Doing a portrait of someone I care about is such a pleasure, because it feels as if we’re having a relaxing conversation as I squint and scrutinise their features.
I prefer to use a highly pixelated photograph for reference and tend to focus on the eyes first (apparently it was Wil Shakespeare who said that the eyes are the windows of the soul), then the mouth and lastly the nose. Being able to communicate what lies behind the is something few artists do.
It’s always possible to tell a true (or Duchenne) smile from a polite, fake smile – the eyes are always the giveaway.
This is a pared back pencil portrait of my remarkable eldest step-daughter, Hannah, who constantly surprises me as she rises to every challenge that life throws at her, never losing her quirky humour – she lights up a room when she enters. All of which is impossible to convey with a few pencil lines and to say in one breath.
It’s extremely tricky to capture the truest likeness of the subject in a portrait. There’s always a teeny something that isn’t quite right. But I relish the challenge.
The fun cartoon-like drawing below shows her very quirky side and that green is her favourite colour.
I’m sure she won’t mind me posting a recent photo of her which for me, is just so wonderfully Hannah and makes me smile.
It’s ok to feel delicate sometimes. Real beauty is in the fragility of your petals. A rose that never wilts isn’t a rose at all. ~ Crystal Woods ~
During this extraordinarily weird period of self-isolating, I’ve been distracting myself by doing some artistic exercises with inspiration and guidance by artist Ian Sidaway.
The fading roses were plucked from my garden immediately after heavy rain. I used pen and ink as well as watercolour.
Whenever I finish a drawing or painting, I always ask myself whether I’d be happy to put my picture up on the wall inside my house. Recently the answer has been a resounding “no!”. But that’s alright as they’re not meant to be finished works of art, they are merely exercises in observation and trying new techniques.
Before I go, I just want to say that if I hear one more person say “new normal” I may just lose it. It is not normal and saying it over and over does not make it true. It is temporary!
Life is still life. It’s still tough, complicated, and more than a little messy, with lessons to be learned, mistakes to be made, triumphs and disappointments to be had, and not every day is meant to be a party. ~ Alyson Noel ~
Due to the current Lockdown because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I am into week eight of self-isolation with my husband and son, so having these images scanned is not a priority. It seems, however, that I am cannot take a decent photograph. The paper looks grey.
These are merely some drawing exercises. Sepia ink was used for the image above and with the two below, ink, oil pastels and watercolour were used. The last one was a quick first try-out on scrap paper, but in some ways I like it the best.
My Step-daughter’s eldest boy was distinctly despondent that I’d painted his baby brother’s portrait before doing one of him – so I’ve taken the step towards getting back in his favour – although I doubt a four-year-old would appreciate the loose painting technique used here.
An initial sketch (see bottom of page) is usually best practice to familiarise myself with the features of the subject.
In order to obtain some kind of likeness to the subject, the first details of my focus are always the eyes, lips and nose, painted with fine brushes.
Squinty eyes and flat brushes were used to block in the darkest values, using plenty of water. Once dry, the lighter washes were blocked in, leaving the lightest areas untouched.
Finally, using a higher ratio of pigment to water, I went back to re-establish some of the darkest values. I probably shouldn’t divulge the fact that his face was very red in the photograph due to a recent bout of tears, abruptly halted with the appearance of a chocolate pudding.
The resemblance isn’t quite as close as aimed for, so aspiring to meet with the high expectations of a four-year-old lad is sufficient motivation to do it one more time. Watch this space.
I have just, rashly, entered my artwork to the first round of what is the largest and most longstanding (since 1789!) open submission contemporary art show in the United Kingdom, namely the 2017 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, with its prevailing trademark chaos.
Let the nail-biting commence.
The selection Process:
12,000 digital entries will be accepted online – judging 16 March
4,000 of these entries will be short-listed for the second round – judging 18 May
Approximately 800 works will be chosen for the exhibition – final hangings 27 May
I know, right?
Ah well, at least I know that my entry fee will contribute towards a good cause; the funds raised by the exhibition go to the Royal Academy School – ensuring tuition for their students is free.
For the very last time (promise) I created a final, final, FINAL, ink drawn portrait of my youngest step-daughter, Ruth. For once the image is large, so if you want to examine it closely, click it about three times.
Fingers crossed….you just never know! **
The Summer Exhibition 2017 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, runs from 13 June to 20 August.
** I didn’t get in after all – but it was fun to have a go.
It’s been such a joy painting this adorable face – he made me smile throughout the process.
Unfortunately, despite visiting two different scanning shops and taking many, many shots over three days, this woefully poor photo is the best image I got, which doesn’t do it justice.
As predicted, the watercolour study has evolved to become the final piece; smaller portraits have their merit and I’m quite satisfied with the result.
A light touch and a soft palette of transparent colours was necessary to reproduce that wonderfully delicate freshness of the little man’s flawless, peachy-soft baby skin. Greatly diluted, these watery colours were carefully built up in layers until I felt I’d ‘captured’ him enough to please his parents.
