Tag Archives: open college of the arts

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.

 

Part 1 – Introduction to Painting, Assignment 1

Finished Piece with brown tinted Background

Finished Piece with brown tinted Background

The Subject

It wasn’t difficult to think of a subject to paint for this assignment, I really enjoyed painting on the dark ground for the last tonal study and I managed to pull the chiaroscuro effects off quite well, I really needed to see if I could do it again with different subjects. Maybe in the style of Caravaggio.

Finished Tonal Study

Tonal Study on a dark ground

While working through the drawing 1 course, one or more students had drawn still life’s that included a chopping board and a knife, this gave me a great idea, I had used an orange in the last two tonal studies, Tonal study on a white ground and Tonal study on a dark ground  so why not finish this part of the course with a still life of that orange been sliced in half on a cutting board. It would not just be the last in a series of paintings but it would be symbolic of the end of part 1.

 

chosen subjects

chosen subjects

I also wanted to include the candle that I had used to light the second tonal study in my assignment piece so I was only lacking two subjects a large knife and a chopping board, I tried getting a natural chopping board, I usually see people selling them on the streets but when it came to buying 1 they were no where insight so a machined board and carving knife from Tesco had to do. Because i wanted to use as much as the dark ground as i possibly could I chose a black handled knife with three rivets.

After cutting the candle in half to bring it lower to the other objects, it was apparent that I needed an extra object, a small towel, to prop up the knife.

Preliminary Studies

Materials used:

  • Canson A4 sketchbook
  • Derwent Charcoal Pencil
  • Compressed Charcoal
  • Graphite stick
  • Putty rubber
First study - charcoal pencil sketch with notes

First study in Charcoal pencil

 

The first study I did was of all the objects together but with the orange in 1 piece, I did the first studies with the light on and candle unlit but took notes of how the composition looked in electric light and daylight. It was pretty hard to choose as both lighting looked good and the compositions looked great from all angles.

The tonal studies helped me to group the objects and specific parts of the objects into groups that shared the same colour properties and tonal properties e.g. the orange, the cutting board and the candle shared similar tones and colour, the handle and the background and the towel, blade and rivets; in candlelight the groups changed.

2nd charcoal pencil sketch notes

2nd charcoal pencil sketch notes

2nd charcoal pencil sketch

2nd charcoal pencil sketch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the first study I decided to go ahead, be brave and cut the orange, the composition then went from a simple composition with 4 objects to a more technical composition with five. It also created more groups with the light off the candle and orange on its side sharing similar colour and tonal properties and the board and other half of the orange having similar properties.

In the third study I decided to omit the towel but there wasn’t enough contrast in the composition for my liking plus i didn’t know if the knife would stay up for long. The blue towel was a nice contrast between the yellows, orange and beige and other natural tones of the cutting board.

3rd Study - Notes

3rd Study – Notes

3rd Study in graphite stick and charcoal pencil

3rd Study in graphite stick and charcoal pencil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After making three studies with the light on I decided to try something different, as I would be painting this most likely with the light on to try and to further experimentation with chiaroscuro which was what I had initially intended to do I would make the next sketch in candlelight. This gave me an idea to make the next drawing using an entirely different technique. Lifting off the charcoal rather than drawing with it.

 

4th Study Charcoal lift off

4th Study Charcoal lift off

4th Study - notes

4th Study – notes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time I drew from a different angle with my head closer to the level of the table, this added to a more dramatic effect and the knife rather than reflecting the orange and light like I had tried for in the first few sketches was completely dark with only a slight tonal difference between the handle and the blade; this meant that I could use more of the dark ground and could ‘model light’ defining the knife with a few simple details and highlights, this appealed to me. The shadow cast by the orange in front of the knife was also very appealing it meant that I could create a good sense of depth in the painting. I just wasn’t sure how well I would be able to paint the candle, flame and the light the glow around it.

Colour study

Materials used:

  • Canson watercolour paper painted with a dark wash
  • Oil pastels
5 Colour Study in Oil Pastel

5 Colour Study in Oil Pastel

At this stage it was a toss up between the mediums I felt comfortable with for the finished assignment piece, either acrylic or oil pastel and so decided to a colour study in oil pastel on an A3 sheet of watercolour paper prepared with an imprimatura of Payne’s grey. The colour study helped me to determine which colours I would use for the final drawing, these were:

  • titanium white
  • payne’s grey
  • light blue
  • cadmium orange
  • pearl orange
  • chromium green
  • yellow ochre
  • lemon yellow
  • burnt umber

Finished Piece

materials used:

  • Canson A2 Acrylic paper 15 x 18 inch
  • Acrylic paint (colours as above)
  • Paint brushes – medium wide, filbert (2 sizes), round pointed (2 sizes), angular flat
Drawing shapes on dark background with white conte

Drawing shapes on dark background with white conte

After preparing the acrylic paper with a dark ground (Payne’s grey I drew in the shapes with a white conte stick using my paint brush to help as a measuring tool. The shapes weren’t precise but that wasn’t too important at this stage just as long as I had something to work from. As it turned out the shapes were well out and did need a lot of editing while I was painting.

