Category Archives: 2 Looking at Faces

Looking at Faces 6 – Conveying Character

Oil pastel 2 high tonal

Oil pastel 2 high tonal

The character that I wanted to show for this exercise was a grinning or smiling self portrait, the closest I had come to a smile until now was a small quick portrait that I did in my small sketchbook that I lost a few months ago. Luckily I took a picture of it (left). Yet, even in this picture you can see that it was pretty difficult to crack a smile and it’s only really a half smile, it’s the eyes in the picture that adds the character to it as I have left more white in the eyes to make them look bulging.

 

 

Charcoal on Acrylic

Charcoal on Acrylic

So in this exercise I attempted to capture some character again drawing myself in the mirror which I wasn’t that successful at.

Even though I liked the first study, charcoal on acrylic, a great deal I did look really grumpy, like a sad ‘Yellow Bastard’ the character from Sin City. I really like the effect that drawing with charcoal over the Yellow Ochre acrylic created but I don’t think I will ever again draw myself with glasses on as they add 20 years to me plus they are very difficult to paint.

 

 

Cracking a Smile in Crylic

Cracking a Smile in Crylic

In the next study I think actually did manage to crack a smile but working that fast I also managed to make myself look 20 years older.

Knowing I could smile better than this I decided to take a series of photos and browsed through them to see which ones I could use as a basis for this exercise, as I thought working from a photo would probably be my best bet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blocking In

Blocking In

In one of the photos the smile was almost  a grin as I was really forcing it, I found this very appealing and wanted to over-accentuate this. 

Firstly, I painted a background of Raw Umber and then thick brushstrokes of Raw Umber and White with both a flat and pointed paint brush to build up the shape of the face and shoulders. Then when it started coming together I painted around the shape of my face and shoulders with mix of raw Umber and black. Leaving the square to the right in the original tone. This was wear the moonlight came into the bedroom through the curtains but I wasn’t sure I would paint them in yet. In fact I could have actually left it here because it looked quite good as it did in all the stages of this painting.

 

Adding Detail

Adding Detail

From here I worked on the eyes, painting them in in a blue-turquoise colour. Almost the complimentary colour of the Raw Umber and white mix. Adding the eye detail made me look a bit more sinister and so I decided to carry on although I wasn’t sure where I was heading at this stage.

 

 

 

 

Painting in the Curtains

Painting in the Curtains

After building up the light and shadow on the face and creating quite strong tones I decided to paint in the curtains in a white/turquoise mix keeping to the complimentary colours and this worked really well. I wasn’t sure whether to keep it as it was here with a bit of an unfinished look as it did look quite well but with a weakness for finishing a painting I continued to paint in the chest and shoulders.

 

 

 

 

Finishing the Painting

Finishing the Painting

This was where the OCD kicked in. With  the turquoise curtains behind me to the right and turquoise on the tattoo on my right (left) arm I felt like there needed to be something on the left to balance it up.

Frida Kahlo had her monkeys and I had geckos scurrying around everywhere reminding me everyday for 16 years that I was far away from home, so what better than to paint one of these little buggers perched on my shoulder with the same here to here grin.

 

 

I looked for photos of Tokay Geckos on an image search and found one in the perfect pose. Tokay geckos here are usually turquoise and red and so I found a gecko in the right pose to go onto my shoulder and changed the colours and added the right amount of shadow.

The gecko on the shoulder added more character to the painting and actually looked like it could have been sitting there while I was painting or at least taking the photo.

finished painting

finished painting

My thoughts on this project

Second Attempt at Self Portrait

Self Portrait

Self portrait

I feel I let myself down here. Although the second attempt at the self portrait turned out, I think, really well, I really need a lot more practice at this. My hopes were to create a self portrait at an angle and then eventually add props such as an easel, paint brush, etc. In the end I ended up painting the way I felt comfortable when I should have been pushing myself more and doing more experimenting.

 

 

 

12 - Adding More Shadow and Complimentary Colour

Head and Shoulders Portrait

Head and Shoulders Portrait

I do like this and I continued to experiment through the exercise with the things that I had learnt through the course, especially with use of colour.

I think the background could have been better, maybe more natural with cloud formations or even a lighter colour such as cream to make the tones more subtle.

 

 

 

17 Finished Painting

Creating Mood and Atmosphere

Creating Mood and Atmosphere

I was very spontaneous with this painting but to me it just looks too organised. I think this all comes back round to my weakness of wanting to create a finished piece. This is an habit that I really have to break.

 

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts

The painting that I am most happy with here is the final piece in this last exercise, I really do think it is my best painting so far. Although I worked from a photo kit captured how I felt while I was painting it rather than how I looked in the photo, if that makes sense,

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Looking at Faces 5 – Creating Mood and Atmosphere

For this exercise I chose  to do a self portrait and with the heavy atmosphere that we have experienced in Bangkok over the last couple of years, especially with the recent bombings, I already had a mood for the painting in mind I just wasn’t sure how I was going to get there.

