Tuesday, 11 March 2014

A happy man (with demo)

I am working on people at the moment, because I would like to be able to offer portraits of people with their pets and to do this I need to get better at painting people. This cheerful bloke is Egyptian and I painted him based on a photo taken by Kerry Heffernan on Paint My Photo. The painting is 10"x8", oils on board.
Here is the palette I used:
Top Row: burnt umber, French Ultramarine, viridian
Bottom Row: Cadmium Yellow Medium, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red Medium
There are two whites: at the bottom, Titanium White; at the top: Warm White by Gamblin. This one is a new discovery for me and is marvellous because it isn't ice cold or chalky.

In terms of method, I used Method 6 in Richard Schmid's book Alla Prima - Everything I know About Painting. He calls it "selective start - or Big Bang". Basically, rather than a line and mass block-in or some other form of roughish underpainting, with a selective start you identify a clear geometric shape (I prefer to find a triangle if I can) and paint that. Exactly. Then paint the shape next to it. Exactly. And so on, until the painting starts to unfold in front of you. He likes it because you can leave the painting at any point confident that what you have done so far is correct (hopefully...). There isn't any of this angst about whether it is "all going wrong" that I so often have with a block-in. However, I have modified this extreme approach a tiny bit, by adding a few lines and the use of an acrylic burnt sienna to tone the board.  First shot:
Richard Schmid doesn't use lines, but I am simply not in his league! Then I looked closely for a "triangle" to get me started:
The triangle was the dark piece just to the right of the corner of his eye. I started on the left of the painting because I am right handed.
Just working my way round his face, one shape at a time
In terms of brushes, I am using synthetic angled shaders, the sort usually sold for acrylics, or even watercolours. They are a bit too soft for canvas but I am working on baby-bottom-smooth gesso'd panels so they are just right. I find bristle brushes take off as much paint as they put on.
This was the last WIP shot I remembered to take. I will re-post the finished painting again in a moment, but just wanted to point out the difficulty I am having here with his open mouth and the folds under his chin. I remembered reading advice about teeth: do not paint each tooth or you will get the "grave-stone effect"; just suggest the teeth. I felt that I was at risk of getting a bit too grave-stoney here so I squinted at my reference photo until it all went very blurry and then tried hard to paint mass rather than form. As for his chin, I left it be and when it was dry knocked it back with a couple of burnt umber glazes, heavily thinned with liquin.

His turban was done with a bigger flat brush very quickly, using warm white and violet for the shadowy bits, warm white for the rest and a slash of titanium white for the whitest white. The background is Rembrandt Titanium Oxide Red and burnt umber.
Hope this was of interest and that the sun is shining where you are! 

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