Part 3

Project: People in context

Exercise: A figure in an interior

I liked the idea of having a group of figures in an interior so started with making some notes about the above two artworks and what I could / could not take from them to use in mine. Neither of these are painted from actual events but the artists have painted their friends/acquaintances into a setting, making up the composition. I could do that!

I decided to use my kitchen as the setting as it’s a large open space without too much fuss and detail. I then found a range of photos from social events with figures holding interesting poses or expressions. I pulled these together into a composition with larger more detailed figures at the front and those with good poses towards the back.

The foreground is a chap (my son) looking directly at the viewer holding a cocktail glass. He is the focal point that our eye starts at before being drawn back to the man blowing out the candles (David) and then onto the background.

This is the point that I decided to leave it overnight to take a fresh look the next day. Made notes on my thoughts:

It’s a shame, and odd perhaps, that none of the figures are looking at the man blowing out the candles – hmmm.

Made the changes I’d identified :

  • The main one being the legs of the man blowing the candles – tricky but I’ve done what I could. I overpainted the bottom section of the black shirt with titanium white and then the blue of the jeans, reshaping a bit too. I also moved his knee up to extend the length of his lower leg and narrowed his arm. Not exactly right still but better.
  • Added more width to the face of the lady across the table, now including the other eye. Also narrowed her neck which looks more human now
  • Added some light detail to the clothing of the background ladies
  • Altered the line of the chair seat – looks less awkward now
  • Flattened the bottoms of the dangling lights

Pretty happy with this now. Taking a step back to dwell on what hadn’t worked out and why was a good move and I was able to refocus and come at it afresh. I wonder if the people would be recognisable to themselves – I’ll pop this on Instagram was see what reaction I get. The form of the candle blowing guy still bugs me – something to note for the next time – I must make sure my sketch is accurate before starting to paint. Glad I chose to use acrylics rather than oils – I don’t think I could have managed this if I had to keep waiting for it to dry.

The composition gives the interior space – the foreground figure is large and detailed, the background smaller and rougher. Also the perspective of the table, bench and far wall.

Update 10/1/20: I showed this to a friend who immediately named three of the people without hesitation. What a relief that I’ve caught the essence of at least some of the people without needing to paint totally realistically.

Research point 3: Figures in interiors

Flip Gaasendam, Maja in Kimono reading, 2018, Oil

A dreamy, misty room with a figure sitting on the floor, reading. It looks as if she happened across the book, got engrossed and just sit down where she was to read. Detail in room is non descript – tables with objects on. Bottom third of canvas is just floor. Limited palette of pale browns and blue – soft and relaxing. The woman sits centrally within the painting and is the focus.

Max Beckmann, Party in Paris, 1931, Oil on canvas

A black tie event with guests crammed into the room. Many looking rather depressed – definitely not a party atmosphere! Many of the characters have been identified but this is not a party that really happened. The reason for this virtual gathering and its mood is left to our interpretation. The figures form the focus with the room mostly hidden. Our eye darts from one figure to another, studying ‘who they are’ – no single one pulls you in more than another. Interesting style: how he uses an assortment of skin colours and tones, black for outlines and feature detail, semi abstract, each person very individual personality – I tried to use this style for the Interior painting above and it does help give each person an individual personality.

Philip Geiger, Three thirty PM, 2004, Oil on linen

Scene from everyday family life. Figures are in the foreground but the eye is drawn backwards through the enormous room by the highly polished floor. What would otherwise be a rather bland floor covering over half the painting, is brought to life by the patches of bright summer sunlight coming through windows and casting bright patches on the floor. No furniture to speak of to distract the eye. Whilst the figures should be the focus, our eye is quickly taken by the great sense of space created within the rooms and the figures seem to become insignificant.


Bonnard, G. (2017) Flip Gaasendam – Galerie Bonnard. At: (Accessed 09/12/2019).

Paris Society (1931) At: (Accessed 09/12/2019).

Three Thirty (s.d.) At: (Accessed 09/12/2019).

Exercise: Telling a Story

Rather a tricky one this, needs plenty of thought…

I went Christmas shopping to Exeter and was struck by the number of homeless people (mainly men) on my walk from the car park. It struck me that there was such a contrast between these people (cold, lonely, hungry, dirty, unshaven, desperate) and the shoppers (happy, wrapped up warmly, laughing, spending freely, full of festive joys).

