Monday, 3 August 2015

Portrait drawing and painting in oil (work in progress)

A note from my drawing board, to your Inner Voice (you know the one, that keeps saying you can’t do, it blah blah…)

Did you know that artists are Human too? It appears that many students think that artists are some sort of Other Species who get things right first time, all the time. Well, if only that were the case, perhaps artists would be less frustrated.. 

Even when we have been using a particular process for a long time, we can still make mistakes. But this isn't a bad thing necessarily. It just means we have to work out a solution and try again. 

Recently I began working on a portrait - it was to be in Oils, but I always start with a drawing.

Drawing study, pencil 
After working on it for a few days,  I transferred it onto canvas to do an oil painting of it. This is a relatively simple procedure which I have done MANY times, which involves tracing over my original drawing, providing a rough line drawing on the canvas as a guide to paint from. But this time.. Well, what a palaver.

Firstly, I couldn’t believe how PALE the pencil was as it went onto canvas - I could hardly see it at all. So I tried again, using a much softer pencil, with little or no improvement. After almost an HOUR I realised that I’m not supposed to use pencil at all, but paint… What was I THINKING??! So I started again, again. And it was a gloopy, lumpy MESS. This is the point that many folks just give up. But giving up isn't part of the painting process, so I wiped the canvas and traced it yet again. Still gloopy, but slightly less so than previously. Here it is...

Gloopy mess - if you can't see much, rest assured, I couldn't either... 
It didn’t look inviting as a surface to paint on, I can assure you. But I painted on it nonetheless. it's up to me to make it work. 

slowly working on top of the underlayer
Inching along
The colour isn't great in these photos, but it gives you an idea. 

This is where it is so far, with another layer to go on everywhere. 

Why am I telling you this?

So that you understand that even when you’ve been doing this for a long time, there are always times which hurt more than others. And the only thing to do is carry on, anyway.

There are a few more hours left to go in this painting, I just wanted to share the process. 

Upcoming workshop: portrait workshop, children's classes, Location Drawing and four day drawing and oils workshop with PJ Lynch. For info please email


  1. Very timely post as I was feeling quite fed up about my efforts lately. I think I go too fast, too eager to create something half decent lol! The portrait is remarkable. How big is it? How long would a pencil drawing like that take you? Do you work hours at a time or just as you feel? Sorry, lots of questions! Hope you are well xxx