Guy Denning September Dossier

Guy Denning September Dossier

I recently became interested in the work of Guy Denning a British urban artist who creates very expressive portraits using thick brushstrokes as well as scratching the paint to convey emotion. He also employs a variety of other techniques such as stencils, painting over newspaper and dripping paint. Looking at his work did give me some ideas and I was hoping that it would have an influence in this exercise.

 

 

 

I wasn’t too worried about the light source at this point in the exercise, what I wanted to look at first was head position. I noticed that the head in certain positions played a big part in the mood of a painting, so I began by making a few sketches in my notebook with my head in positions that I could still see the mirror and the screen of the tablet which I was also using as a mirror via the camera.

1 Watercolour and Oil Pastel

1 Watercolour and Oil Pastel

My first study was in watercolour (right) followed by another with my head in the same position which I drew in oil pastels over the watercolour paint this gave it a detailed sketchy look reminiscent of urban art portraits. By blacking out the eyes I gave the sketches a rather dead look (bomb victim?..maybe) as well as making the sketch look like I wasn’t looking down at a mirror.

 

1 Notes

1 Notes

With my head in this position it was also quite easy to paint and see the sketch book. They weren’t a brilliant likeness of me as I was working very fast as to achieve expressive studies.

 

 

 

2 Watercolour and Oil Pastel

2 Watercolour and Oil Pastel

The dead look got me thinking about the colours I would use, I always associated corpses with pale bluish skin and so I did two more drawings in similar poses but using to different colour schemes; one in warm colours and the other in blues to see how the colour would effect the mood of the painting.

The cold colours made a massive difference and if it wasn’t for the strong blue of the eyes the portrait would have probably looked

2 Notes

2 Notes

corpse like. If that was the effect I wanted to create in the final painting. One thing that I was concerned about was the stubble wich made me look Aryan/Iranian. A clean shave and maybe even a shaved head would probably be better.

 

 

3 Watercolour and Oil Pastel

3 Watercolour and Oil Pastel

I then made two sketches side by side, one with the head cocked back and one with the head tilted forward. The sketch with the head cocked back seemed to be more expressive. The left looked like a ‘Fauve’ painting with the green under the eyes juxtaposed against the reddish complexion, this did look great but it wasn’t a look that I had in mind.

I decided to go with the head cocked back but I still wasn’t sure about the colours, I did have something in mind but I would have to do more experimenting.

4 Watersoluble Oil Pastels on Acrylic

4 Watersoluble Oil Pastels on Acrylic

From here I did some more experimenting looking for how I could exploit the pose and experimenting with techniques and mediums. The first drawing here was water soluble oil pastels over acrylic paint. I bought the water soluble oil pastels as a solution for drawing over prepared backgrounds so I could erase the lines if i went wrong, rather than having to paint the background again. I also thought that I could experiment scribbling over acrylics to create an expressive piece later.

I drew in the eyes here but tried to keep the whites to a minimum, I think I did create some kind of mood here but Im not sure if it was ‘rebellious’ or a look of despair, the latter is what I was really trying to achieve here.

 

5 Oil Pastel on Black Pad

5 Oil Pastel on Black Pad

The next sketch was done in oil pastels in my black pad. With this one I kept drawing line over line until it made a shape and then built up the tone the photo here doesn’t do it justice, it looks nothing like me but it does look like it could have been edited from a photo, if that makes sense.

The idea came from Guy Denning’s sketches where he has built faces up from line, a technique I would love to develop although here it turned out to be nothing like I had intended.

 

 

 

Gerhard Richter

Ella by Gerhard Richter

Ella by Gerhard Richter

In my last tutor report my tutor suggested checking out the unconventional portraits of Gerhard Richter. Too be honest his work didn’t really create a good impression on me but there were a couple that caught my eye, particularly ‘Ella’ and ‘Basel 2’. These two paintings made use of horizontal line to create a blurred effect, an effect that I had previously thought about trying to create myself but had never had the opportunity until now, this exercise was perfect for ‘giving it a go’.

 

6 Oil Pastel on Black Pad

6 Oil Pastel on Black Pad

With this technique in mind I started work on what would become my final study, yet once I had built up the shape of the face using line other ideas started to flood in. The face started to look like it was facing upwards rather than just cocked back and with the lighter lines across the face it started to look like a transparent cloth over the surface of the skin.

I continued with this look by bringing the lines down off the side off the face until it began to resemble a veil or thin lace material draped across the face. With the eyes and mouth being blacked out it almost looks like a veil draped over a dead man’s face. Although others have said that it looks like a face coming up through the material.

This final study was probably the best and if I had to call it something I would probably call it ‘Veil of Death’. I took a photo of this and uploaded it to Facebook and Twitter and it has had the best reception out of all my drawings and even an inquiry, I am considering this for the assignment but could I recreate it in paint? I’m not sure, I think maybe my painting skills haven’t developed enough yet.

Although this was the best study yet I wasn’t sure I could recreate the look in acrylic and so I decided to go with an urban art style painting this way the painting would take on a life of it’s own.

