Ok I don’t look quite as horrific as this but I had the choice of likeness or mood. I chose mood. This to be fair is very abstract and was done at speed the whole painting took just over an hour and is by no means accurate or brilliantly painted. However I got to this point and thought I would stop as it conveyed exactly what I wanted and I was worried I would loose the mental chaos and tiredness I was trying to show. I experimented with some backgrounds before I started and sketches but at the last minute decided to go all Guy Denning on myself.
So I coated the paper with my usual neutral beige and then placed sand on the background because I wanted to dry brush the darker tones into it. Where drawing the figure I rubbed away the sand leaving it smoother. I had after looking at painting the figure in colour decided to use a limited palette, I like the way Guy Denning displays mood with his very dark portraits and thought I would try and do similar.
There is a slight colour to the figure in the hair and the fleece, although I feel if I was to take this further I would put more colour within the picture. Not a huge amount but just a hint of colour and think more about the placement of my brush. This I feel is a starting point and needs a lot of work but I was spontaneous in my work and just went for it. Another first for me was the use of sandpaper. I didnt like the left side just above the shoulder so decided to have a go at sandpapering the area and it looked so much better. I will use this again in the future. I used mirror and photos for this portrait as it was too difficult to hold the pose and paint.
Colours used for this painting were Titanium White, Ivory Black, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue.
For this I had to go on the internet and find some portraits, that convey a distinctive mood or atmosphere rather than simply a physical likeness. Look at Picasso’s blue paintings with their mood of surreal sadness or the dark earth colours of Van Gogh’s early paintings of peasants seated around a fire in their poor, meagre surroundings. Look at the strong tonal contrast in Rembrandt’s portraits and the formidably restricted palette with which he seemed to convey the very essence of a persons mood and personality. By contrast, consider the gaiety or the disturbing, nightmarish quality of the portraits and figure paintings of the Fauve painters and the German Expressionists.
Picasso’s blue period was believe to have been influenced by the death of someone close though it is said there are other influences supporting his artistic path. These paintings show scenes of hardship. Blue is a cold colour and its lack of the warmer light makes you think of the night when all our problems seem much worse.
I love The Tragedy which is set on a beach stripped of warmth and fun by its sombre colours, the adult couple stand with downturned heads and solemn faces, so we know something bad has happened . The child possibly not quite understanding the strength of the problem offers a crumb of comfort as they rest their hand on the male figure.
I like The Tragedy it reminds me of my very young daughter comforting me after a robbery. She didnt totally understand why I was upset, but suggested we went to the beach to enjoy ourselves which she felt would make everything better.
With Van Gogh I was to look at the earlier paintings of Peasants sat around the fire in their poor surroundings. I like the painting below and the limited palette used. The dark earth colours give greater emphasis to the difficult life of the Peasant. Even the light of the fire wasnt given dominance and is dull in appearance, removing the usual comfort and warmth it can give. Looking at the paintings and drawings of his Peasants I can see the flatness attributed to him. Having said that he produced some amazing studies and there were many of them. the Peasant woman in the field drawn below is one of my favourites it looks effortless in its application, the woman shows how well he could draw figures. I admit people are not my favourite things to draw, so I can sympathise with him and admire how he overcame his difficulty.
Peasant woman in a field
Rembrandt used light in a different way, his dramatic use of tonal contrast give a power to the picture. He portrays the light in such a way it showcases the mood of his subject. I love his self portraits and have looked at them earlier in the course, but for this research I chose the picture he did of Christ. The Light falls on the impaled figure in such a way the viewer is shown without mistake the agony being endured by the curvature of the body. Christs agony is also shown on the face which some feel was modelled on an earlier self portrait.
Rembrandts painting of Christ
In contrast to the sombre colours and symbolic surroundings, is the painting of Matisse by Andre Derain which shows a bright impressionistic style. Painted at the time he and Matisse were working together their style was named Fauves by a critic meaning wild beasts. Certainly the paint-strokes have a wildness about their application. In this picture I can see how the colours used give the impression of the warm evening sunshine as friends smoked and discussed the important moments of the day. It makes you realise how brushstroke, colour and light can also tell a story without the need for any props. The loose paintwork most certainly add to the feel of the picture. If you look at this painting from a distance it really does take shape the broad strokes of colour mingle very like the pointillists work.
