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.

HeatherlyPatrick Earle