The Final Piece

Choice of Background

7 Creating a Collage on Card

7 Creating a Collage on Card

I wanted to start with an expressive background and I did look at different artists and even thought about trying to recreate a similar background to Elizabeth Magill’s paintings that I covered in my Tutor Recommendations 1 Post. In the end I settled for something that I had wanted to do for a long time and inspired by Guy Denning’s drawings over newspaper I began to put together a collage background from the Bangkok post. It has been eventful 2 years with a Military Coupe and bomb blasts signalling the end of democracy and a military clamp down here in Thailand and we have all felt it from Farang (westerners) to Thai people and if anything was going to create a trigger for my release of emotion while working on this painting, then local newspapers would be it.

 

8 Covering the White Spaces

8 Covering the White Spaces

Once I had glued all the newspaper clips that wound me up to the backing board and wrote a few comments on it to how Thais perceived race and skin colour over the top pf the newspaper clippings to try and get my emotions stirring even more , I painted out the white space of the board below.

 

 

 

 

9 Dripping Technique

9 Dripping Technique

Before i started painting I wanted to ‘mess’ it up even more but in a way that it would add feeling to the painting so it had to be in a semi orderly fashion so I decided to create a dripping effect over the top of the collage.

To do this I added thick dollops of acrylic paint at the top of the support and then began to spray them with a spray gun then when they had run right down to the bottom I turned the board on the other end and let it run back as it was too runny.

Once the drips were dry I did the same with blue but this time I used a thicker mixture so I only had to run it one way.

10 Testing Colour

10 Testing Colour

Once that was done I drew in the shape of my head working from studies with water soluble oil pastels so I could paint over the top or erase the lines easy enough if I was way out.

As I hadn’t really decided whether to use skin tones or cooler blue tones here I painted in the shape of my face neck and traps with a skin colour and then sprayed it to let it run down below to see how it would work with the background and other colours.

 

 

 

11 Building up Tone

11 Building up Tone

After realizing that the lighter skin tones wouldn’t work with the background and other colours I decided on blue. I began by building up the tone with Prussian blue and white but I was left with the dilemma of the lighter colour drips below the neck and so began to ponder on how to correct this.

 

 

 

 

 

13 Painting Shoulders

13 Painting Shoulders

My solution was to paint the shoulders but in an expressive way that made it look as if the arms were lifting up. Because I hadn’t made any studies of my shoulders and it wass quite spontaneous I lifted one side up and then the other in the mirror doing my best to try to make them look as anatomically correct as possible. The light source was overhead coming from a ceiling light directly above but the shadows in my studies fell to the left in the painting so I had to try build up the shadows on the shoulders on that side.

 

 

 

14 Adding More Feeling

14 Adding More Feeling

I could have left it there but I thought that if I added hands to the painting I could probably create more emotion but to add the hands I had to lift the shoulders up even more in their natural positions and so instead of looking in the mirror this time I worked with my gained knowledge of anatomy to paint the shoulders, lifting them up and giving them more shape and feeling.

 

 

 

 

15 Painting Hands

15 Painting Hands

With the hands I cheated and took photos and then painted directly on to the background without any drawing studies, I figured this would give me the same results as working from life ass I couldn’t correct them after. With the hands I painted in the the dark solid shapes and then used an almost impasto technique for the whiter tones.

 

 

 

 

16 Adding Light

16 Adding Light

At this point it looked like I was drowning and the blue lumpy drips were like bubbles floating upwards while I sank to the murky . I showed a friend at this stage who said that the hands made me look like I was trapped inside myself trying to get out, at least I had created some kind of mood and emotion.

 

 

 

 

 

17 Finished Painting

17 Finished Painting

I wasn’t happy withe clash of colours, not that I didn’t want a clash of colour but because the red and clashing blues made it look like some kind of superhero cartoon and so reflecting on what I had learnt from Picasso’s Blue Period paintings in the previous research point I went over the background with a thin (but maybe not as thin as I’d liked) wash of blue which did look better although the newspaper clips aren’t as visible.

From there I continued to let myself be influenced by Picasso and started to add rose to the face and thin layers of red to the lips as well as painting in the teeth and a very small amount of the whites of the eyes. This really brought the painting to life and I felt that I had succeeded not just in creating mood and atmosphere to the painting but in recreating a similar technique used by Picasso in his blue period paintings.

17 Finished Painting

17 Finished Painting

 

 

 

 

Looking at Faces 4 – Research Point – Portraits Conveying Mood and Atmosphere

Brief for this Research Point:

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, meager 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 person’s 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.

Felix Nussbaum

felix nussbaum | Felix Nussbaum, Fear (Self-Portrait with his Niece Marianne), 1941

Felix Nussbaum, Fear (Self-Portrait with his Niece Marianne), 1941

During Self Portrait Drawing 1 I discovered an artist called Felix Nussbaum a German artist whose works portrayed life in the Nazi death camps and life as Jew in Europe during WWII. In 1944 he was sent to Auschwitz where he was murdered by the Nazis age 39.

