Assignment 3

Assignment 3: A Portrait in the Fauvist style

During Part 3 I have discovered Fauvism which I had never heard of before. I’ve always been a great fan of all things bright and colourful so I’ve found I keep returning to images in this style now and want to have a go for myself!

Started with just a bit of a play around to get a feel for the difficulty really – see sketchbook

It’s hard! Need to do some serious research in techniques.

Research: Firstly searched the internet for lots of images of contemporary fauvism (it appeals more than the 1900s style)

Colour, colour, colour. Bold and unblended. Dark colours, like blues and purples, used for darker toned areas and light colours, like yellows and pinks, used for lighter areas. Black commonly use to accentuate the features or outlines. Hardly any background – what does show is a continuation of the colours.

Now watched lots of YouTube videos showing examples of how to go about painting in fauvist style ie using colour instead of realistic skin tones.

Ground with black then yellow ochre. Starts by drawing portrait with dark paint then infills with Van Gogh greens and oranges. Beard colours were intense, often red. Mixes new colours using remnants on brush so that they work together. Then smaller brush for more detail. Black outlines esp around darker side of face to return the painting to more of a ‘drawing’. Background of squiggles that follow the profile, highlight with purple to make vibrant and add same in accents to face too.

Big bold strokes. Complementary orange and blue. Dark tones are dark colour. Palette knife and wedge. Lots of white added at end which enhance vibrancy of other colours. Too much white on hair?

A lot of pallette knife and wedge work as well as brushes big and small. Background colour of oranges and green (with lots water). Chalk drawing for placement then dark paint outline with more detail. Palette knife for bold colours on face then large decorating brush for whiskers. Fingers to smudge.

Abstract background to start, then basic outline. Built up with mainly dark colours. Flesh tones to right side of face but still leaving background showing. Cloak highlights to finish – which is otherwise only a few lines for creases.

Wow such an unusual way to paint. No model, just from imagination. Starts with thick black outline which she adjusts by running under tap to wash some off, then overpaints, sometimes wipes back with cloth too – very messy (can’t imagine it coming together at all!) When happy adds colour, no blending really, lots of overpainting to get balance right. Continual adjustments, always with big brush and bold strokes.

This is the one I love. Ground of acrylics then water mixable oils. Relies on very accurate base drawing. Uses fluorescent colours too. Thin with linseed oil to consistency of mayonnaise. NB although teeth are considered to be white, always add some grey. Fill whole canvas with colour (dark colours for dark tones etc) and only then stand back to adjust lighter or darker. No blending between colours. Frequently uses yellow ochre for shadow under the nose. Hair all black and then highlights added. Lips are flat colour with darker hues for shadow and highlights of white. Eyes and lips are the main focus.

Starts by totally covering surface with abstract blocks of colour. Then uses black to gradually add placement of eyes, lips, under nose. Adds darker toned blocks to give right side of face with blending inwards, and also background on left side etc. Chin is lighter tones. Hair uses less blocky shapes but rather more curvy lines. Very clever build up of detail – rather beyond me right now but fascinating.

What I’ve learnt from all this:

  • Get an accurate drawing down first
  • Fill entire surface with colour – light in light areas, dark in dark etc. Then stand back and do adjustments. Keep reworking.
  • Use acrylics so they dry fast and lots of adjustments can be done without having to leave for several days.
  • Accuracy of the base drawing is vital to get correct placement of eyes and mouth especially. The colour tells the story of the variation in tones but if the layout isn’t correct then the painting never will be.
  • keep adjusting and reworking. I usually stop way sooner than these artists seem to. Continue to tweek and adjust.
  • Add white/light highlights last
  • Dabs/blocks of colour rather than accurately scribed marks.
  • Minimal blending, leave it bold and broken
  • In all of these examples the background behind the portrait is a continuation of the abstract colours without identifiable shape and form.

A bit more of a look at Francoise Nielly art – see sketchbook:

Ready to have another go now. I’ve chosen to do a portrait of my daughter laughing (crop from same image as exercise on Conveying Character). Starting with practicing accurate drawing so using a grid to help with placement:

Now to have a try with colour. Watercolour brush pens in sketchbook:

Canvas Board, 24×20 inches, ready primed. Gradually building it up and adjusting. I can actually feel that it’s getting there, coming alive. More tweaks to make though:

  • Background
  • detail of eye lashes and creases in black
  • nose
  • areas inside glasses are too pink compared with yellow outside
  • add hair strands to left side
  • teeth detail

Largely finished? now to leave it alone for a day or two to ponder what else is needed….

The finished portrait: Fauvist Katie.

Added a couple of adjustments: made the teeth less white by adding some very pale yellow. Also made less of a colour change down line to right of mouth by adding some blue and yellow to cheek area.

I stuck to my proposed colour palette but the blending of colours when wet has created a wider range of colours including green and oranges which I feel really adds to it. I’m really pleased with the vibrancy created by using a whole range of colours which ping against each other. I studied the photo very carefully for changes in skin tone and substituted appropriate tones of colour.

For the background I continued with the same colour palette. I made sure to use contrasting colours in order to bring the face to the foreground eg on the left side of the face which is largely yellow/light tones, I used the darker pink/purple colours behind.

This painting is all about the sparkle in her eyes. I chose to keep her hair black (it isn’t really) and painted lines to show the flow and style of her hair. I then filled the gaps between with the same colours as the background in that area. Looking at it now, perhaps I should have painted more strands of hair so it was denser, with less background colour between – something to try next time.

