Working it up

Mr Heatherley 4

This illustrates the process that I use to work up the overall portrait. Particularly in large and detailed pictures I find it helpful to closely define the picture right at the beginning, even though I often deviate from that as time goes on. While working more impressionistically is wonderful I find it a difficult way to start large or intricate images.

I transfer the detailed pencil drawings onto the larger canvas. Traditionally this would be done by squaring up but technology is a bit more labour saving now. Then I go straight for the darkest darks and lightest lights, across the whole image. Even through these are relatively small parts of the overall image I always find it intriguing how much the picture as a whole comes out.

I also put some colours on spots all over the canvas to act as reference points when working on any particular area. Having made some initial definitions for the overall picture, drawing, colour and tone, I then move to bringing it forward from individual areas. In this case I worked some clothes first, then the heads then completing the bodies, bean bag and floor.

I find that having started with a close definition and detailed under drawing I feel free to change and be spontaneous about the painting of individual parts of the image, and usually the brush work does not conform to the underdrawing at the detail level but is a more immediate reaction to the subject at the time of making the painting.

HeatherlyPatrick Earle