Andre Derain portrait of Matisse
To finish I thought I would add a contemporary artist I admire Arabella Dorman
The powerful emotion evoked by her work is amazing. I love how the subject is prominent the background is kept very simple just enough work to show the viewer the man is injured and strapped to what looks like a stretcher. The tragedy of war shown in the blood on the man’s clothes his pain and suffering shown by his arm placement. In this day and age we have various ways in which the bloodiness of war can be seen, television, magazines, newspapers photographs we are over whelmed with the visual images of the injured. To some point we have been so bombarded with those images we don’t see them anymore. A picture like Cross-Fire has an artistry about it, there is something that draws you to this piece of art, a beauty, but by drawing in the viewer we then see the horror it holds. We are reminded this man may be injured but, he is in a position of being helped and attended, he has hope, has help, has life. Cross Fire has the ability to bring us the horror this man has been through but the hope he must now have, this has been achieved not only by the simplicity of colour used, but also the clever portrayal of the subject and the use of negative space which draws the eye very quickly to its main message.
For this I was to decide exactly how my sitter will appear in terms of scale, position , background and light source etc. Unfortunately due death of a close relative and time restraints I couldnt marry my time with a sitter so for this exercise had to resort to a picture. There was one I wanted to try however it was black and white the person meant a lot to me and was full of character, unfortuneately he died years ago. His skin colour was interesting being darker than average and the coat I remember to be fawn. I used a second photograph to help with George’s skin tone and set about sketching him several times, in coloured pencil, charcoal and graphite. Then I tried out a couple of backgrounds for my painting. In the time I had to do the exercise I would say the attempt is fair, but the paint application was not as I wanted. I would of liked a smoother transition rather than the painting by numbers effect. I have difficulty in doing this unless I work a small area at a time with acrylic and I just didnt have the time to do this on this occasion. Acrylic does have its benefits though in that it quick drying time means it is easier to store in my small cottage and doesnt smell. Misting with a spray may help so I am going to try one.
George was stood sideways in this picture and it could have been an interesting representation, however I didnt quiet get the right shoulder low enough and fluff it.
One thing I have learnt is painting a portrait is about looking, you have to know your subject well and the above painting is a mere sketch I would need to spend more time with my subject in order to correct the faults.
I began the painting with a line sketch in Acrylic and then progressed by painting the face then the shoulders. As I moved onto the coat I used a larger brush and just made a suggestion of detail, trying to blend the lower coat into the background, but feel that it should have been lighter in order to blend better. Larger looser brushstokes are something I like to do in the all but the most prominent areas of the painting, making the eye concentrate on areas I want the viewer to see, but move around the picture taking in the background. I love the brushwork of John Singer Sargent especially in this picture of Rosina Ferrara.
Rosina Ferrara by John Singer Sargent
The movement and accuracy of this painting with using what look like minimal brushstrokes is amazing. The creases in the dress make my coat look very overworked.
I have been interested in putting in practice a mix of realism and impressionism since drawing one, which was inspired by a small book from Falmouth Art Gallery called Effortless brushstrokes. I am still fighting the more impressionistic style but feel I am beginning to get there.
Having mentioned the coat I feel that was the best part of the painting and although it looked like a dirty version of Columbo’s Mac, it did work quite well. I am thinking of getting some water soluble oil paint to see if these are easier to use, but will have to wait until I can afford it.
For this I was to paint a self portrait of just my head and shoulders. I could choose to work with either natural or artificial light. Light my face from one side. My options were light dark or mid-tone background. I mistakenly did my background skin tone, why I ask myself, it just didn’t enter my head at the time of painting not until it was painted. Possibly because I have had a close death in the family again and my mind is not entirely on the job.
Sample of sketches
To be honest this exercise hasn’t gone well from beginning to end I thought I would loosen up with some quick drawings not too much attention to detail. The light was low and I tried to keep the whole exercise about, the shapes and features cocking my head, frowning etc, however looking back at the sketches, on only two did I get a likeness of sorts. I am usually good at faces and just couldn’t do this, I have drawn myself in the past and had no trouble but hey ho, it happens.
