Here's a portrait of Graham lit from above. I like the drama of the downlight and how it reveals the bumps and hollows that make up his particular face. I try my best to do less and less, to observe and select just those parts that 'make' the person.
The inspirational 20th century English painter, Walter Sickert said 'don't fill up gaps for the sake of filling up'. Too often, we paint the life out of something.
Sickert also said, if you have the patience to 'put free loose coat on free loose coat....one day the touches seem to take - the deaf canvas listens, and you have done something''
This to me is good advice, it encourages us to keep a lively and creative approach, to allow the painting to 'paint itself'.
Working in layers I usually start with an under painting of acrylic, then I build up the image gradually, finding the face, mapping it out. To do this I need to be quiet and attentive, to really observe.
I am fascinated by edges; the place where one part stops and another begins. Here, the shape of Graham's right ear is defined by the thick turquoise paint of the background that is painted up to the edge of it. Then a thin broken line describes another edge where the shoulder meets the space around it.
One of the benefits of painting a loose layer of acrylic underneath is that it unifies the painting and allows for more freedom in the succeeding layers.
The physical application of paint is significant. In my opinion, variety is key, thickly applied swatches of paint sit alongside, and float above, the more transparent layers. I used rags and large brushes to apply thin paint, on his blanket for example, while the thicker paint was mostly put on with a piece of card.
I think, thick, opaque paint is best reserved for areas in the light that we want to 'bring out' and thinner paint, in general, works better in the shadows. Rembrandt painted the light falling on the skin so thickly it was said that you could pick his portraits up by the nose!
This blog is dedicated to Damian Callan, without who's help I would have given up ages ago.