Everyone I’ve shown this to (and since I’m pretty proud of this one, there’s been a few) has recognised my daughter, Katie, straight away. I have managed to capture the sparkle in her eyes and the way her happy face lights up the room.

I’m not completely happy with the mouth, teeth and lips. I’ve kept the colours here fairly realistic which I feel is right but the teeth and gums are especially hard to paint! I struggled with making the teeth not totally white and added a touch of yellow from my palette which is OK. For the gums I suppose you’d add a little black to give pale grey pink but that didn’t seem right. So I tried making a darker pink from my colours but they’re now really too pink I feel.

As a comparison, the above 2 photos show my progression with painting this portrait. Same image but far more accomplished now (well I feel it is). The eyes are now looking and seeing, and there is a sparkle to them. The cheeks are pronounced and in the correct place now for a laughing face. I’ve certainly learnt how important it is to get the initial drawing correct before starting to paint (shape of glasses!)

I’ve enjoyed painting this portrait so much that I’m now having another go. Found a photo of me and tried sketching out:

Not enough contrast between light/dark – this would be hard to get a good range of colours. Try another…

This photo of my daughter Beth, has better contrast between light and dark and shows her caught in a natural smile. However, this image doesn’t capture the essence of Beth in the way that the one of Katie did. Beth doesn’t usually wear makeup or have her hair done fancy – I hope I can manage to none the less capture her spirit and make her recognisable.

Had a bit of a problem with my sketch which I struggled to get right – then I realised that the face was one square too wide! Folded the page and yes it’s her now.

I want the colour palette that I use this time to be slightly different, tricky as I used all my favourites. I’ve decided to use more orange and perhaps red, instead of the rose red pink this time. The background will be orange / blue rather than pink / purple.

Realised that I had made the jaw and cheek far too dark and also too cleanly edged. Overpainted with titanium white and left to dry so that I could try that part again! Also shoulder behind neck is too dark and I need a distinction between earlobe and neck…

Toned it all down and added the detail of eyes and mouth. Eyes are Copper acrylic – I wanted something that would sparkle a bit compared to the rest of the palette and she has dark brown eyes.

Adjustments for next stage:

  • Pupils of eyes are a bit flat, try adding a darker edging, also white spots
  • The lashes on the right eye are lost into the dark background – trying lightening the background so they show
  • It is all TOO YELLOW! She looks like a character from The Simpsons! I need to add much more variation in colour to the skin – more oranges, reds and blues. I know why this happened – she is very pale skinned and this made me keep using my lightest toned colour ie yellow. Notch everything up a few tones…
  • The eyes just aren’t right. I expect this is because the blue shading on the eyelids looks like eye shadow and she doesn’t do makeup. Also less black line on lids needed

Finished painting: Fauvist Beth

Canvas Board 20×24 inches, ready primed

That’s better. Made the changes as above plus added some titanium white touches in the lightest areas of nose, chin and forehead.

I especially like the ear and jaw line. My mistake early on with making this side of the face far too dark has really paid off in that I’ve left just a slither of the dark blue along the jaw line and that really sets it off well. Ears can be very tricky I’ve found but this time the use of colours has come together well.

It’s not quite a correct likeness as predicted but the essence of her is there – slim face, lush hair. It appears ‘off’ because of the red lips and made up eyes – perhaps I should have toned down the red lips but then this is pretty fundamental to the style I’m creating…

What I’ve learnt from these Fauvist Portraits:

Wow I’m loving this style! So pleased with the results too. And I can see definite improvement between the two painting.

The black lines of ‘Katies’ hair are too few and there isn’t a lot of contrast with the background. For ‘Beth’ I carefully painted more lines, showing the style too, and infilled with a lighter colour to show some contrast. I also overpainted the black with some yellow as some shine and highlights.

I struggled with the neck on ‘Katie’ as there was less definition to show. With ‘Beth’ there is a clear, strong jaw, neck and chin.

My brush strokes also became smaller and slightly more blended which I think works better too.

I found working with the first colour palette of pinks and purples easier than with reds and oranges. I suspect this is because I’m happy with making lighter tones of pink which gave a good alternative to using yellow for all the light tones. A lighter toned red is, of course, pink which I didn’t want included in this palette and so I became restricted to using yellow for the light tones – ie making her into a Simpson character.

I’m so pleased that I did some thorough research before starting as it really helped me know just where to start. I adopted some ideas from the paintings I studied such as keeping the eyes and mouth fairly realistic like Francoise Nielly. Also continuing with the same colour palette for the backgrounds and keeping it without recognisable forms as many of the contemporary artists do.

Now I need to attempt my son so that I have portraits of them all. That will be hard – the style has been about the flow of hair amongst other things and he has short hair and a beard. Needs a lot of thought so I’m not including this in the assignment.


2 thoughts on “Assignment 3: A Portrait in the Fauvist style

  1. I need a LOVE button here! What a great article. Like you, I’ve recently discovered fauvism and I’ve incorporated it a bit in my landscape paintings. Now, I’m beginning to work on portraits (I’m still a very new artist having only started learning to draw a few years ago) . I love your fauve-inspired portraits, and I want to come back to your blog to read and re-read this. I can learn so much from what you’ve done here!

    Liked by 1 person

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