Portrait o’ the Auld Dear

I’d been struggling over the past couple of weeks trying to work up a full-sized portrait of my mum from a small colour study I had painted from life when she was in town one weekend and from a large black and white printout of a (bad) photograph of her that I took at the time. I was planning to get the piece finished before the 10th of November, which is the hand in date for the Royal Scottish Academy’s annual open exhibition in Edinburgh. When my mum messaged me last week to ask how it was going and I told that it wasn’t going well, she offered to come down from Inverness for the weekend (about a three hour bus journey) and sit for me again. I’m delighted that she did, as I’m really pleased with the result (see below). What a trooper she is too – she arrived on Friday night and sat for me from about 10:30 am yesterday until 8 pm (we took about three hours in breaks altogether), then again today from about 9:30 am until 12:30 pm. Her bus home left today (Sunday) at 5:40pm, so a hell of a weekend trip!

This has really cemented for me the importance of working from life whenever possible. There are obvious reasons for doing so, for example the fact that the eye sees so much more than the camera sensor. But I also feel that when I work from photographs – which are always static and unchanging – I get far too caught up in trying to copy the photograph exactly as it appears, rather than selecting the essential elements of the face that convey the likeness and character of the sitter. There is also the fact that a photograph only captures a brief moment in time. Something that I find attractive about a painting is that it distills a long period of time – paraphrasing something I read on the Georgetown Atelier website: it is a multitude of moments, stitched together selectively by the artist.

EDIT: I took the advice of a user called Steven Sweeney on the Stroke of Genius portrait artists’ forum (http://www.portraitartistforum.com) and made a small change to the shadow on my mum’s forehead – lightening it and softening the edge slightly so that it’s less distracting to the eye. So thanks go to Steven for the suggestion.

“Portrait of my Mother” Oil on canvas (12′ x 10′)

I also took some progress shots as I was going. If anyone’s interested in the process I use, have a gander at the slide show below:

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Oh and one other thing – several weeks ago some really nice people at a company called Dynasty Brush (http://dynastybrush.com/) were kind enough to send me a selection of their brushes to try out for free. They took a while to arrive from the US and when they did, I had a lot going on personally and I never had the good grace to thank them for it. Well the above portrait was painted, in large part, using those brushes. I’m particularly taken with their Mongolian sable flats, but the Beau Blancs are pretty good too. So thank you guys, and sorry for not being more forthcoming with the gratitude.


~ by cdrfuzz on October 28, 2012.

2 Responses to “Portrait o’ the Auld Dear”

  1. How wonderful! I love it and thanks for the mention!

  2. […] First of all, as most of my friends already know, I had some pretty awesome news in March, when the portrait of my mum that was rejected by the RSA was accepted into the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP) annual […]

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