Saturday, September 13, 2014

Male Portrait

Here is the next of my Friday morning portraits. It took about two hours of painting in a three hour session with lots of breaks for tea and cake.

We had an older male model for a change. As there are about eight people working in a group situation you don't really get to chose your position. It is more of case of everyone arrives and sets up in a semi-circle and then the model sits. You could sit either side to get a profile view but usually you just have to paint what is in front of you with little room to manoeuvre for a more fetching angle.

Our model Max had a great nose and I had almost a profile view of it with just a hint of the furthest eye. The portrait was all about the nose from the start against the dark background. There is a good connection colour-wise and design-wise with the ear. Ah, give me a good ear and I can paint it all morning!
I seem to have a habit of having to make the head bigger and bigger as I start. This meant that the back of Max's head got closer and closer to the edge. (Alas I didn't start with the dreaded thumbnail sketch!) I decided to turn this potential problem into an asset and used the head touching the edge to anchor the head slightly and give me the freedom to "open out" the front of the face and direct all attention there, at least initially.

Things seem to work better for me if I get stuck in quickly with what excites me and in this case it was the nose. The model even joked "Don't make my nose too big" and of course if this was a paid commission one might be slightly influenced by this expressed wish. I do so love working from a paid model with no pressure to please the client!

I worked from a seated position on a donkey easel and yes I did buy tubes of acrylic to take along instead of my big pots of colour. I had fun with the beard, - lots of blue and mauve hues and skin tone showing through. I can't remember the last time I painted a beard but I do remember it was also a white one and easily the lightest tone on the face apart from the highlights.

I did post this picture on facebook yesterday and two people immediately recognised the model and made comments, so I quickly removed it. I am fine about the painting being out there, but not sure what the model would think about all the comments and the ease with which anyone can make them. He would probably be fine but I will have to check.

I am really loving this weekly exercise in portraiture. I am still working hard every other day on my show for March 2015. These pieces are not ready to be revealed as yet.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Friday Portrait, - Notes on Turner

I am really getting into the swing of the Friday morning portraits. I have plans though to buy tubes to take with me, as the pots of acrylic I lug along are getting too heavy!

Here is yesterday's effort.

It is the same model as last week. You do get to know someone's features better the second time even though the angle is probably completely different. Second week doesn't guarantee a more successful painting though.

As I set about working yesterday, the model said to me.
"I really loved the painting you did of me last week. Actually I took a photo and am now using it as my facebook profile!"

I was a bit taken aback. I asked firstly if she had acknowledged me and of course she hadn't. I said I was very flattered that she and all her 98 "likers" had "liked" it but that there was a question of copyright. I was happy for her to use it as long as my name was there. Then it is win win.

This week's effort had a more traditional approach. The model was costumed-up in a colourful dress, faux fur and flowers in her hair. She was seated and so was I on about the same level. I worked quickly as usual blocking in the lights which always strike me first. I guess the traditional method would be darks first, but I am at last finding a way that is truly mine.

This week my art reading was "Turner" by Peter Ackroyd (Chatto and Windus 2005). I haven't ever been much of an avid Turner fan as I have never had the opportunity to see many of them in the flesh. I am sure this would make a lot of difference. I do appreciate his sublime landscapes and the drama of his clouds and waves but it is long way from my own experience.

I did enjoy reading about his inveterate travelling and daily sketching habits and also his work methods of having six works on the go and just moving from one to the other. There are some amusing anecdotes in the book particularly about his teaching. His answer to student's questions  - "Suppose you LOOK!"

I enjoyed this juxtaposition of two pages with Ruskin on the left and Turner on the right. One of the most interesting relationships between artist and critic and unparalleled in its advantage to the artist. All artists need a Ruskin in their lives.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A View of Delft - "Perfection of the life or or of the work?"

I was attracted to the book "A View of Delft - Vermeer then and now" by Anthony Bailey (Chatto& Windus 2001) at the local library because of the amazing painting of that name by Vermeer and the fact that I too am painting views of my local area. I had never read about Vermeer's life in such detail before.

The first unanticipated fact that I read was about the gunpowder explosion of 1654 in Delft in which Carel Fabritius lost his life. Earlier this year I read Donna Tartt's novel The Goldfinch about Fabritius's painting by that name. In the novel the painting survives a 20th century terrorist bomb explosion in an art museum in New York and in the Vermeer book I discover the real painting of the goldfinch did in fact survive an explosion in Delft in 1654. Maybe Tartt makes this link in her book, maybe it was her starting point, but if so I glossed over it at the time.

The Anthony Bailey book I read with a much larger Vermeer monograph of the complete paintings by Norbert Schneider beside me so I could peer closely at the details he described.

I would like to quote a passage from Bailey page 104.

"With an eventual eleven living children, Vermeer may well have pondered how to divide his energies; his slow production of paintings meant he completed only some three pictures for every child. The poet Yeats later put the dilemma as which to choose, perfection of the life or of the work? A ruthless genius may plump for the latter. A more difficult task faces the home-loving artist who tries for both."

I believe at different stages of our lives we oscillate between these two. Certainly for me at the moment the art comes before the life. It is the most important thing, but would it even exist without the life? And if so in what diminished form?