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.
I make no apologies for painting yet another watercolour of the same image of my step-daughter, Ruth. Inexplicably, this particular image fascinates me and I may still do one final, very loose version. For art to work, it’s important to do what satisfies you and to keep doing it – not what other people expect or what may sell – you have to do your own thing because that is your unique voice.
Watercolour is often thought of as a light, delicate medium. Used correctly, however, it has wonderful, intense depth. In this painting I took my cue from an exercise I did in negative painting. I built up numerous layers, using the most transparent colours from a fairly limited pallet:
- Quinacridone Gold
- Burnt Sienna
- Alizarin Crimson
- Phthalo Blue
- Ultramarine Blue
Despite watercolour being a fast-drying medium, waiting for each thin layer to dry wasn’t easy. Still, it provided the opportunity to stand back from my work and view it from a distance in order to evaluate it. Turning a painting upside down, viewing it in the mirror or via a photograph are other ways to help seeing it through ‘fresh eyes’.
Fifty percent of my art is detailed thinking – sometimes days of repeatedly going over the process in my head before getting the paints out. That being said, once the painting begins, I don’t really know what I’m doing and have to put my trust in the paint…but that’s creating!.
For once I’ve uploaded a large image, but you’ll need to click on it about three times to get the largest version.
And so as Christmas creaks into view, with the nation reaching wearily for its winter woolies once again, lo – behold my latest offering before I totally disappear up my own festive fundament.
Personally, I prefer a looser, more spontaneous and drippy effect to this overworked watercolour portrait, but I learned so much; primarily how to conquer my fear of a blank sheet of paper:
- my pigments are not as translucent as those of the tutor
- squinting to properly see tone, light, shadow and reflected light
- identifying warm and cool colours
- preparation – pre-mix enough paints
- glazing – how graduated washes create many layers – first time using a mop brush
- establishing soft and hard edges
- lifting off damp as well as dried pigment
- ability to look at watercolour paintings by other artists and decipher which technical aspects were probably used
I enjoyed this online course so much.
Herewith the various stages showing the process…
…just don’t ask me to share the technical details – it took me a long time to complete and I am busy preparing for the impending fa-la-laaa fiasco.
Once they have had time to complete the course themselves and IF they decide to publish, I will be adding links here to posts by my good painting buddies, Leslie White and Carol King.
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night. Rum pum pum pum!