I sketched from memory when I got home – obviously couldn’t stand there to sketch or take photos.

At first I thought about doing a view of a home with a lite up window showing a family inside laughing and eating their christmas meal. In the foreground I could put a silhouette of a young lad watching them – perhaps an estranged son or son from a previous marriage. However this composition idea gradually changed into a view of distant shoppers amongst the bright lights happily going about their business with the homeless silhouette in front. I was keen to have a go at painting figures in a loose way in the distance and this seemed the ideal opportunity. Being loose and free is something I find very hard and need lots of practice!

For some reason I decided to go with Oil paints again despite finding them a pain because of the waiting for layers to dry. And also I find mixing them tricky and quite a fuss – harder to get the colours you want than with acrylics I find, and adding fast drying mediums and Linseed oil is a faff.

As the composition is fairly wide it didn’t suit the more square shaped canvas boards that I have and so opted for the SAA Artists primed canvas 380gsm 40x50cm, which I taped to a board.

At the end of first session – rough marking out using brush and also knife. Distant shoppers with bags look OK but I need more up towards the shops and these need to be even more vague and loose!

Using colour to accentuate the differences between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ ie warm colours – reds, oranges, yellows – for happy shoppers. And cold blues and blacks for the foreground homeless.

I’m aiming for the foreground being a dark silhouette so that the initial focus of the viewer is on the shops and shoppers. Hopefully the eye will then be taken to the foreground and the contrast noted – that’s the aim anyway!

Spent some time looking at how other artists paint bright lights in a dark street and also ways of painting figures in the distance – see sketchbook

Left for 4 days to semi-dry…

I like Leonid Afremov’s painting style of night scenes in the rain with brights colours reflecting and merging. Obviously my painting is of a cold snowy scene rather than rain which means I can’t have the long reflections and glare but I’m keeping my brush strokes rough and a little abstract rather than trying for realism. More work needed on homeless figures and also the xmas lights.


Good contrast between foreground and background creating the story of different lives. Happy with my effort with the distant figures and keeping them free and loose. Perhaps I could have added more figures, especially in distance.

Tried to convey the feel of life happening inside the shops whilst still keeping it loose – I think I’m getting there especially with the left hand bar …

I can tell that there are 2 homeless people in the foreground but I wonder if that’s obvious to others? (seems to be when I asked a couple of people)

Left for a week to mull over and then made a few changes:

That’s better.

  • More variation in colour and marks added to trees where light catches them.
  • Upstairs windows have been changed so they’re not quite so luminous – window bars/objects hinted at.
  • bit of detail to xmas light hanging in street and also in bar window
  • more distant figures

Not completely happy – it’s all a bit twee and christmas card like but the essence of what I was trying to convey is there. The eye starts with the shoppers and windows before coming forward to the silhouetted men and so it leads the viewer into seeing the two halves of the scene.

Part 3

Project: Looking at Faces

Research: Point 1 Artists’ self portraits

All of these artists are looking straight at us, ie looking into a mirror in order to paint themselves. That is except for Fred Hatt who has the benefit of modern technology to video himself and display live on a monitor which he looks at instead (see below).

Claude Monet, Self portrait with beret, 1886, oil

Un-prepared canvas, his usual blurry brushstrokes, focus and detail all on face with shoulders and background roughly painted – doesn’t go right to edge, remember this! Wearing his artists beret and very much looks like he’s standing at his easel and looking in a mirror to do this. Serious, concentrated expression.

David Hockney, Self portrait with Red Braces, 2003

Made over 300 self portraits throughout his career and clearly showing a record of his aging. Drawings, paintings, alone, with others, pulling expressions…. This one is artist at work with his brush crossing the edge of the painting, Very effective simple blocks of colour with no variation in tone. Face just one tone with brush strokes in darker. Looking in a mirror at himself while painting flat on the table.

Fred Hatt, Self portrait, 2012

“In December 2012 I drew this portrait, with a camera set up to capture stages in the development of the picture. I pointed a video camera at myself and drew from the image on a monitor, to avoid the reversed face you get in a mirror and the frozen effect you can get from working from a photograph. The bluish colors you see under my eyebrows represent the cool glow of the computer monitor I could see on my face. ” (Fred Hatt, 2013)

Multicoloured line work on brown paper that is still visible. Red background pushes the face forward.