You don’t need to know the story of Felix’s life to understand the trauma that he and his family went through, he manages to portray this through his portraits and self portraits.

in Fear 1941, a painting of Felix with his Niece Marianna the very convincing facial expressions made more so by his hand cradling his nieces face but what really makes the painting is how he uses the strong contrast of blue and orange.

Felix Nussbaum - Prisoner 1940

Felix Nussbaum – Prisoner 1940

 

His painting of a Prisoner 1940 he uses a different way of creating mood, the models pose. He has clearly studied people in moments of sadness and despair. If this was a painting of a farmer on a tractor driving through a field using the same background and foreground the atmosphere would be hard to read with this palette.

 

 

 

Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh Peasant Woman with Dark BonnetUsing similar earth colours but with a lot darker tones van Gogh has managed to depict real sadness in his peasant paintings.

It’s not the colours alone that has captured the mood in these paintings though. Looking at the woman’s face (left) you know that she led a hard life and she hasn’t and couldn’t hide this while posing for the artist who has captured everything. Here van Gogh uses heavy shadows on the face to capture her age and weathered look. I really like the way he has used the light dots on the yes to depict light reflecting off almost tearful eyes.

 

 

Vincent van Gogh - Head of a peasant

Vincent van Gogh – Head of a peasant

He uses the same heavy shadows in the ‘Head of a Peasant (right). Here he uses the dark earth tones to portray worn, unwashed clothes. This together with a scruffy unwashed face and helpless expression lets us know exactly what kind of life the sitter has. We wouldn’t need to know who the sitter was or the name of the painting to feel this.

 

 

 

 

Vincent van Gogh - The Potato Eaters

Vincent van Gogh – The Potato Eaters

Looking at ‘the Potato Eaters’ you wonder how long they sat there. He captures not just the mood and atmosphere but the moment.

The first impression I got when I saw this painting was a family sharing a moment of happiness in an otherwise miserable life. Highlighted by the glow coming from the dinner table sounded by the darker tones and tatty surroundings.

 

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist, 1903

Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist, 1903

When beginning this research point I wanted to avoid Picasso’s The Old Guitarist. It seemed like it was the first painting From his Blue Period that everyone flocked to but after examining other paintings of this period I kept coming back to this and for one good reason.

The reason I kept returning to this painting is that it is probably one of the best examples of how he has used other lighter colours to describe the old man’s skin colour and features. Looking on different screens and devices I saw different colours, maybe yellow, some pink as well as green. I presume these lighter colours were applied last over the top of the blue which still shows through keeping the melancholy atmosphere.

 

Pablo Picasso The Old Beggar

Pablo Picasso The Old Beggar

This technique can also be seen here in ‘The Old Beggar’. Here the lighter colours on the face, hands and feet are more prominent allowing us to see the pale complexions of the subjects over the top of the blue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otto Dix

Otto Dix the Nun

Otto Dix the Nun

In ‘The Nun’ Otto Dix as used long brushstrokes of lighter paint over darker colours to depict the creases in the nuns forehead and heavy patches of red over the top of its complimentary colour green helps to accentuate the bags under her eyes giving her a tortured and extremely sad expression.

 

 

 

 

Rembrandt

Rembrandt van Rijn Apostle Peter in Prison 1631

Rembrandt van Rijn Apostle Peter in Prison 1631

While looking through Rembrandt’s paintings I came across the following painting. ‘Apostle Peter in Prison’ 1631 is a brilliant example of how the artist uses strong contrast to create mood and atmosphere in his paintings. The artist has used lighter colours in the centre of the painting to highlight the apostles face and front depicting sunlight shining through a window in a dark prison cell. The mood here is a very lonely one.

 

 

 

 

Fauvism and Matisse

For me it was very hard to look at most Fauve painters; figurative or portrait paintings and feel something from them, yes the colours are bright nut often enough I feel that the artist is painting a pretty serious pose in gay colours experimenting for themselves rather than for the viewer.

Matisse Gypsy

Matisse Gypsy

In the painting ‘The Gypsy’  though, the colours are doing their job or at least the job that we expect that strong contrast of colours to do, although the expression on the gypsy’s face adds to the happy mood.

Looking at Faces 3 – Head and Shoulders Portrait

I begun this exercise looking at faces of my colleagues. This would help me to decide:

  • How much shoulder to include in the painting.
  • Which Angle to paint the face at.
  • The best way to paint the hair.
  • Whether to paint with eyes open or close

My tutor recommended three artists to my in my last tutor report and one that I thought about for this exercise was an artist called Gwen John. The artist was recommended for her subtle use of tone but it wasn’t this that came to mind when I started working on this exercise.

Gewn John - The Convalescent 1924

Gewn John – The Convalescent 1924

Among the works of Gwen John were a couple of paintings that I thought would really help me cope with a head and shoulders portrait, these were ‘The Convalescent’ and ‘The Precious Book’.

