This exercise proved difficult in that the person I am painting has very little time available to her as she is a police officer working a shift pattern, plus my youngest son was getting married and there was much preparation time required for this. I spoke to my tutor who very kindly agreed to extend the time allowed by four weeks to the end of August, this helped immensely.
I thought it might be useful to do a series of pictures on how the painting progressed.
The initial sitting allowed me to get the outline in place. I had been toying with the idea of a Whistler’s mother type of pose but because of my interest in potential energy (influenced by Gaudier Brzeska) I elected to go for the turning pose which gave a lovely diagonal across the canvas. My initial idea is to complete the painting using pallet knife, certainly in the background using Acrylic paint but for the figure I feel a softer contrasting effect using oil and brush might give an interesting textural juxtaposition. I feel the painting should use a minimal palette and for it to be fairly high key, but whether or not in carrying out the work this will change I don’t know.
I found once I started to work on the figure that a mixture of brush and palette knife in acrylic and oil was the best method to adopt in order to achieve the looseness I wanted. Most of the time it was a question of tweaking measurements, for example I needed to lower the depth of the seat and get the figure seated into the chair. I then needed to adjust the model’s left leg which was initially too broad. I also needed to adjust the colour and tone in the face but needed to take care not to spoil the initial spontaneity.
As far as the composition is concerned I have echoed the right hand in the cuff above, and the opposite cuff with the knee. Movement has been achieved with the flick of the skirt hem and the ripples of creases extending down the left leg. As well as the atmosphere of a bright minimal space I wanted to explore movement.
The back lighting from the window is not the only source of lighting, as there is north light coming from the left. I wanted the legs of the chair to dissolve in the light and not impose themselves too much on the sweep of the diagonal. I needed to adjust the hand but was conscious of over-working. I spent 22 hours on the portrait, not the 28 suggested.The back lighting from the window is not the only source of lighting, as there is north light coming from the left. I wanted the legs of the chair to dissolve in the light and not impose themselves too much on the sweep of the diagonal. I needed to adjust the hand but was conscious of over-working. I spent 22 hours on the portrait, not the 28 suggested.
Check and Log
- What does the colour combination you have used communicate about your model?
I have used high key, relatively cool colours, which help to portray the sitter’s coolness and confidence which is what she needs as a police officer, but I like to think there is also the softness of the mother of my grandson.
- In your next portrait, how will you tackle any difficulties you have encountered in this piece of work?
The only problems I encountered were relating to the initial drawing despite taking great care with measurements. I used a crosshair tool and measurement by brush. I marked the position of the chair and feet of the model on the floor, but because of the twist, it was sometimes difficult to re-locate the figure. I may use photographs to assist with this.
- Does your portrait work as a coherent whole or are there some areas or aspects of it that work better?
I think it works well as a whole and I was particularly pleased with the way the skirt conveyed movement, and a degree of opacity, the face itself came together relatively easily and is a reasonably good likeness.