I rarely grid anything and have only done so once in the course I can usually work out my subjects from eye. Not a chance I was all over the place eyes in the wrong place, mouth too big, nose too far down, face shape all wrong. Now I was stressing, not only was I short of time, I couldn’t get the drawing/painting correct. When I came to do the painting I wasn’t a whole lot better and had to use a ruler as my guide to correct features and where they lay. Annoyed I was making a real mess of the whole exercise just added to the problem which in part stemmed from I am sure my ex-husband dying, and the upset of the fact I will be able to finish my course due to time problems. Anyway onwards and upwards for now.
Eventually my painted portrait did look like me, but according to my daughter a formidable version, but it did look like me, I have over accentuated my muscular shoulders and one is lopsided, again this was also a comment by my daughter. Odd I don’t see that anger in the mirror in the morning but have felt angry inside of late. Maybe I am painting my inner me correctly, was I sat lopsided, I don’t know its possible, I just noticed it, so left it in case it was the picture I was painting of myself. The eyes are not aligned correctly, the shadow in the left eye is not convincing and makes me look like I have painted it badly which of course I have.
This painting was kept loose, the dark paint marks in the background added at the end when it looked like I had become the invisible woman, due to skin tone and background being of similar colour.
Ok I can just hear the comment what is good about the painting, not a lot, but the thing I liked most about it was the T-Shirt it was painted with quick strokes of the brush and I like the way just this fleeting application of paint can show the creases in the material.
All in all not my best exercise it does show that outside influences can affect the way in which we paint.
Colours used Neutral Grey, Titanium White, Ivory Black, Raw Sienna, Light Magenta.
For this I was to choose 5 or 6 artists who whom painted self-portraits and try to cover a broad time span and different painting techniques’. I was then to look at the portraits and make notes covering aspects of how do they portray themselves as the artist or? Is there a purpose to the self-portrait? What impression are they trying to convey? What impression is portrayed? Then if possible compare their portrait with one of the sitter painted by another artist.
ALBRECHT DURER 1484
This is a beautiful self-portrait in Silver Point showing a 13-year-old boy. He was said to be a precocious boy and this shows through in this self-portrait. He looks very self-assured a serious individual and gives me the impression this is what he was trying to portray. There is a touch of arrogance about him.
LEONARDO DA VINCI 1512
Leonardo da Vinci portrait Man in Red Chalk I love this drawing not a painting, but drawing is the basis of good painting and I feel he is the master. I don’t know the purpose of it the picture and some experts argue it isn’t he, but if it is he has portrayed a wise elderly man with status who looks to be deep in thought. His flowing locks are almost biblical. Maybe he was trying to depict his wisdom. The painting by Raphael of Plato was said to be based on a likeness of Leonardo da Vinci and I must agree there are similarities in appearance and portrayal and I can understand why Raphael used the likeness to show a man of wisdom and philosophy.
Leonardo da Vinci Self Portrait Raphael’s Portrait of Plato
MARY CASSATT 1880
The watercolour self-portrait by Mary Cassatt depicts the painter, she painted women in the many rolls they played within her time. I think the purpose of this painting is to show women at work, and that is how it appears to me. She shows a strong woman who enjoys the work she does. There is a confidence in her stance and she seems to be sending the message, you can do what you put your mind to. The second portrait of Cassatt I have chosen is one by Degas they were supposed to be friends for many years painting together. This painting shows a woman deep in thought holding some pictures and was supposed to be painted in the way Degas saw her, demanding, curious and elegant. I think it shows her as a strong and intelligent woman, and yes there is an elegance about her.
Self Portrait Cassatt portrait by Degas
L S LOWRY 1936
My appreciation of Lowrys work has grown since starting the course with OCA so I couldn’t write about self-portraits without a mention of this talented man. What did he want to show of himself in his portrait, he saw himself as a lonely man and yes to me this is how the picture looks. A soulful man just one of the many in the crowd. His flat cap and coat depicting an everyday sort of person. He could be a local worker in the nearby mill. I would say he must of seen himself this way and was a man who didn’t let his position in life take him too far away from his beginnings. Olwyn Bowey shows a slightly different man, she painted the sketch in two sittings and I think she has portrayed a more interesting figure, the sense of humour she saw when painting him shines through in the near smile he has. She also shows a more distinguished man you would say had some standing but not without Grace. I think although this is impressionistic she has captured what I believe to be the spirit of Lowry. It is said he dared the artist to brighten up the picture which is why there is a splash of red. Something I have noticed in his depiction of the grimy mills of the North, he has a splash of colour lifting the viewers spirits from the depth of despair within the mood of his subject. I live near these streets and the greyness on a wet day is complete and can lower ones spirits, colour is needed to heighten ones mood and let the viewer see there is still something to be enjoyed no matter how bleak life can be.