M C Escher, Hand with Reflecting Sphere and Artist, 1935

Artist uses the mirror (convex spherical surface) as the focus of this piece rather than the reflection itself. Careful study of how the surface distorts the image. Cannot see the artists work in the drawing however.

Pablo Picasso, Self portrait facing death, 1972, crayon on paper

Drawn about a year before his death and took several months to complete. The look of fear in his large staring eyes is prominent and the black lines are said to have got darker as he worked on the piece. All about feelings and expression rather than accurate representation. Tonal shading makes the face rounded with depth (the nose)

Egon Schiele, Self Portrait with Physalis, 1912

Limited colour palette with red accent of leaves behind. Lots of visible brush strokes give it character and life, limited use of tones to show light/dark areas of skin, more just to show a mottled complexion.

Gustave Courbet, The Desperate man self portrait, 1845

Painted several self portraits in the early years to develop his own style. Very realistic. I wonder how he painted this composition in a time before photography and managed to get those staring eyes. Lots of tonal variation and use of bright light to create contrasts.


A Self Portrait for the New Year – DRAWING LIFE by fred hatt (2013) At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

Guest (2009) 9 Famous Painters & the Revealing Art of Self-Portraits. At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

Gustave Courbet – Le Desespere, 1845 (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

Iconic Artists Who Have Immortalized Themselves Through Famous Self-Portraits (2017) At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

Pablo Picasso: Self-portrait Facing Death (1972) (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

Self portrait in red and gold dress – by Frida Kahlo (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

The David Hockney Foundation: Self Portraits (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

The Desperate Man (Self-Portrait), 1843 – 1845 – Gustave Courbet – (s.d.) At: (Accessed on 26 November 2019)

Exercise: Self Portrait

I’ve decided to give Oil Paints a go as several other students have said that they’re easier to use than acrylics and worth giving a go. I’ve bought Winsor & Newton Artisan Water Mixable Oil Colours along with a book ‘Oil Painting for Dummies’. Watched lots of YouTube videos also to find out the differences between regular Oils and Water mixable Oils:

Giddings, A.M. and Clifton, S.S. (2008) Oil Painting For Dummies. (s.l.): Wiley.

JerrysArtarama (2012) Prove It! Water Mixable Oils. At: (Accessed on 25 November 2019)

JerrysArtarama (2017) Artist Problems – Water Mixable Oil Mistakes. At: (Accessed on 25 November 2019)

PaintBasket (2016a) how to paint with water mixable oil paint part 2 wet in wet parrot animals techniques. At: (Accessed on 25 November 2019)

PaintBasket (2016b) how to paint with water soluble oil paint – introduction to water mixable oil paint. At: (Accessed on 25 November 2019)

Main points discovered:

  • They are still Oil Paints and all the same rules apply to these oils as to regular ones. The only difference is that brushes and hands can be washed with water instead of smelly solvent. (Also these oils can be mixed with a few drops of water instead of linseed oil in certain circumstances but see below)
  • Range of colours available is slightly less and there are cadmium hues rather than regular colours – this appears to be because they are less toxic but colours are just as good
  • Water mixable can be mixed with regular oils – you’ll just need to use solvent now to wash brushes etc, the mixing works fine
  • They take the same time to dry – the thicker they are applied the longer they take – maybe months or years!
  • Paper/boards need to be primed with a mix of Acrylic Paint and Gesso to help the oils stick
  • Water Mixable Oils can be thinned with either water or Water Soluble Linseed Oil
  • Fat Over Lean rule applies: successive layers of paint must contain more oil to avoid cracking. If completing a painting in one sitting (alla prima), then this doesn’t matter and use either water or oil to thin as desired. If working in layers then first layer thin with 1 drop oil and leave for few days/weeks, next layer must be thinned with 2 drops oil and left, third must be 3 etc

Very nervous about starting with Oils and procrastinated for several days but eventually decided that I just had to jump in! Set up an easel next to full length mirror so that I could glance sideways to see myself. Remember to keep my glasses lower down my nose than usual so that I can see both in mirror and close-up on canvas. Wearing hoodie and apron – it’s cold in this studio. Light coming from left side.

