Assignment 3 Feedback

I sent this part off knowing it wasn’t complete. I had previously discussed this with my tutor and we mutually agreed that it was better to move on (due to an extended break I had to take) rather than to get bogged down with completing the whole part on my return or rushing to complete before I went. As it was I had to rush updating my on-line learning blog entries which wasn’t ideal and I missed posting important things such as my research (which I have since rectified).

I agree with my tutor that the two ‘loose’ portraits were my best work in this part. Here I really have tried to ‘sculpt with paint’ rather than concentrate on getting proportions right. As it happens that fell into place anyway producing two very satisfactory images (including good likeness). I am managing to continue to paint from life on my return (although I have only managed 1 session at the time of writing this as they are monthly). I am still struggling to let go and let the paint do the talking, even though I am taking the approach of using tones rather than lines. I do seem to struggle with the idea of a painting evolving. My tutor comments quite fairly that I seem to be able to do this with drawing but then can’t do it with paint. She wonder’s why, and I have to say, so do I. It is as if I am unable to experiment with paint in the same way I can with drawing – yet my experimental approach worked very well for 2 portraits in this section. I wonder if I am actually trying too hard!! However I shall continue to take her useful comments forward.

The comment regarding research (where is it??) is totally justified. I didn’t put it on-line and thus my tutor couldn’t find it. I had however done it (albeit in paper) and have now posted evidence of it on-line. I will however be continuing with my paper research log, which I will submit to my tutor in the next part.

Assignment 3 Feedback

Exhibition visit: Giacometti

Giacometti at Tate Modern 10th June 2017

I visited this exhibition with a fellow OCA student and was blown away by it. Admittedly I was already a Giacometti fan, I have always been drawn to his very anatomical paintings executed in his moody, subdued palette. I have also admired (from afar) some of his rather iconic, tall thin sculptures of figures but have never seen any of them in life. The impact that both his painting and his sculptures have when standing in front of a huge collection is astonishing. I think this is possibly the first exhibition where I have understood what is means to dedicates your whole life to exploring and trying to understand a subject through art, in Giacometti’s case the human form, a subject that he admitted he would not understand in ‘a thousand years’.

I too am very interested in the human form, one of the reasons that I am drawn to Giacometti’s work. I went to the exhibition as it coincided with me reaching the part on painting the figure in my coursework. I was hoping to gain some inspiration for painting with lines. I was also interested to see portraits and sculptured busts side by side. One thing that my tutor has consistently reminded me to do so far is to ‘construct’ or ‘sculpt’ with paint. The context has been very much about my use of brush-strokes in painting, but I feel there is something to be gained from studying the works of an artist who moved seemingly effortlessly from 3D into 2D and back again.

Exhibition visit: Giacometti

Part 3. Research into the Figure and Portrait

Written retrospectively…

At this point in my studies I had to take a 2 month break due to unavoidable family commitments. Due to the nature of my break (going abroad); the point I am at in this painting course (figure and portraits)  and the fact that I am slightly concerned over finishing the module in time for me to complete a third (as yet un-started) module within the 4 years, after discussion with my tutor I decided to submit this part un-finished. I received my feedback from my tutor (next post) and she noted I had not posted anything about my research on this part in this blog. This was completely an oversight on my part. In my haste to finish what I had done before going away I neglected to report on this.

As I have previously stated I do all my research in a paper log so that I can use it as a working reference. I found during Drawing Skills 1 that to translate it all into an electronic form for my blog was a huge waste of my time which ultimately is a limited resource, coupled with the fact that I do not look at a computer whilst drawing or painting (in fact I do not have the option for this given the appalling internet connection in our area!)

A paper log has worked very well for me so far and I do not intend to change this practice. However, I totally understand that I still need to show that I have done the exercises and include the following as evidence that I do the research exercises.  I send my research book in with all my work for formal assessment.

Part 3. Research into the Figure and Portrait

Part 3: More sketchbook stuff

In the absence of being able to attend any more life drawing classes I did what I found to be quite successful for DS1 – use myself as my model. Here I have painted my left hand trying to construct with paint. I had to do this flat on the table rather than on an easel which did have the tendency to distort the perspective!

My Hand – acrylic

Hmmm – not sure about this. I like the wrist more than the rest, there is a sense of form with the brushmarks sweeping over the anterior part of the forearm.

Some sketches of Joe playing on the swing


A charcoal drawing taken from a pose I came across in a magazine. I liked the pose and I am pleased that my rendition of it has weight coming down realistically through the lower buttock.20170720_180510-1

Part 3: More sketchbook stuff

Part 3: Life painting

I went along to a life drawing session prepared to paint, having taken some ready mixed colours. There was one pose for 2 hours (broken down into 4 blocks). I took oil paints and a prepared piece of primed paper. I started by doing a painted sketch in my book to try out the tones I had prepared.


From this I decided that I really liked the shapes that the curve of the spine make and the space under the chin, so set out to create a negative image by painting in the negative spaces around the body.

My prepared ground had a wash of black over it, (left over from part 1 creating washes). I blocked in using a very pale payne’s grey and white mix, to leave a negative image on the page.

