I spent a wonderful and very productive 4 days at the Summerleaze Gallery Studios in Wiltshire. Four days of having a variety of models at our disposal under the watchful and extremely helpful eye of portrait artist Anthony Connolly. This was a small slice of heaven for me. Undiluted portrait paradise. The models were chosen for us, the poses were chosen. All I had to do was paint. Bliss.
My ideal sitter would always be an elderly man. So when John turned up at the studio, tall, debonair, with a wonderfully upright posture and a scarf draped rakishly around his long neck, I thought all my Christmases had come at once.
He was positioned on a wooden chair in front of a burnt orange carpet as a backdrop. His colouring was quite warm too.
One of the most striking things about John was that you could see the structure of the skull beneath the skin.
For this oil sketch I decided on a long thin canvas to reflect his long, thin pose. And I primed it with burnt sienna so that the warm tones would resonate up through the paint.
On a canvas primed with burnt sienna, plan the positioning of the head by blocking out the main shapes. Given his height, I wanted his head to be near the top of the canvas.
Quickly establish the tonal range – lightest light and darkest dark.
Start to find the likeness – wider across the the cheeks.
Build out across the cheekbones. The shadow under the brows is a warm dark not a cold dark. Once the socket is well-defined, I am able to construct the actual eyes themselves. Heavy lids. Add the brows which perch on the ridge of the socket. Add a tiny dash of light into the eyes and imply the pupil with a dash of dark just below. Make the hair more organic so that it grows out of the head in a rather more natural way.
Finishing touches. Touch more definition in the eyes. Shadows of the sockets more defined. Little accents of light and dark to tie it all in together.