Canvas Board – Loxley, 16×12″, primed

This was after perhaps 2 hours, decided to stop there as it’s beginning to get tricky with paint muddying as extra added. I used a little water to thin this first layer. No Black in my pack of 10 tubes – a bit surprised by that but quickly discovered that French Ultramarine and Burnt Umber in roughly equal quantities mix to make Black. Skin tones are White mixed with Yellow Ochre and maybe a little Burnt Umber. Lip colour was tricky – added a little Cadmium Red Hue to skin colours but it’s a little too pink. Try adding Permanent Alizarin Crimson instead next time as that is more burgundy…

Took a step back – surprisingly not too bad. Eyes too large, especially the left one. Mouth not in line with nose. Are eyes too high up on my head? – remeasured and no they’re at about the right level it’s just that my head is angled down slightly and I have chins! Next day (so oils are still totally wet which is so odd after using acrylics) just touched up the left eye and moved mouth.

Better. Now put to one side for a week or so to dry – possibly do more to it later.

Clothing and hair were fairly straight forward, it was mixing the skin tones that I found really tricky. This was further hampered by it being oils so that it was near on impossible to correct a wrong tone – I’m not used to having to wait for days. I was mixing each tone as needed but this lead to a very messy palette with no order about it – I need to find a better method.

There is a fair likeness except that my skin tones are far too light and need to have a more red tint. Range and placement of tones is OK but not their colour. Two OCA student friends recognised that it was me but said I looked ill with such washed out grey skin!

Exercise: Head and shoulder portrait:

This isn’t easy, there’s only me and David at home and he’s always on the move. The only thing for it is to move my easel etc down to the sitting room and paint him while he watches TV in the evening. It’s dark outside the windows with the glass reflecting odd things. The furniture is also dark in colour. I ask David to change his dark grey hoodie for something lighter in colour – cream shirt and light grey jeans.

I’ve never painted in front of friends or family before and am quite nervous about his reaction.

SAA Acrylic Practice Paper, Satin Lined-Embossed Surface 330gsm – meant for acrylics but hopefully it’ll be ok. Taped down and primed with one layer of gesso – should it be white acrylic mixed with gesso? one or more layers? I don’t seem to be able to find the answer to this simple question! Paper curved a little after gesso so perhaps not ideal…

About one and a half hours. I’m tired now and he’s had enough of sitting still-ish. Realised that I’ve done more than Head and Shoulders – oh well. Beginning to get the tones in clothing. How do I paint a balding head with just some hair? Skin tones need to be a bit redder.. Good start but time to leave for a week or so before doing another layer.

Tuesday 3rd Dec met up with a couple of OCA painting students in Maiden Newton for a bit of critique and group help. I showed images of my 4 figure paintings so far. Very positive reaction and feeling greatly encouraged. They liked compositions and variations on techniques explored. Oils need practice with mixing skin tones (yes definitely!). Head and Shoulders portrait of David on sofa: don’t fiddle with clothing or background further, good as it is, work on head and skin with another layer.

Also discussed the disappointing news that units are being limited to 1 year maximum now – should be fine for me as I don’t work and aim for 10-11 months then a bit of a break, but impossible for working students. We hope OCA will survive this!

Pointers on using oils and skin tones:

  • try using a glaze as this brings Oils to life
  • This book was recommended by a tutor as great for colour mixing practice and has lots of practical exercises such as mixing skin tones actually on your hand. Basic Colour: A Practical Handbook: by Jane De Sausmarez – ordered 6/12 from Amazon
  • Mix a range of tones on palette before starting painting, right from the lightest to darkest (add appropriate oils/mediums now) – this way is a lot less fussy than mixing as you go. Yes my palette has been getting in a total muddle so I’ll give this a go
  • Get zinc white for mixing. Just as with acrylics, the titanium white isn’t the best for mixing so invest in zinc
  • more life poses on the Royal Academy website for free
  • investigate Liquin Fine and Liquin Gel – opinions vary but could be good for mixing
  • use the Fast Drying Medium – oils should be dry in about a week if not too thick

Head and Shoulders continued:

Base layer dry so re-working skin and leaving the rest as it is. After my self portrait I now know to focus on the skin tones more accurately and so this time I mixed Titanium White, Burnt Umber and Alizarin Crimson to get a much redder colour. I also started by mixing a range of 8 tones in order on my palette and labelling each clearly to make remixing next time easier – see mixing palette in sketchbook (also adding a few drops of Water Mixable Linseed Oil to each as 2nd layer).

