Sunday, 27 January 2019

Oil painting, 'Vernon', step by step

There are so many photos here that I thought I'd show you the finished painting first! (to see the preparatory stages scroll below to the previous posts). I had two weeks from starting the canvas to my deadline, and while I thought I wouldn't manage it as I was teaching during the same period, I decided to go for it. 

Vernon, fully finished oil painting. 

The initial stages are always hideous-looking. The best way to describe it is that it's an act of faith. We paint towards how it WILL look, seeing everything as part of the greater process.  I transferred a line drawing trace from my pencil drawing onto canvas, which gave me a blotchy placement guide, then did a base 'wash' layer to lay in some tones, going very lightly on the face, only on the shadow areas. This is the stage where the amount of work ahead becomes dreadfully apparent. Gulp. 

First stage, not looking pretty, but a start. 
 Next evening I put in the flesh areas, the first layer of colour. The face and hands took about two and a half hours and were done in one sitting. Colour was laid in small 'tiles', and not rushed.
First layer of flesh

Between classes next day I whacked on the first layer of the coat... still 'tiling' but with larger strokes. 

                                  ...and scrubbed in some background colour (see below).

Saturday night and I had to address 'the hat', aaaargh...! Even in the drawing stage this had been a challenge, and I spent a few hours redrawing with pencil on the canvas, then layering in the pattern using raw umber before painting the lighter chunks in between the stripes. Then I slathered on some beardy tones. 

Huge palette, tiny dog..?! Faithful little Minnie keeping an eye on me.
I gave the beard a second look, and decided it looked like it had been stuck on.. So I darkened it a bit... 

 ...then decided I needed more flesh tones to work beneath it so painted more shadow-colours on top (see below). It looks like the photos are out of order, but they are not. So, I painted a beary area, then let it go by painting over it - always be prepared to remove, rethink and repaint.

I then gave the flesh (face and hand) a second (final) layer. 

Then it was Friday, so I crammed in a few hours before the Friday Night Life class, and tackled the Christmas foliage behind the head. Once I got into the swing of it, this was fairly quick, and quite satisfying/a relief to cover a large expanse of canvas.  

This pic also shows the chunky blocked-in hat.
Saturday was the Marathon day. I did 12 hours straight, with a one hour break in the middle for a cuppa tea and a chat. I painted a second layer on the coat... 

...and after dinner, which my son kindly brought to the studio for me (what a star!),

Dinner, cooked and delivered!!
 I could put the hat off no longer... 

I worked from the top, down. 
The 'secret' to working on something complex like this lies in what you're listening to. All day I'd had the BBC iPlayer in the background. I'd had the final of masterchef on, several episodes of 'The Twinstitute' (I can only have documentaries on, otherwise I can't paint!) and for the hat it was two hilarious programes by Billy Connolly, so I actually laughed my way through it! By 11pm I'd had enough and packed up. This is how it looked - all done bar the beard and the baubles on the left. 

I took Sunday off as I was tired.. And Monday was deadline day. I worked on the beard...

...darkened the background, tweaked the 'join' between beard, eyebrow and background, and completed the baubles. Just in time for the deadline! PHEW!! 

Upcoming workshops with Julie in Belfast Academy of Realist Art: Friday Night Life drawing, 1st Feb  6 - 8pm
Children's workshop, portrait workshop, pet painting workshop. 
April 8th - 12th: Paul Foxton gives his Munsell Colour Mixing workshop.

For info on all workshops please email 

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Portrait next step - transferring to canvas.

This shows my artwork in progress - getting the drawing onto my canvas ready to paint. 

The finished drawing (centre) with the painted tracings on the right, and the canvas with transferred image on the left. 
The film shows some of the process. 

Up and coming workshops at Belfast Academy of Realist Art: Friday Night Life drawing (every second Friday evening), Portrait weekend, Life Drawing weekend, PET PORTRAIT weekend and the new term of weekly classes.
April 8th - 12th 2019, Paul Foxton at BARA!
For info please email

Portrait progress number 3!

After many days longer than I expected, I finished the drawing of Vernon. These photos show the progress, with the finished artwork at the bottom. 

When I started, I thought the beard was going to be the most challenging part, but I think perhaps the hat was just as 'interesting'... 

The yellow-look to the photo is because I photographed it at night. 

By the time I began working on the area around the figure I realised that the job was not nearly over, yet...!! 

The big cover-up. It is important to keep the paper clean, and the only way to enqure there are no grubby smudges is to expose only the area being worked on. It's a rest for my eyes too.  
Starting the foliage
The background tone. Yet another challenge in gentleness and even handling. 

Of course, this is only the prep for the oil painting! I had a day off before transferring the image on to canvas. See the next post!

Portrait progress number 2, in film!

Pencil is not easy to photograph so please forgive the quality. Pencil drawing by Julie Douglas

I wanted to show the progress since my last post so here is another little film.