Despite intending to paint loosely, unless the main features are detailed, it’s difficult to achieve a proper likeness of the subject. In an attempt to make it more ‘painterly’ some splashes were added and I purposefully tried to fade out at the edges so that he wasn’t overwhelmed by the business of his clothing. I do like a slightly unfinished painting, but on this occasion, it was mostly due to the fear of messing it up with overworking.
Now all I need is to stop “Baby face, you’ve got the cutest little baby face” from playing on a continuous loop in my head.
Before embarking on a portrait, making a preliminary study sketch can help to familiarise yourself with the subject – once you begin putting down marks on the paper a relationship starts to form. Taking that first step will help to reveal what is important as you closely investigate the details of their features. As the study is usually carried out in a free and spontaneous manner, it is common to prefer the sketch to the finished portrait.
I plan to make a few more studies in watercolour as well as in ink before starting the final portrait of my step-daughter’s youngest son. When drawing his sweet little face I got totally carried away, so have learned not to overwork it….something I do a lot.
Since (unbelievably) that clown Donald Trump is US President Elect, our world has been turned into a circus…and it’s not funny. So I thought I’d give you at least one reason to smile by sharing this little cutie with you. This was all done using watercolour crayons.
So six months of chugging away for my Zazzle store has felt mind-numbingly tedious. Not that the actual designing is boring, more the (necessary) cross-media broadcasting that accompanies each and every single item.
Anyway, the possibility of emigrating to sunny Portugal now totally preoccupies me. I’ve attended overseas property exhibitions, examined online, plots of land for sale, researched property purchasing regulations and everything about private swimming pools – it’s addictive and so much fun! If this does happen, it won’t be until 2018 after my son complete his university studies.
I’m itching to paint and draw again. At the risk of being boring, I’m considering revisiting an image of my youngest step-daughter, the composition of which, inexplicably, still stimulates my creativity. Already drawn in pencil and ink, painted with watercolour – twice. This time I plan using a mixture of media and may give pastels a go.
Here to prove that I haven’t totally given up, is the ink version, but this time with some minor digital modifications.
“I sit before flowers, hoping they will train me in the art of opening up,”
So says modern poet Shane Koyczan.
For five days I’ve been sitting in front of “a host, of golden daffodils” willing them to train me in the art of capturing their glory in watercolours.
“I gazed-and gazed” but found that yellow on yellow is really difficult! Keep it loose and there’s not enough definition – add detail and it looks overworked. Whilst the paint was still wet I went back in with a watercolour crayon which seeemed to work fairly well. Oh and on the vase I used a white wax crayon to (kind of) define the water line.
…but decided that this one is probably best? Actually, surprisingly, cropping is also more difficult than I assumed it would be.
Frustration aside, I enjoyed using my paints again – a necessary change from designing for my ** Zazzle store.
Ever the optimist, I plan doing some cutsie watercolours of themes suitable for children, which eill be incorporated into designs for greeting cards and various other items…you guessed…for my ** Zazzle store!
You rarely get what you expect in life and despite it being almost Christmas you won’t see a stunningly beautiful festive painting as done by Lesley White nor this marvelous Thanksgiving watercolour by Carol King. But I do promise not to whine this time.
Anyone who kindly reads my witterings know that the process of setting up my online shop has wilted the neurons in my feeble brain. (Almost whined there.) The remedy? A first venture into abstract doodling mark making, some of which is influenced by images seen on the internet.
Abstract art isn’t supposed to look like anything, which is immediately freeing. It can be whatever you make of it – or whatever you don’t make of it.
With ink and watercolour paints, I soon became totally immersed in making marks and shapes for their own sake, which was most gratifying. Time zipped by.
Making repetitive gestures was both relaxing and absorbing; sometimes it felt almost unconscious as I tried not to exert too much control.
And yes, these images will be put to use in my ** Zazzle Store.
I’m considering running another site purely for commercial posts. Maybe next year.
Until then, a huge thank you to all of you who have supported me by stopping to look or comment and I sincerely do wish you all a very merry festive holiday.
I’ve always wanted to paint flowers but held back because for some nebulous reason I feared they would be too difficult. Sometimes you just have to go for it. Watercolour is utterly perect for painting flowers!
These Crocosmias (I had to look them up) were painted on dry paper using luscious, raw, thick watercolour paint, straight out of the tube. Before the paint dried, I went back in with a clean, damp brush to tease out the coloour. A brush handle dipped in the paint became a handy mark maker.
One of my biggest challenges is knowing when to stop; I’ve ruined so many paintings at the last minute – although on this occasion I managed to step back in time….just.
This Hydrangea sketch is my attempt to defy indications that the British summer has already bowed out. It’s still July and I’m not ready to put my sandals and sunglasses away just yet.
Based loosely on the principles of negative painting, I worked around the petals and leaves to define their shapes and bring them forward.
Transparent colours were used as several layers of increasingly deeper tone are required to develop the shapes.
For quick reference I use a Winsor & Newton chart of hand-painted professional waercolours which has proved invaluable to me. It not only clearly demonstrates what each colour looks like from intense to watery pale, but it also lists whether they are transparent, semi-transparent or opaque. It also saves me the bother of making my own chart.