Blocking in negative shapes

This was a lot harder than I expected and took a long time until I felt I had the proportions right. Although it was a simple pose, it was very difficult due to the long thin nature of the composition. Unfortunately I lost of lot of time getting the proportions right in my ‘negative’ spaces.

Be the time I started blocking in some colour we were into our 4th quarter and I didn’t get to finish. I also didn’t take a photo to finish later – a learning curve!!

Life drawing – oil paint on primed paper


I much prefer the stage when the negative or man-shaped hole was on the paper. The final version, whilst not complete has already lost some of the intrigue that the earlier stage had and I wish I had stopped there!

Life painting was much harder than I an anticipated. Just the art of manipulating your equipment in a small cramped space was a challenge. I need to do much more of this too as I did feel intimidated by painting rather than drawing in front of others. This would go with more practice.

Part 3: Life painting

Part 3: Some sketchbook work

I drew my daughter sitting in strong sunlight with  fast shifting clouds. Using tonal pens I tried to capture lights and darks, but because of the clouds moving so fast, found I was adding more shadow in with the changing light that I should. As such the image I produced wan’t very successful, rather overworked and too dark in the face. However once I had given up, I happened to turn he paper over to find that the pen had bled through. The resulting reverse maintained many of the highlighted areas lost in the original and so I ended up with a better image that I thought! Serendipity!!!



Part 3: Some sketchbook work

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

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

Part 3. Self portrait

The Process

I approached this exercise with the idea of doing a quick study directly in paint on an old piece of card instead of my usual preliminary sketchbook work. I have been struggling to maintain an investigative approach in my final pieces for many of the preceding parts of this module and as a result the better work has tended to be in my preliminary pieces. There is a looseness to my study work that I have not been able to carry through to final pieces (see assignment 2 for a great example!). I also need to work on constructing with paint and using brushwork to define form without lines.

As well as using the research I have completed for this module so far, I took inspiration from the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. In particular I liked the work of Andrew James. His portraits are very expressive and use loose brushwork to create form. He also has some unusual compositions, creating montages of heads and hands on one canvas. I like this idea but am storing it for future use. I was also drawn to the work of Tai-Shan Schierenberg, again with very expressive use of paint and brushwork, and I particularly like his close-up head only portraits where the sitter engages the viewer with their eyes. In some of this paintings it is as if the sitter is studying the viewer and not the other way around!

With these two artists in mind I chose to do a close-up self-portrait of me looking straight at the viewer – something that was easily achieved by setting up a mirror behind my easel.

I used acrylic paint and in an attempt to create loose brushstrokes, I chose to use a couple of stiff (poor quality) paint brushes with raggedy edges. Whilst I was attempting to construct with paint and use brush marks suggest form, I wanted to get away from the ‘tidy’ edge of the brush mark made by better quality brushes. The poor quality brushes prevent the lines becoming too smooth and uniform. The tonal variation within the brush stroke then becomes an important part of the painting with the ground or under-layers showing through.


Surprisingly this does sort of look like me, I am pleased that I have used areas of light and dark to form the basis of the face, allowing the paint to form blocks rather than being tempted to fiddle with the individual areas. This has been most successful with the lower part of the visage around the mouth and nose. The eyes aren’t right, they are too big and the chunky brushes have not been too successful in blocking in smaller areas here. The shadow areas under my hair line are also too dark, which has the effect of shortening the forehead.


On the whole however I have managed a looser style of painting. It is still very sketch like rather than finished painting quality, but actually quite like the effect.

Part 3. Self portrait

Part 3. Figure in Tone

I was staying with a friend and used her to model this exercise. I had a couple of chances to sketch her briefly before asking her to pose for a longer study.

My tutor had contacted me with some information regarding using a limited palette in the style of Odin. He used just 3 colours, red, yellow and black plus white to create some amazing portrait work. I decided to do this exercise using this method. I used ivory black, cadmium yellow hue and cadmium red hue in oil colours. First I created a colour palette to explore the options available through colour mixing. In this reduced palette, blue is provided by black with white. I

I then did a quick 15 minute study of my friends face using this palette


I don’t feel I have got the tonal variations right here, the lights are too cool. I also was fiddling with the paint and not being strong enough with my brushwork.

I posed Kate in a chair and continuing with oils using the reduced palette started blocking in areas of colour. The image below is how the painting looked after about 1 hour, after which both model and myself needed a break. I also needed to allow the paint to dry before adding further glazes to this. I took some references photos as I would not have the opportunity to continue this from life.


I am pleased with the general composition however I am struggling with the skin tones. I think that my lighting was not strong enough to produce a large tonal range (we were relying on an overhead light only). As such the face is a little flat. More construction with paint is needed.

This can be rectified by further glazing but at the time of writing this I have already sent this to my tutor and the paint was only just dry, so the next layer hasn’t happened.

I am trying very hard to construct with paint using brush-strokes to suggest form. I don’t feel I have really managed this yet but some of the drapery strokes show promise.


Part 3. Figure in Tone