From there I painted the highlights on the top of the knife so that I knew it was at the correct angle and painted in the candle and both halves of the orange in cadmium  orange (highlights in yellow), I could have done this differently. The best way would have been to model light by building the colour gradually  on top of the dark ground rather than blocking in the shapes then painting the shadows over the colour like I did.

Half way point

Half way point

From there I painted the chopping block with the same cadmium orange but used a lot more white and the darker parts in yellow ochre. The towel was painted in different mixes of light blue, Payne’s grey and white using a stippling effect with a small flat brush to create texture. Shadows on the board and orange were painted in a mix of Payne’s grey and chromium green in thin glazes. while the shadows on the table were painted in thin glazes of white and payne’s grey over the top of the dark ground.

It got interesting round about the half way point with objects painted but still very rough and very bright I had to think about the techniques and colours that I would use to tone down the painting as well as give the painting a dramatic feel as seen in Caravaggio’s paintings. It was here that I stopped looking at the still life composition and any photos I had taken just glimpsing from time to time, as painting as I saw it had negative effects, when I came to take a photo the colours were to bright or didn’t look right so I started to paint how I felt it should look. Burnt umber, Payne’s grey, pearl orange, yellow ochre and white became the key players.

Finished Piece for assignment 1

Finished Piece for assignment 1 – Before Burnt Umber background wash

Very thin washes of Payne’s grey helped me to tone down the orange of the candle and upright orange slice while yellow and white followed by a very thin glaze of the grey were used to make the orange pointing upwards look more like an orange. I used a scrumbling technique with very thin seperate layers of white, pearl orange and burnt umber to make the blue of the towel more subtle.

The board was probably the most challenging it was just too bright and I knew that it was the board that would make the painting if the board looked bad the rest of the picture would too. The brief said not to get wrapped up in any one object and too look at the painting as a whole but the board was a major part of the painting and so it needed to be right. I added thin layers of burnt umber over the orange mix and then used thicker layers to paint in the grain. I painted over the shadow with a layer close to the original orange/white mix, then a layer of green followed by washes of burnt umber and Payne’s grey. This was a vast improvement.

While sat here writing this entry and thinking that the painting is finished I have started looking at the photos I have been posting to this log again and realising something is not quite right. I have stayed as close to the original tone of the background as possible. The dark painted paper that I used for a background reflected light from the candle and that’s what I have tried to show here and I think that’s where I’ve gone wrong. Rather than depicting any background at all I should be depicting an absence of one to allow the viewer to make up their own mind to where the painting is set, whether it’s in a small room, large room or even a cave.

Caravaggio - Doubting Thomas

Caravaggio – Doubting Thomas

Caravaggio seems to use a brown tint in his background which allows the viewer to do this and so I have painted over the Payne’s grey background with a glaze of burnt umber and payne’s grey leaving the original colour around the candle to hopefully make it look like it is emitting light. Feedback from my tutor will hopefully let me know if I have been successful or not.

 

Things I am pleased with:

Method and technique

  • I managed to use most of the techniques I have learnt from starting the course plus a bunch of techniques from the drawing 1 course.
  • I didn’t rely on my eyes as I have done with most other exercises and assignments instead I went with how I felt it should look. Maybe this is the start of me developing a personal voice.
  • I particularly liked the way an oil pastel study gave me a good insight into which colours I would be using for acrylics. I didn’t question this and I’m glad because it worked.
  • Using washes and glazes in the painting was very interesting, years ago i would have repainted the subject if it was too bright, understanding how to use glazes has given me a push in the right direction.

The final piece:

  • I am very happy with the overall painting especially at this stage, it does have which I hoped it would a dramatic feel to it, even if it’s just a knife cutting an orange.
  •  I feel that the painting does show influences of the artists I researched for the Chiaroscuro particularly Caravaggio.
  • There are parts of the painting that I do feel exemplify the chiaroscuro technique really well particularly the knife handle resting on the blue towel. This is probably the best part of the picture.
  • The shadows particularly from the orange help to create a nice depth to the painting.
  • The texture of the hand towel could not be improved on to me this is perfect.
  • The brown tinted background – This really finishes the painting nicely. I may have been able to improve on the glow around the flame but I didn’t want it to strong but for now the tint of burnt umber helps to create a halo around the grey.

Things I am not happy with:

Method and Technique

  • For the life in me I couldn’t get the wax under the flame of the candle like it did.

The final piece

  • I couldn’t get the wax under the flame to glow like it did this would have probably  really improved the look of the painting.
  • The colours are a bit dull but any brighter didn’t look right at all so they had to be toned down.
  • The knife blade is out of shape but I couldn’t keep messing around with it for the objects around it.
  • Not sure if the blade looks twisted or not from the handle.
  • Too me the candle looks flat. I’m not sure what technique I should use to improve on this.
  • Not sure if the shadows of the board should be darker. I had a problem with the mix of greys and adding colour tints to them.