Thursday, 26 January 2012

Portrait WIP - Day 2

Well here's today's progression of the Sargent portrait. After spending last night looking at the picture it became apparent that there were a number of flaws in the work up to that point. Things like the size and shape of the moustache, some of the colours and value relationships. Consequently I approached the day's work with a few concrete ideas in mind. They provided my starting point.

Once I'd addressed those issues I began to work on refining some of the brush work and took the decision to attempt to make quite a few soft edges in the relationships between the planes of the face and hope that I'd end up with a mixture of smooth and harder transitions. I realise that there is still work to be done, for example with the hair, and I think I need to live with it for a little longer before deciding on the finishing touches.

Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

Carolus Durand (after Sargent) - Oil on stretched linen 12" x 12"

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Portrait WIP

A few ideas came together this week. Prompted by the cold weather and an urge for some artistic stimulus I decided to pop up to Edinburgh to catch the annual exhibition of the Vaughan Bequest of Turner watercolours. It's always a pleasure to go to the National Gallery in Edinburgh, whilst not the largest gallery in the world it still contains some real gems. After visiting one of my favourites, the Edwin Church Niagara and an appreciative look at the Canova Three Graces it was off to see the Turners. This collection only appears during the month of January so you have to take the opportunity while it is there. Regular readers will know that I am a fan of Turner so viewing his wonderful subtle small pieces is a real joy. It's also wonderful to see his pictures of one of my favourite buildings, the beautiful Durham Cathedral.

Having satisfied the need to see the Turners and before heading to the Oxford Bar I had a quick walk upstairs to catch a few of the gems therein. One of the first things that strikes one on entering the upper gallery is the stunning portrait of Lady Agnew, a masterpiece from the brush of John Singer Sargent. A few minutes study of the magnificent brush strokes prompted me to think of a conversation I had with my friend Dan Corey last year. It was about a series of painting studies that he did, which were based on a number of Sargent's better known portraits. I remember making the bold suggestion that I might have a go at that myself some day. Consequently I left Edinburgh with a mission, have a go at a few portraits.

Well I got started today. I selected a 12" square stretched linen canvas and set up with a picture lifted from the Internet, copy of the Carolus Durand portrait by Sargent. The original is a half length portrait but I decided to limit my effort to a head shot.

This is my underpainting, where I've attempted to get the important shapes in place with a first shot at beginning to establish the colour and value relationships. As I've never made portraits in oils before, I'm finding this process quite daunting, even more so as my subject is so well known. I've used my usual medium, Galkyd and Gamsol to place this paint so it should be relatively dry tomorrow which should make it easy to work in the next layers of colour. We'll see.

As always any suggestions are welcome.

Carolus Durand (after Sargent) - WIP Oil on stretched linen 12" x 12"

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

December/ January Challenge

The latest in the little challenge series that Peter Ward and myself indulge in. Peter set this one and sent me a number of pictures taken in this location, I believe it's a village called Newton St. Loe.

In this photograph there is a lot going on and so decisions had to be taken as to what might be included and what might be the more interesting elements. The obvious place to start would be the cottage but I became a little more interested in the 'furniture' around the green. So I decided to crop the image and leave out extraneous things like the waste bin.

Newton St. Loe - Photograph

After taking the decision to crop it became a question of arranging the elements and I haven't moved far from the organisation in the photograph. I then made a couple of studies, one of which was in the previous post. Finally a larger piece of paper was broken out and the final piece completed. You can find Peter's version at

Newton St. Loe - Watercolour on Not paper 16" x 12"

Friday, 6 January 2012

More Messing About

The holiday spirit is just about gone from the household and I thought it time that I start to get my brushes wet again. I'm still in the experimenting mode and came across an artist I'd not heard of before whilst watching art videos on TV. The artist was called Jean Haines and she has an interesting way of working with water and pigment. So I decided to have a go at her techniques. I discovered a picture of hers that is some castle on a hilltop and decided to use it as the basis of the piece although I selected some shapes from my sketch book that relate to Durham and used them as the structure of the drawing.

The basic technique is one of using lots of water, letting the pigment flow and then introducing lots of colour variation to create interest and a base for viewer interpretation. I'm not sure that the whole approach is for me but there is a lot of fun to be had from working the paint like this. I'm sure that I'll remember a lot about the way the colour flows from this little exercise.

Durham - Watercolour on Not paper 12" x 9"

I post the next picture purely as an indication of the preparatory work that goes into some of the pieces that I produce. As regular readers know my friend, Peter Ward, and I challenge each other on a monthly basis with a photograph and then we both post our interpretation on our respective blogs.

This is a preliminary watercolour sketch that I made the other day to explore some aspects of the current challenge. I was interested in ways of depicting shadow and the compositional relationship of the elements. I have others that explore value relationships. In the next week I'll review the material and make the final image.

December/ January Challenge Study - Watercolour on Not paper 12" x 9"