A word about the composition.
My view is that although portraits are, by their very nature, a still snapshot of the subject, a degree of visual movement helps to bring the painting to life. In the case of this composition, I’ve introduced a strong diagonal element running from the top left – note the angle from his head, down the profile of his body and hands to bottom right - echoed by the microscope which I want to play an important part of the design.
You can see opposite that I've started to paint his hands - what a nightmare this always is. The fingers are difficult enough, especially when entwined, but for me the real challenges are fingernails - making them look as if they really 'belong' to the hand and not just stuck on afterwards.
Also he has a small bust of Socrates reflecting his interest in ancient Greece so this forms an important ingredient of the portrait.
You'll see from the following pictures how I’m working on the background in stages to ensure it blends and becomes part of the painting. I start off by just what you might call ‘roughly knocking it in’ and then I'll add further detail at a later stage.
Eventually I'll have the entire canvas board covered with sufficient information to enable me to put in some finer detail where appropriate. Having said this, I’m not a great enthusiast for photo-realism so I want to retain a degree of painterliness (if that’s a word) in the finished portrait. In my view it encourages the viewer to use his or her imagination to complete their own interpretation and suggest the character of the subject which of course is vital if the portrait is in any way going to be successful.
When this is done and the paint has more or less dried, I shall then use glazes to blend and unite him with the background. This simply means diluting a chosen colour with turpentine and Liquin to an almost colourless fluid consistency and floating it over the areas that require this. Sometimes it’s useful to use the technique on skin tones as it generates a sort of living glow to bring it to life. And if you mix it thinly, you can lay this on in stages until you achieve the density of tone you want.
Well, it’s finally there. I’m happy that the tonal and colour balance between the figure and the background is now ok and the glazes have helped them to blend and work together. The painting has now dried sufficiently for me to varnish the surface and this should take just a day or so to harden.
The painting and the varnish dried nice and quickly so it’s been to Talisman for some expert framing. I chose a wide, matt black frame with fine, gold, inner brush lines to reflect the warm colours in the composition. Just picked it up so this afternoon I shall deliver it to Alan and Marcia. If you thought portrait painting was difficult, waiting for that first reaction from the subject is really worrying. Just hope he likes it – otherwise it’s back to the drawing board. Only kidding – I hope it’s not that bad! So here’s the finished portrait – it’s taken a while and there have been quite a few corrections along the way but as far as I can be, I’m happy with the result.
That completes this blog and I hope you've found it interesting. If you have a painting, drawing , sketch, a favourite artist or an exhibition you've recently enjoyed, please share it with members. Anything art-related that you think would be of interest, simply e-mail me - details in the Members section - and we'll do what we can to get it posted on the blog.
Enjoy your painting
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