Sunday, 14 August 2011

Portraits in Oils 8in x 10in on board (skin tones, hair)

I recently had the pleasure of painting portraits of two fine and delightful young men, Rory and his younger brother Aidan, both of whom I have known since they were Bumps. I painted Aidan first and it was the first real attempt at hair in oils. After some considerable trial and error (more error..) and multi-layering, something hair-like began to emerge.. I think I even Enjoyed some of it...


Painting Rory was different again. With Aidan, I had painted dark-light, but I tried it the other way round with Rory, and painted light-dark. It's too soon to say which way I preferred to work, I'l try a few more times. Needless to say boys, you are Delicious!

Skin tones are a really big challenge to paint, I think its a lifetime's work in the understanding. (Just as well I'm so young then..!) But the best part of painting, I think, is the Learning factor, the frequent new discoveries and the constant challenges every time.

Many students come through my house every week and get a good look at my work in progress. Often, they really like something when its at the Bad stage, which sometimes bewilders me. Though I try to remember to say Thanks. Frequently, when I comment on the current Problem or Frustration, students tell me that if they'd painted what I'd just painted, they'd be Happy. And my less-than-gracious reply is often, Do I look happy???? (well, usually, I DO!) But the point is that one is rarely Happy with the painting in progress - its more the striving, the mixing, the layering, the not-quite-there-yet, as well as optimism that all will turn out well.. I think its important to remember that often I stop a painting when I really can't do any more - as opposed to stopping when its Finished. Or when I'm Happy with it.. (Sheesh!) Besides, I think if we were Happy with everything, we'd be less likely to start the next one. Its always the next one that keeps you interested. Its the PROCESS of the painting, the hours of being engrossed in, and absorbed by what you are doing that count, not the End. The End is just when its over. No one paints a painting for the end. They paint for the Now, of Doing it. Just like a surfer rides the wave for the thrill of doing it, not for getting dry afterwards.

So with a portrait commission, the Now is harder, for the task is to capture something of the sitter, including what that person believes is the essence of themselves. A tall order. And such an honour to be asked to do it. Rory and Aidan were lovely to paint, and were the perfect commission, for the parents simply trusted me to do whatever I thought was right. That trust is every artists dream. I am painting them again, and am really looking forward to it! Thanks!

Up coming courses - Big Drawing Weekend, Belfast,
Portrait Workshop, Dublin
Oils workshop
I am taking bookings for my Autumn term of weekly classes too.
For info call (from UK) 07730 560517  or (from Ireland) 087 1330040
or email

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