Andrew James Portraits 1

Large head portraits

Andrew James Vice President of the Royals Society of Portrait Painters, was teaching our last assignment.  You can see his work at:

He is one of the leading portrait painters in the UK and largely self taught.  I would characterise his work as linked to contemporary life, with strong design and love of paint, the act of painting and colour.


The focus was primarily on close in head portraits and the main teaching points for me were:  Building up a density of paint and marks, focusing on what is particular/unique,  balancing harness and softness (as important as balancing tone and temperature),  making a clear decision when two things are in conflict, balancing fragmentation with a whole picture unity and routes through the picture.


The first picture was a large 40X30 inch head portrait of Alona.  I changed my working practise in this in two ways, 1) doing more marks all across the portrait, rather than from the centre out, and 2) working many more layers, allowing for more adjustment and pigment density.


In the end I primarily liked using colour temperature to create contrast and emphasis.  The background was a much more positive support to the painting as a whole as well as the key colours in the head.  The new challenge for me that I liked was creating spaces and routes through the picture to bring it all together.

HeatherlyPatrick Earle