Self Portrait Portrait of Lowry by Olwyn Bowey
SALVADOR DALI 1941
A surrealist painter I find his self-portrait amusing, he depicts himself with a soft face almost like a mask supported by crutches and a slice of bacon supposed to be a symbol of the breakfast he ate. Painted not as a painter but his features are unmistakable the eye brows and moustache are very prominent characteristics of the artist. Not sure of his purpose in painting this but it does remind me of his melting clocks and has a theatrical look about it. Equally entertaining is the doubly reversible portrait by Richard Meric. This is painted in the paranoia-critical method developed by Dali and shows a picture within a picture when viewed from various angles. It was drawn out of respect for the artist and has that theatrical look Dali had about him.
SELF PORTRAIT “Doubly reversible portrait of Salvador Dali”
For this exercise I was to concentrate on conveying form by exploring tonal values. I was to set up my models pose with a light source casting clear shadows and highlights. It was thought a restricted palette would be a good idea.
I chose 4 Ivory black, Titanium White, Burnt and Raw Sienna.
Above is a sample of sketches I combined them for the Linear and Tonal study in between sittings my model had her hair cut so some sketches have long others short hair. This painting sketch was done quite quickly and not perfect but I am getting short on time and am worried about finishing the course. One of the most irritating points is there should be further dark paint above the knee however the exercise was about exploring tonal values not being deadly accurate. I enjoy doing limited tonal sketches and have a great fondness for the sketches drawn by the old Masters one of my favourites is Rubens copy of Leonardo’s Battle of Anghiari. It looks such a tangle of horses the contours and proximity of the animals look as if they have been calved out of stone.
I must say not all the sketches were successful as can be seen by the child like sketch above. I went wrong and continued to do so though the sketch, I have found my accuracy of my life drawing is far more accurate if I do a line drawing first. Ok I am not on the same page as Rubens my form is not as robust but the tone is accurate enough to show shape and light.
One thing I liked was I gave texture to the jeans by dry brushing over the top of previous paintwork. Watercolour paper was first covered in Neutral Grey this gave a good mid tone to work from, the figure was then painted in quickly and then worked with a slower brush in order to smoothly marry the paint tones together. The last application was the texture on the jeans which as mention I thought went well. The background was achieved by some very quick brushwork, again ending with dry brushwork in order to give form and interest.
In the past I have always carefully painted every brushstroke to get a good likeness of my subject, but I am finding minimal brushwork can achieve such texture, movement and likeness I think the minimal background pushes forward the subject giving the painting interest. My style is beginning to come through when I paint and I like doing the mix of two styles in the one painting.
Again this painting was quiet small so in the future I will try to make my work larger. I was also off centre, so need to position my figure better when starting the painting and I also forgot to sketch the painting in paint or watercolour pencil and used Graphite pencil by mistake.
For this exercise I had to sketch the outlines of my figure. First mix up a loose fluid mix of a neutral mid-tone to sketch the outline of my figure and other key outlines. Not to get to involved with detail drawing with the brush. Once the outlines are done look at any negative shapes I can exploit.
I‘m not very good at drawing accurately with paint but I took my time and tried to be as accurate as possible. To begin with I started by sketching my model several times with pencil this was to get the feel of the shapes and most suitable poses.. I find certain angles easier than others and have a tendency once I go wrong to have to start again as I cant seem to stop compounding my problem.
Painting with acrylics has been a great learning curve so I am grateful for all the exercises as they give me a better knowledge of how to use them. One thing I have learnt is I cant draw accurately in paint when the picture is small. It wasn’t until I started the painting I realised I should have gone A3 but decided for this one I would leave it A4.
To be honest once in awhile things go better than expected and I feel happy with this picture, proportions are not perfect and the negative shapes although interesting, are little unbalanced, with too much background on the foot side of the picture. It shows you can never do enough preliminary drawings.