Part 3. Capturing character

The process

After the lack of success of the previous painting, I was determined to regain something of the level of painterly enquiry that my self-portrait achieved in my next painting. The opportunity came rather unexpectedly. My daughter was in a school production of Midsummers Night Dream and was one of the fairies. She and her hair piled up on her head in a mass of etherial tangles. She came home after the first performance buzzing with the excitement. It was a lovely moment and I really wanted to capture it. It was quite late at night but she agreed to pose for me briefly. I managed to get 20 minutes out of her! I used acrylics on an old piece cardboard (this combination seemed to work before!)  and my two old, stiff brushes and set about trying to capture something of the intensity of the moment.

The Result


I am really pleased with this painting!! It isn’t perfect, there is a lack of life in the eyes and the background didn’t get done (but I didn’t want to continue after the pose finished in case I ruined what I had!) and I managed in my haste to paint on the shiny side of the paper rather than the intended matt side. However the result is pure Lily and really captures the intensity of gaze. Her blond hair was reflecting a lot of the overhead light and I am very pleased I chose to leave much of it to the imagination rather than to add more detail. (The lack of background adds to this too). The result is that there is a sense of drama, with the face in focus and the hair not. A small wash of colour over the whites of the eyes may improve them and add a little more form to them, however in the interests of keeping the energy of the painting and not fiddling, I chose to leave them as there are. The stiff brushes have created a diffuse brush stroke on the shiny cardboard similar to those found in my previous-self portrait. This has prevented the edges of the marks from becoming too defined which has added energy to the piece.


I feel this is one of the most successful of my paintings so far. Here I really have successful used form and not line to define the model and created that form with areas of tone. The brushmarks have also been successfully used to give a sense of direction to those forms. This is particularly evident with the clothing.

Spontaneity seems to have worked for me here and I have managed to capture all was trying to say in just a few moments. There is quite an intense viewing experience when looking at this painting and the energy and vitality of the moment really comes across.

My best work continues to be my quick studies. I need to bring this forward with me into more considered pieces.

Part 3. Capturing character

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