It is important to allow the paint to dry properly between each glaze…something I’m particularly bad at.
It may be possible to detect a whiff of satisfaction since I’ve muffled that chattering inner critical voice.
I’ve realised that in order to appreciate my own work it is imperative that I wait a few days after completion to be able to stand back and look at it with fresh eyes…rather like getting used to a new haircut.
The fear of using watercolours is diminishing. First using only transparent pigments mixed with plenty of water enables me to lightly ‘map out’ the image. It allows for painting as many layers as I need to build up the impression of dimension.
Flat brushes instead of round were used in an attempt to introduce spontaneity, with charcoal and pastels for intensity.
I’m persevering with the same subject as before, my youngest step-daughter, Ruth.
The ink version was all about the lines; a clean, graphic quality being appropriate.
Although not exactly a whimper of a painting, I abandoned the watercolour portrait because, despite scribbling on it with pastels, it still felt too flat, rigid-as-a-stick and the edges were too similar. It didn’t excite me – it lacked those extra ingredients of chaos and energy that I respond to and there was none of the fluidity that only watercolour can deliver.
With this simplified version, the ‘unfinished’ appearance is entirely intentional (assume your “Oh come OFF it” face here).
Pablo Picasso described art as the eliminiation of the unnecessary and Claude Debussy stated that “music is the space between the notes”.
Simplify, simplify, simplify! Do more with less!
In this vein, I tried to embrace the blank spaces and make each mark count, obtaining a perfect image being less important than how the paint was applied. And what was left out. Yes, you guessed it, I’m making it up as I go along here.
This painting feels complete to me. And there are edges; some soft, some sharp and I may have even managed to lose some!
In keeping with the minimalist theme, I’ll end here and see myself out.
Isn’t it always the way? With this drawing of my son I didn’t try. Really! It was only a spontaneous sketch with barely any conscious thought…yet somehow, I effortlessly managed to accurately ‘capture’ my son and his mood. He even likes it enough to use it on his website.
Striving for perfection and overthinking often sabotages creativity. It’s a paradox! This was only achieved because I was ‘in the flow’, in a ‘zone’; the usual self-inflicted pressure was off and I didn’t care about the outcome. I was unleashed!
Drawing with coloured pencils is extremely satisfying. It’s just so very simple – all that is required is some paper, pencils and a sharpener. And the results are gratifyingly fast…no drying time required.
I’ll have to cultivate this – in future, I’ll try not to try.
My head frequently bubbles with detailed artistic ideas, but actually accomplishing them isn’t always easy.
I’d like to create a series of paintings portraying likenesses of people I know, with their facial features and hands taking prominence.
You may wonder why I don’t simply call them “portraits”. Well, have you ever tried to render the essence of an individual onto paper or canvas? Obtaining a true recognisable likeness is staggeringly difficult. Formidable, even. Not least because the sitter is unlikely to view themselves in the same way that the artist does and there are always critics ready to pile huge lumps of vitriol onto the artist.
Clueless but undaunted, the first step was taken; I found a photograph that makes me want to to dust off my paints.
This preliminary ink drawing was to make me look hard at her features to familiarise myself with depicting them – also to decide which elements of the photograph to include and which to leave out in the composition.
The quick pencil sketch helped me ignore the myriad details and to simplify by considering the tonal values of her face that create form. Squinting helps with this.
My lofty aspiration is to somehow infuse the painting with more personality than the merely flat one dimensional drawing (although I do quite like flat images). To cultivate an intimacy that goes deeper than a mere likeness. Ideally I hope to reveal something of what goes on behind her eyes.
If I manage to fulfil my heady blur of ambitious imagined plans, the next post should be the painting. Any resemblance to the sitter will be an indescribable relief, but mostly I’m just happy to be doing some art again!
Now if someone could just sprinkle some fairy dust onto my paint brushes…..
This image is merely an exercise in tonal values which I found compelling. Agreed, it is undoubtedly overworked for what is supposed to be a simple study.
I find the tutor,Matt Rota, to be exceptional and easy to understand. I haven’t even started the final portrait yet and I already feel I’ve learned more in a couple of hours watching his tutorials than ever before.
I’d forgotten what it’s like to be this motivated and giddy about painting…I feel like I could throw off sparks from my fingertips. A new phase in my creativity is opening up and finally giving it some direction. Seriously, I don’t know if I can take much more excitement!
Despite your suspicions, I’m not getting paid to drool enthusiastically about this course.
More pictures of (the same) bare, naked man without a stitch on, in his birthday suit. He was impressive in that he effortlessly held difficult poses without swaying or trembling and never complained. Next week we’ll have a female model.
This figure drawing/painting class is freeing me up – it’s refreshing to focus purely on the PROCESS instead of the end product.
The first was a 15 minute pose and the second 10 minutes. In future I’ll only use large 420 x 594 mm paper for figure drawing as the 10 minute studies are far superior to the 20 minute watercolour I did on smaller 356 x 254 mm paper….which is why I’m not showing it to you.