In these two paintings the artist painted her subjects with eyes facing down, reading. With Thai girls it is hard to keep them posed for long lengths of time without them wanting to browse at their Facebook profile or Line Messenges. So what better way to get them seated still than actually give them their smartphone.

With eyes facing down I don’t have to spend too much time painting the details in their eyes and the South East Asian eye lids are also quite beautiful.

The subtle tones Gwen John employs in her paintings are also quite interesting and very different from my work so far that has been quite bold,I’ve noticed other students have created some really soft tones in their paintings but so far I just haven’t been able to. Hopefully my brush skills will improve and soft tones will be something I will be able to achieve.

Drawings of Colleagues

2nd Sketch - Looking at Faces and Best Angle

2nd Sketch – Looking at Faces and Best Angle

Thai’s have big lips and if you draw them at an angle that is only slightly out they can look too big although the size of the lips to the rest of the face is correct. You can see this in the first portrait drawing in charcoal of Lee, one of the beautiful Thai desk staff at our language centre.

Thai hair can be either dark brown or jet black but they do like to have highlights put in their hair which really helps when drawing them and helped me to create a sense of body to her hair.

Hair can also be used to frame the face, here I have used it to define her cheek bones on a usually rounded face.

1st Sketch - Looking at Faces and Best Angle

1st Sketch – Looking at Faces and Best Angle

For this second sketch of the other girl on the desk, Nah, I was asked to ‘make her beautiful’ which can be translated to ‘make me white’Thais are over concerned about skin colour. Nah has a darker complexion than Lee but here I have managed to capture all her features without using too much shading on the face. Again the hair played a big part of shaping the face and defining the cheek bones.

Thais have unusually shaped heads  and quite often the back of the head is flat so this drawing as with the previous sketch of Lee I stuck to drawing the front of the face and by doing this was only able to add a little bit of shoulder due to the size of the face on the paper.

There was a lot of blinking going on while working on her eyes so I didn’t manage to depict much life in them so at this stage I was thinking that eyes down or even closed was a better option.

3rd Sketch - Looking at Faces and Best Angle

3rd Sketch – Looking at Faces and Best Angle

For the third drawing I chose the only teacher in the staff-room that was willing to let me draw her face but she wishes she hadn’t. Allah is Russian and what I have noticed with a lot of Russian’s is that they have what I would call prominent eyelids which when open can make the eyes look slightly googly.

There is a lot more detail on Caucasian faces than South East Asian and so for this portrait I used a softer less compressed charcoal so I wouldn’t make her look too old while drawing these details such as dimples on cheek, creases on forehead and creases under the eyes.

I would have quite liked to have painted her for this exercise but she wasn’t impressed by the drawing and said that it didn’t look like her, even though others shouted her name and pointed at her as soon as they saw the drawing.

4th Sketch - Looking at Faces and Best Angle

4th Sketch – Looking at Faces and Best Angle

The next drawing was of my girlfriend at home, I have always found her very difficult to draw for some reason. Probably because I know she is my second worse critic, next to myself.

This time was no different, there is a likeness but not much. Her hair however is lovely and I think I managed to capture some of this in the drawing.

This drawing helped me decide on amount of shoulder to paint in the finished piece, deciding that more was better and I thought at the right angle I can make the shape of the head look okay.

5th Sketch - Looking at Faces and Best Angle

5th Sketch – Looking at Faces and Best Angle

With my subject chosen and to be honest it was always going to be my girlfriend as the Thais get a bit suspicious with other women coming into your apartment I went on to look at different head positions. This next one wasn’t brilliant, it might have been me getting bored of the charcoal so I went onto draw this pose again in oil pastel.

6th Sketch Oil Pastel - Experimenting

6th Sketch Oil Pastel – Experimenting

Working in oil pastel for the next drawing of the same pose I thought it was rather bland so chose to do a bit of experimenting running my finger down the the completed drawing which had a rain down a window effect.

7th Sketch Oil Pastel - Looking at Colour

7th Sketch Oil Pastel – Looking at Colour

This was a quick drawing in oil pastel, The likeness wasn’t great, in fact there was nothing much about this drawing that resembled my girlfriend but I liked the way the colours I used made it look like her face was reflecting the colour of her yellow top. This reminded me of Monet’s ‘Women with a Parasol’ where the bottom of her sleeve reflected the yellow flowers. This gave e an idea, to try and depict her in an outdoor scene or at least paint her on a blue background so it would help the viewer come to this conclusion.

The Final painting

8 - Drawing with Paint

8 – Drawing with Paint

1.  I laid down uneven mixes of primary blue and white on the card with random brushstrokes. I was hoping that this would give a nice background to the painting but then when I came to sketch the shape of her head and face I used a paint that was just too dark which may have been okay but then I realised the face was just too large and I had to correct it.

9 - Correcting the Shape of the Face

9 – Correcting the Shape of the Face

2. In order to correct the shape of the face I had to paint in some of her features. This was a valuable lesson. When drawing in paint on to a prepared background it was better to start off smaller and work bigger if needed.