Initially I used a small brush but quickly found that this wasn’t any good as it didn’t hold enough paint and there was no coverage. The tones are much closer now and I’m fairly happy with the head except for the nose! I tried wiping that area clean and redoing but I’m still not happy with it, especially the area under the nose, so will have to wait again for it to dry and try again…

5 days later…remixed tones for skin and redid the nose – shorter and rounder. Moved mouth up a bit and adjusted some of the too dark tones. Quite a bit better now although it’s not a very flattering likeness of the poor man.

Research Point 2: Portraits that convey a distinctive mood or atmosphere

Both the above use restricted palettes of black, white and earth colours with an emphasis on using tone to show atmosphere. The lack of a varied colourful palette infers a basic life without extravagances. Somber, hard working, faithful.

Picasso’s Blue Period lasted from 1900-1904  whilst he was in the depths of depression with no fixed studio space. They show the relative poverty and instability he experienced in the streets, with beggars, the old and frail and drunks. The blue colour gives the paintings a cold joyless feel of despair.

“German expressionism was an early twentieth century German art movement that emphasized the artist’s inner feelings or ideas over replicating reality, and was characterised by simplified shapes, bright colours and gestural marks or brushstrokes” ( Both paintings use blue, yellow and green (analogous=colours that lie adjacent to each other) which create a rich though calm feel.

“Fauvism is the name applied to the work produced by a group of artists (which included Henri Matisse and André Derain) from around 1905 to 1910, which is characterised by strong colours and fierce brushwork ” (

Contemporary Fauve art – an even stronger, more vibrant use of colour than before with an amazing use of complementary colours that make the painting extra bright and full of vibrant life. Love these! Definitely a style I’d like to try – use of colour as the tones ie dark colours like purple v. light colours like yellow, also use of warm and cool colours. Have a go! ***


Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period (s.d.) At: (Accessed 09/12/2019).

Peasant Woman Cooking by a Fireplace | Vincent van Gogh | 1984.393 | Work of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History | The Metropolitan Museum of Art (s.d.) At: (Accessed 08/12/2019).

Rembrandt’s Mother – The Leiden Collection (s.d.) At: (Accessed 08/12/2019).

Tate (s.d.) Fauvism – Art Term | Tate. At: (Accessed 09/12/2019a).

Tate (s.d.) German expressionism – Art Term | Tate. At: (Accessed 09/12/2019b).

The connection between German expressionist art an The Maltese Falcon (s.d.) At: (Accessed 08/12/2019).

Wikipedia contributors (2019a) André Derain. At: (Accessed 09/12/2019).

Wikipedia contributors (2019b) Picasso’s Blue Period. At: (Accessed 08/12/2019).

Exercise: Creating mood and atmosphere

For this exercise I want to use lots of colour to give a happy joyful and lively atmosphere – bold, in your face and fun. I don’t suppose that it will be true to life but rather give the feel of form within colour.

I’m going to keep going with oil paints and this time use a palette knife to apply the paint thickly (impasto) hoping that the texture will also add life and movement to the figure.

I started by sketching more life poses using The Royal Academy live website (see sketchbook):

The life-drawing class you can take from home | Blog | Royal Academy of Arts (s.d.) At: (Accessed 06/12/2019).

I decided to use this pose as there is a strong contrast between light and dark. The figure is in the process of jumping – a very lively shot with lots of movements to suit my chosen atmosphere.

Canvas Board, roughly A2 size, ready primed. Mixed a range of bold colours from light yellow through to dark red – I literally applied these by looking at the photo and, starting with the lightest, used the palette knife to apply that to the appropriate areas, then 2nd lightest and so on to the darkest.

I scraped 3 shades of green across the canvas for the background. When semi-dry, I added some blues and let them lightly blend. Blue/green is the complementary colour of red/orange and so therefore helps to create a vibrant image. Also applied more oils to the figure and studied exactly where the tones should be. Fairly happy with this – top elbow isn’t quite the right shape and that light patch in his stomach needs removing. There needs to be something to connect the figure and the background which currently seem to exist separately.

