintings with lots of colour.  The intention was to paint with a clear figurative, representational approach, but to have a colour based piece of art at the end.  To achieve this the setup is key.

 

Melissa’s process starts with a charcoal line drawing on a white canvas, fixed with fixative before painting over.  This is useful because it facilitates a clearer drawing but in her approach it combines with thin initial painting that looks like a stained glass window.  Painting over white helps emphasize the jewel like nature of the colours.    The other key idea is that every part of the picture is as important as every other part, creating a painting by filling out areas of colour, rather than just being focused on the subject.  Another helpful hint she gave is a way of simplifying how we see colour.  Just as squinting helps to see tone more clearly, so squinting, but only very slightly, helps to see colour more clearly.

 

I have found the approach of setting out areas of colour, keyed into each other, over the whole picture to be very useful.  This picture was my first and far from perfect but the potential was obvious.  I set out a colour chord based on green and red and orange and blue, which I think has broadly worked.  At the same time I carried on my journey of increasing the amount of paint put on the canvas and working towards cleaner colours, put on directly and them not blended or otherwise messed with.

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