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"

4 comments:

Caroline said...

Gosh Mick you are brave to undertake such a project. Have you seen the fantastic portraits of our fellow artist blogger Rahina, her blog is called Art in Oils. she is a real pro when it comes to portrait painting in oils, well worth dropping by to see her work. She lives in Glasgow so she wasn't that far away from your trip to Edinburgh. I have no idea how to build up a portrait in oils I tend to use those pastel pencils on coloured paper and got some almost decent effects! Do you think you will use some really thick and expressive paint or keep it more sketchy. I can't wait to see the next stage, you seem to have a lot of information in at this stage already. Glad you had such a nice time at the gallery I know that Sargent painting you speak of. I must take a visit there myself again. The Turner watercolours are very delicate aren't they.

Mick Carney said...

Caroline - Foolish might be a better for than brave but I'm up for the challenge. I checked out Rahina's blog and I agree she makes stunning portraits. As to the process I am using it was basically a case of putting in a basic toning then a few lines to ensure correct placement of the important elements then putting on some shapes that hopefully give an indication of value and colour characteristics. A visit to a decent gallery is always worth the effort, I usually leave with a head full of ideas.

Peter Ward said...

Back to the oils Mick! This seems a very nice effort already. Hope you don't overwork it(!). (Check out David Cobley who lives locally and is considered one of the top portrait painters in oils.

Mick Carney said...

Peter - Thanks for the tip.