Brought the figures colours into the background in horizontal and vertical marks – lightest on the left where the light source comes from, and darker on the right. In this photo the central left area appears to have a glowing blue-ness which I really like – not in the painting though, just a trick of the light. I wonder if I can reproduce this…

I love the looseness and textures of the marks created by using a knife. It is not a likeness of the figure but rather a celebration of the strength, agility and movement.

If I were to do this again I would change the pose slightly so that his lower legs appeared to be the correct length – they appear too short in my painting. Both are bent backwards and away from us, hence foreshortened but my painting doesn’t convey this well.

Exercise: Conveying character

My daughter Katie is a perfect model for this task – she has one of those faces that really lights up a room when she’s happy but boy do you know it when she’s not! The photographer caught one of those moments at her wedding with them roaring with laughter.

SAA Artists Cotton Canvas, for oils and acrylics, 40x50cm . Using acrylics this time so that I can get this done in a day or two. Working with the canvas flat on the table rather than on an easel. Haven’t used canvas before but it’s primed and ready to go. Start with pencil outlines and watered down acrylic washes to get basic shapes.

The tones on the faces are all important to get the humour, as are the shape of the eyes.

I struggled a lot with the mouths and getting dark flesh tones that weren’t pink – eventually got them sort of ok and the Paynes Grey shading down the tongues helped. Yet again doing fine accurate lines defeated me and their glasses frames are weirdly shaped. I used a very light violet together with Titanium White for the lacy dresses and dabbed on the paint to leave a slightly textured finish – quite happy with the effect.

Skin tones are much better this time with acrylics rather than oils – I’m keeping it thin and it’s easy to blend and control.

Katie, on the right, is not too bad – could have got more of a sparkle into her eyes but she’s definitely laughing. Toni, on the left, isn’t quite there – her face is too wide, should be longer under the mouth, and her eyes are too low behind her glasses. Decided that I needed to adjust her a bit…

Changed the hair line which makes quite a difference. Can’t alter the placement of her eyes at this stage though.

I feel that although the likenesses are not quite there, I have managed to portray the humour with their facial expressions. I’m happy that I’m progressing with my colour mixing and that the skin tones are improving now.

Review of all my portraits:

Each one has been successful in their way and I’ve certainly learnt from each to move me forward. I started with sickly pale skin tones, moved to too pink before getting it right for the final piece. The first 3 were oils which I found a challenge technically as they need to be left to dry before more layers and corrections can be added. I enjoyed the speed that it was possible to complete the last one in acrylics a refreshing end to this section.

My personal favourite is the abstract figure in red tones. I love the vibrancy and life of this painting, and look forward to doing more in this style. The other true to life portraits are competent attempts but they highlight the errors to someone who knows the people portrayed. A lot more practice would be needed for me to feel competent with painting true to life portraits. If I get time I’d like to have a go at painting Katie (on the right) in the fauve style of Ivy Lang above – lots of vibrant complementary colours used for the tones…

Part 3

Project: Observing the human figure

Exercise: Drawing the human Figure – see sketchbook for a range of life drawing sketches. As I couldn’t find a life drawing class at short notice, I managed to find this site with timed poses for free. It’s possible to sign up and pay to get the full package of poses and tuition but I’m sticking with the free stuff for now:

New Masters Academy (2015) Draw the Human Form – Figure Drawing Reference (DLDS # 33) – 4K Timed Nude Life Models Session. At: (Accessed on 20 November 2019)

Research: image collection of figure drawings and painting that appeal to me (artists listed below).

  1. Annette Smith, watercolour
  2. Evelina Dilon – realistic skin tones but applied in rough way
  3. Debra Hurd – skin tones enhanced with warm reds and ‘life’
  4. Justin Ogilvie – detail toward front but rear leg etc have none, just shadow
  5. Ingres
  6. Ingres
  7. Leomid Aframov – feathery, dabbing brush strokes, I might find this easier?
  8. Anastasiya Valiulina, oil on canvas – violet as mid tone skin
  9. Helena Wierzbicki
  10. Helena Wierzbicki – background and figure have same colours, all about the placement of the colours. Uses black outline where darker toned
  11. Standing Blue Nude by Henri Matisse – just carefully shaped cutouts, no tone at all
  12. The Dance by Henri Matisse
  13. Three Studies of a Ballerina by Edgas Degas
  14. Worm drawing at Hickory Museum of Art – line to give tones, extremities without detail
  15. You’re Still My Favorite Story by Samantha Rueter – same colour for figure and background, black lines to show form, lightest tones left white, direction of brush strokes