3. The shape of the hair was a major part of this painting so I left off the face to paint in the hair with various colours such as pale blue, yellow ocre, burnt umber and black, this gave the hair some body. As I noticed earlier the hair framed the face and so it was a good idea to to paint the hair at this early stage.

10 - Painting overLines

10 – Painting overLines

4. Painting the hair really helped. From this I managed to get the shape of the forehead, profile and jaw line just right.

I then moved on to the shoulders painting in the basic shape followed by her hair over her right shoulder.

My next action would change the feeling of the whole painting. First I painted over the dark erroneous lines with a pale blue then a pale yellow to see how the portrait looked with each colour as a background. Both colours made it look that it had been painted outside but I still wasn’t sure which I would choose for the background.

The pale yellow on the blue looked like the sun was shining behind her but the light on the face told a different story.

11 - New Background

11 – New Background

5. Once I had painted the hair over her shoulder I decided that I would finish the painting without the model. This was so that i wouldn’t be influenced when it came to adding shadow and other details.

6. I began to play with the background, uneven mixes of blue and white in a swirling motion around the figure. It was the swirl of yellow that was there previously that gave me this idea.

12 - Adding More Shadow and Complimentary Colour

12 – Adding More Shadow and Complimentary Colour

7. After studying the painting for two or three weeks thinking about what was wrong with it and wondering why she looked like, what I would describe as a Spanish senorita. I realised that it was the background that made the painting look flat.

Studying the yellow tones on the face and the models top I went over the background with very thin layers of rose paint following the brushstrokes. The pink mixed with the blue gave me light purplish tones, purple being the complimentary colour of yellow, really helped the portrait in the foreground to pop out.

This was a really hard painting to take a photo of due to the colours used and that’s why the colours look different in every photo which don’t really do the painting justice.

My thoughts on the final drawing

I am quite happy with the the finished painting although the background would may have looked even better with clouds depicted in the background. I did think about this but I painted on a small format and there wasn’t much space around the background to add this detail.

Looking at Faces 2 – Self Portrait

 

Existing Studies

I have spent the last few months drawing a self portrait every chance I got using my phone’s camera as a mirror and sometimes working from a photo. I even started one project where I got the students to draw a self portrait and I would draw one next to it to give me a little push, unfortunately I lost the sketch book but did manage to take some photos.

I’m lucky to still have some sketches in other sketch books, all of which are very quick sketches using different mediums. Although they do not all look like me there is a reoccurring resemblance.

This exercise

The brief for this exercise: Make a self portrait of just your head and shoulders. You can choose to work with either natural light but natural light is best. Set up your equipment so that you can see yourself and your work surface clearly. Make sure that your face is lit from one side with the other side in shadow. Any additional light that you need should not shine into your face.

Choose a light, dark or mid-toned fabric background if you can fasten it behind you. Try out the effects of each and assess which of them gives the greatest interest in terms of tonal contrast or visual impact.

I set up a backdrop of an orange monk cloth that I draped over my largest drawing board and propped it up behind me on the sofa with a small round mirror. They only portable mirror I have out in front of me on a small coffee table. I closed the bathroom door and closed the curtain on the Juliet balcony so the only light that was entering the room was coming through the kitchen door.

1st Drawing Charcoal

1st Drawing Charcoal

2nd Drawing OilPastel

2nd Drawing OilPastel

3rd Drawing Oil Pastel in the Bathroom

3rd Drawing Oil Pastel in the Bathroom

I completed the first drawing in charcoal with my glasses on. I was trying to smile while drawing it and I think I managed to capture some of that. Unfortunately I didn’t capture any likeness of me whatsoever apart from maybe an ear, the shape of the head and maybe an eyebrow. All the studies I had done were so far not paying off.

 

In the second drawing in oil pastel I managed to capture a bit more likeness and some of the smile I was cracking was even there although the eyes didn’t show this. Focusing on the mouth I could draw a smirk but when I drew the eyes my expression went serious again.

The orange backdrop was working though, it created a nice effect and I though I could continue with this but I needed a larger mirror. I was just too far away from the subject to be able to focus. I’ve been wearing my glasses so often lately that even tho I’m longsighted my eyes aren’t focusing right without them and I didn’t want to paint myself with them on.

I put a blue polo shirt on which gave a bit of contrast to the orange backdrop which I now taped to the bathroom door behind me. This drawing was a lot better than the first two but t did take a lot longer to complete and by the time I had finished my eyes were very blur. I wasn’t sure how I would cope painting myself in the bathroom or for any length of time without my glasses on for that matter but I was going to have a go.

1 Drawing with Paint on multi-Coloured was background

Drawing with Paint on multi-Coloured was background

I prepared the support with two different semi-transparent washes from opposite corners and let them bleed into each other. Once it was dry I painted the outline of my face head and shoulders in a dilute yellow ochre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Building up Layers of Paint

2 Building up Layers of Paint

Then my idea was to paint the lightest tones and work darker. This is probably where I started to go wrong, thinking about it now it may have been better to start with the darkest colours and then build up the lightest colours on top rather than the other way round.

