Part 3: Portrait of head and shoulders

The Process

Working on the successes of the previous painting, I again went straight into directly painting on to a surface, In an attempt to capture that energy of seen in some of my quick studies.I used my younger son as a model for this painting. I used the same techniques as for the previous self-portrait: using an old stiff brush and acrylic paint. However I tried painting directly onto canvas board rather than onto old cardboard. I tried to using paint to construct form through areas of tonal values rather than let line be the driving force. I kept in mind the idea of responding to previous marks.

The Painting

‘Joe’ Acrylic on canvas board

This was not an overly successful outcome but it does actually capture something recognisable of my son. It has character! The eyes are not right, too big and too close together. They also had subtle changes in the tones that are missing here, making then very flat, in contrast to the gentle changes of tones of the cheeks.  The sitter’s young skin was hard to do as it was so smooth and there was little strong shadow to suggest form. Whilst some areas of the cheek do work, the rest of the face has tended towards flatness as a result.

I haven’t managed to capture form with brush stokes so well on this portrait, partly through lack of skill and partly though the scale of the drawing (I have moved out as a view compared to the zoomed in crop of the self-portrait). My old brushes didn’t fit the smaller size of the individual components of the portrait , especially with the eyes because of this). In addition the canvas support was quite different to use the brushes over, there was more resistance to each brush stroke.

I did manage some construction with paint – the folds in the hoody for instance, and the light and darks of the hair, however the marks are not distinctive enough and have an unconfident air about them. Many areas look ‘fiddled’ with!


What worked well:

Not a lot to say here really. Mostly the best thing about this painting was the learning curve it provided. The sitter’s left check has been done quite sensitively and the tonal modelling is evident. Some brushwork in the hoody also works (to a limited extent).

Lessons to take forward:

Planning: There was too little thought here at the outset regarding if my chosen equipment was up to the task. I should have realised that my old brushes (which are all one size) would not be able to do the finer detail that the more zoomed our composition would require.  I have then got bogged down with trying to represent detail (for instance the eyes).

The bigger picture: Starting with forms instead of line is a good thing, however I have not stood back and looked at how those forms are affecting the painting as a whole. As such there are areas that appear too flat (right cheek for example), areas that appear unconfident (clothing) and areas that look downright messy (eyes). The result is that the painting appears made up of different styles mashed up together.

Part 3: Portrait of head and shoulders

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