Exercise: Linear Figure Study

Lots of different styles and techniques shown above to choose from of course but for this task I’m going to try out the style of Samantha Rueter (no. 15 and also see sketchbook)

This is the pose I chose and first sketches focussing on line:

I then tested out a few techniques to see what worked. Samantha Rueter uses Acrylics and Mixed Media for most of her work. I was interested to try making the lines in a variety of ways (see sketchbook):

Acrylic Ink background with credit card and figure lines with stick – a bit tricky to control

Acrylic paint this time which doesn’t scrape very interestingly but it’s easy to get a range of tones by diluting. Figure lines with brush – I like the layering of tones with line as on head and shoulder area.

This one’s watercolour which I have very little experience of using ‘properly’ so am making it up! On Hahnemuhle Mixed Media 310gm2 paper for watercolour.

First applied wash of violet and tilted page to allow it to run and spread. Allowed to dry a little and then used a credit card to scrape back the lines of the figure. Dried off with hairdryer and then used credit card to add paint to accentuate lines and areas of darker tone eg face and shoulder, bottom and lower back. Used credit card to scrape paint horizontally for floor and vertically for walls to ground the figure (Violet and Phthalo Blue). Yellow (complementary colour) highlights added – not applied well and look a mess but perhaps if done better…

Interesting method, needs more practice to get it right but I feel this could go somewhere so trying more watercolour figures:

Water Colour, this time on Canson Mix Media 200gm2 paper.

There is too much background this time and the lower half of the figure hasn’t got the correct proportions. I did try lightly drawing on the outline before applying the wash but it got lost of course. I do like the crop below however – the angles of the shoulder and how it’s highlighted on the upper side, the heavy shade on the face and neck, and the ragged hair falling over her face.

Another watercolour try:

Back to the Hahnemuhle Mixed Media 310gm2 paper. Proportions better this time and I like having less background colour. Worked hard on the shaded area of face and neck, and again that area has worked well whereas the feet and lower legs are wrong but reworking is making it worse! Scraping back the wash gives very light outlines of slight puddles of wash ie light line effect for the light areas. By then adding paint to the darker toned lines, the figures become 3 dimensional and rounded.

This paper is very different from the Canson – although this one specifically says for watercolour, the surface doesn’t hold up to much rubbing and is rather like blotting paper giving a rough textured finish rather than the smooth of Hahnemuhle paper.

Exercise: Tonal figure study

Restricted palette so that I focus on the tonal values so perhaps something like the figure by Justin Ogilvie (no. 4 above)

Chosen pose as there’s lots of contrast

Acrylics on SAA Practice Paper, Satin Linen – Embossed Surface 330gsm.

Started with a mid toned grey wash as suggested. Decided to go with blue instead of flesh colours so that I could focus on the tones rather than getting the exact colour correct. Mixed up a range of 9 tones using Indigo, white and black acrylic – see sketchbook.

Left to dry for a few hours after 3. above so that I could focus on the adjustments needed. Used a mop brush to apply a light second coat to background so that brush strokes largely disappeared and to give the feel of more texture. Changed to my smallest rounded point brush and did dots rather the strokes which seemed to work better for me. Really studied the changes in tone. Reworked the face and hands several times but still not totally happy that they’re correct. Left overnight.

Small reworkings to hands – I realised that I had all the fingers splayed rather than overlapping at the tips and added darker tone to the finger ends. Also narrowed the top of that right arm toward wrist. Bit better now.

Overall I’m quite happy that I’ve got the tones largely correct so that she looks realistic and rounded. Hands and head still aren’t quite right but the best I can do for now.

The angle of her lower left leg isn’t correct – should be vertical rather than angled inward, and this has the effect of making her look like she’s dancing/bouncing around instead of putting some weight into those toes in a still pose.

Loving this paper – paint glides over it smoothly and it’s sturdy enough not to crinkle at all. Expensive but probably worth it.