I had drawn the primary sketches during the daytime but for the painting I was painting at night with two light sources. The light in the shower as the one above the sink luckily was not working and a bendy lamp shining through the door on one half of my face.

 

 

3 Looking Old and Already Hating it

3 Looking Old and Already Hating it

I moved on to the background to build up the colour there to give me some idea to how the painting would look. It was at this stage that I started to get annoyed with myself. The painting started to look like me but it just wasn’t me, this wasn’t my style and I really did not want to continue with it. The orange background didn’t help.

The photo of the painting right, was about where I left it for the first day and I hated it. I wasn’t use to painting myself from that angle. I usually attempted self portraits from the front and not having a clear all round vision I found it difficult to get it right.

Giving up Point

Giving up Point

After painting, repainting and eventually messing up and painting a silly pair of glasses on it, I gave up, it was time to start a fresh.The painting right is now on the back of the new painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh attempt at a Self Portrait

Remembering a self portrait that I had success with in the earlier drawing course I sat in  the bedroom looking at the mirror on the wardrobe door, switched on the light and pointed it at the side of my face. It was easy to imagine my face as a painting as the light highlighted some really nice shapes and it wasn’t too dark that I couldn’t see the right side of my face.

Preparation

I prepared the back of the existing self portrait with a layer of burnt umber mixed with black and then once that had dried went over it again with another layer of Payne’s grey, shaved my head and waited to start the painting the next night.

Second Attempt at Self Portrait

Second Attempt at Self Portrait

This time I decided to work with the board on my knee rather than on the easel as I didn’t want it to cast any unwanted shadows plus it was easier as I could move it around freely which was great for working on the details of the eyes. I’m not to worried about getting the details or shape of the face wrong but I’ve found that if you get the eyes wrong people automatically say it doesn’t look like you.

I worked in various mixes of white and Payne’s grey rather than colour and this low level light I would have probably only used one or two colours anyway but it was quite dark and the board was dark so I needed to be able to see what I was painting so these two mixed together where ideal.

I used one brush a small flat brush and painted as if I was drawing starting on the left side of my face painting in the darker tones and then slowly building up the lighter tones. Once the right hand side of the face was complete from the neck to the crown I started on the right hand side by painting in the background with Payne’s grey and just a tiny pit of white modelling the light around my head to for the shape of my face and head then painted in the subtle highlights to form the shadows on my face and ear.  The problem was the bedroom was too dark to see the slight difference in the shade of paint so I had to turn the big light on from time to time so that I could see what I was doing.

I managed to finish most of the painting in one sitting and with the main shapes and features painted I could work on some details in natural light the next day which allowed me to see any details that didn’t look right, these were easily be corrected by reshaping.

Overall thoughts on this exercise

I feel that I let myself down giving up on a painting which I had never done before but sometimes you have to start a fresh. I realise that the first painting may have had more character if completed with imperfections but I am really happy with the final painting and how I chose to complete it. I think impatience got the better of me here, being too impatient to mix paint and to deal with what seamed to be ever changing detail working at an awkward angle.

Thoughts on final piece

The length of the head is slightly long but this is from working with the board on my knee. The painting shows a real likeness but is let down by having little or no character. On a positive note this is the first time I have completed a painting with full brushstrokes rather than the scrumbling technique that I seem to keep reverting to in previous paintings.

Looking at Faces 1 – Research Point – Artists’ Self Portraits

Rembrandt

The dozens of self-portraits by Rembrandt were an important part of his oeuvre as a painter. Rembrandt created nearly one hundred self-portraits during his lifetime including approximately fifty paintings, thirty-two etchings and seven drawings. – Wikipedia

Rembrandt self-portrait 1629

Rembrandt self-portrait 1629

Rembrandt’s  self portraits create a visual diary of his aging and progress as an artist over a 40 year period. In these self portraits he managed to capture various facial expressions and it is clear that many of his self portrait drawings were studies in capturing facial expressions for his paintings such as the painting seen here which he painted aged 23.

I can only comment on what I see in this photograph of the painting but to me it seems like he has painted this with almost blur detail as to depict not just facial expression but the movement of his head while laughing. The slight halo around his head and shoulders helps to portray this movement. Everything about this painting works, he wants to look jolly and he does

Gustave’ Courbet

Self-Portrait by Gustave Courbet a Desperate Man 1843–45

Self-Portrait by Gustave Courbet a Desperate Man 1843–45

Gustave’ Courbet’s brilliant self portrait ‘a Desperate Man 1843 is painted with almost photo-realism. In this painting he has managed to capture not just worrying facial expressions which is the theme of the painting but an energy. The light and shade in the folds of his shirt gives the painting even more life.

In this painting as with Rembrandt’s self portrait above the artist uses soft skin tones for the face but his emphasis on his red cheeks brings real emotion to the painting.

The title says desperation but with  the facial expressions and the position of his hands that seem to be going through his hair this could be mistaken for fear.

Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh Self-Portrait 1889

Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait 1889

Van Gogh is an artist who is well-known for his self portraits. Although painted in different moods, using different techniques and painted in  several different styles most of these resemble each other giving us a good idea of what the artist looks like or what he saw himself as. There are a few photos on the internet which people claim to be of the artist at different stages of his life although there is doubt about if they are really him is recognizable to us through his self portraits.

These paintings portray the artist in different hats, different clothes, with a pipe in his mouth, bandaged ear and even through some of his personal items without him being in the painting.

Van Gogh seems to paint his self in a fairly aggressive style, with thick paint and lively brush strokes, most of which to me seem like he painted them in an agitated manner, although colours and composition were clearly thought out.

Self-Portrait 1889 above was the one that stood out as I was going through the images of van Gogh self portraits, I try not to glance at SP with Bandaged Ear anymore, it’s like the boring part of a movie that you skip through to get to the good bit.

In the painting above like most of his paintings he portrays himself an artist I don’t kow what kind of an impression he tried to convey but serious, artist in thought is the impression we get or is it just because we know van Gogh?

Gauguin Portrait of van Gogh

Gauguin Portrait of van Gogh

Through this portrait of van Gogh by friend Paul Gauguin we get a chance to look at the artist through someone else’s eyes. In this painting Gauguin depicts him painting one of his famous sunflower paintings wearing a jacket with lined lapel that he can be seen wearing in his self portrait Spring 1887. The painting by Gauguin is painted at an angle that looks to be slightly from above as though Gauguin was standing or on a higher chair than his friend.

The painting does resemble van Gogh because we know it’s him and he’s painting sunflowers, however if the painting was cropped to just his face and I was seeing this image for the first time it would be pretty difficult for me to guess it is the famous Dutch painter.

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso Self-Portrait Negro Period 1906

Pablo Picasso Self-Portrait Negro Period 1906

Pablo Picasso like van Gogh and Rembrandt is an artist famous for his numerous self portraits. These self portraits were painted in different styles throughout the different periods of Picasso’s work. When I first saw this painting a while back searching for something completely different I guessed it was a Self Portrait by Pablo Picasso and then checked straight away to see if he was of mixed race typing in the words ‘Pablo Picasso’ and ‘Negro’, the latter being the first word that came to mind when I saw this painting.

I found out that the artist had an African Period which lasted from 1906-1909 and in this self portrait he seemed to be influenced by the masks and sculpture that influenced the rest of his paintings during this period. He was experimenting and I’m sure it’s not just me who sees this when we look at the painting. It’s hard to put a finger on the technique he used here, background first? Drawn last?

Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon Three Studies for a Self-Portrait 1979-80

Francis Bacon Three Studies for a Self-Portrait 1979-80

Francis Bacon painted his pictures ‘as if a human being had passed between them, like a snail leaving its trail of the human presence… as a snail leaves its slime’ – Francis bacon. This can be seen in his self portraits. Unlike van Gogh we know what Francis Bacon looked like as there are many photographs of the artist and so looking at the three studies for a self portrait we can see some resemblance to the artist in all of the three studies such as receding hairline, parts of the nose and jaw and he has managed to keep these resemblances even after mutilating himself in the artist’s familiar painting style.

Lucian Freud Portrait of Francis Bacon 1952

Lucian Freud Portrait of Francis Bacon 1952

In Lucian Freud’s depiction of Francis Bacon painted in Freud’s very familiar style in which he uses a blocking-in technique to give the face great tonal qualities. Although I recognize  the features such as the deep set eyes, prominent eyelids, rings around the eyes and the shape of the face, together the portrait is not 100% recognisable as Bacon. Is that Just me, or do others see it the way I do?

 

 

 

 

Lucian Freud

Lucian Freud Reflection -Self Portrait 1985

Lucian Freud Reflection -Self Portrait 1985

I really love Freud’s style though, his portraits have what i would describe as heavy, rubber-like features. He’s a fairly new artist to me as I only discovered him during my drawing course but I wish I had discovered him sooner. Like most o his paintings his features in his self-portrait are also heavy and rubbery helped along by the heavy brush and impasto technique that he uses in this and most of his other portraits

 

 

 

Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud

Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud

 

In the ‘Three Studies for a Portrait of Lucian Freud’ right, Francis Bacon’s portrait of the artist in Bacon’t unmistakable style looks as though he has literally had his face smashed in with a paving maul, in his own words “If they were not my friends, I could not do such violence to them.”

An ear and a nose are the only features here that are recognisable but I think what he was trying to do in his portraits of others is to push the boundaries as far away as possible from the subject to do as much ‘violence’ to their features as possible while still keeping them recognisable to him.

How he got to these disfigured shapes, I can only guess that he daubed large amounts of paint on the canvas in a compact area and then spread it outwards like stretching Plasticine or Dough or that’s how they look.