drawing, Uncategorized

Food for Art

Ooh look what Skye, my portrait model for last night’s portrait class, brought! I feel a portrait AND a still life coming on!



10 min charcoal sketch on cartridge paper


Latest Portrait (Dr Ivan Pollock)

Just finished another commissioned portrait.

I took a few photos of the process and am sharing them here.

The first sitting is always scary –  exchanging a few awkward niceties with someone you have never met before and then starting to sketch them.

As if it isn’t bad enough sketching in front of people let alone someone who doesn’t know you!

At this stage it’s sometimes more about interacting with your subject and  the drawing is an analytical study more than creating a “likeness”. (just as well!)


15 min charcoal line sketch

At the end of the sitting, a couple of nervous sketches and a batch of photos later I get to work on the next stage – tonal sketches and layouts for the final composition.

This is a head and shoulders commission so I worked to the same dimensions as the canvas itself.


Looking at this now after several weeks more of studying the subject, I can’t believe how unobserved it was.

Below is a reworked study – much more satisfying!

Study for Dr Ivan Pollock Portrait 2

Willow charcoal on hot-pressed watercolour paper

However next stage is transferring the image to the canvas. I prefer to work on stretched linen for these portraits and I often start with a terre verte underpainting.

This is when I request a second sitting and, using raw umber and white , I start a tonal painting.


Time for dabbing on some colour. Now the terre verte underpainting comes into play. The skin tones resonate immediately with the green contrast:-


The subject was to be painted in his academic gown and hood and I felt these would work best with a dark background:-


In the course of painting – studying the planes, lines and characteristics of the face I tend sometimes to over emphasise them creating an image which looks older than the subject really is so this is the point where another sitting is necessary to reduce this effect and check skin tones, hair and costume colours  – also realised I had major corrections to do around the mouth area :-


Final stage – waiting for approval from the person who commissioned the painting – another scary moment but thankfully they liked it!


Portrait of Dr Ivan Pollock

Headmaster of Campbell College Belfast 1987 – 2005


Ballynoe stone circle

This beautiful island of Ireland never fails to amaze me.


Yesterday I visited the ancient Ballynoe Stone Circle. Lying 2.5 miles south of Downpatrick, parts of this site date as far back as Neolithic times and the early bronze age (3000 -4000 BC)


This is the grassy vortex that leads from the main road through what seemed like middle earth to the site and back 5000 years!


The sun was shining, the air was crisp and clear and there was frost on the ground.


In the distance were the blue Mourne mountains.

The only noise was the drone of a distant tractor trimming hedges.


What do these stones mean who put them there and what did they do there?

Excavated in the 1930s the plaque at the entrance states that it’s still not fully understood when various parts were added and for what purpose – certainly partly used  as a burial site – but I have ideas of my own! Just look at the shape of that stone and then compare it to Slieve Donard in the distance – could it be some sort of homage to the magnificent nature surrounding them? Of course this is just fancy on my part as Ireland was probably covered in forest at that stage and the mountains may not have been seen at all from Ballynoe!

A magical,timeless place, surrounded by beautiful countryside


-this is our heritage and it belongs to us all – 20 miles and a million light years from Belfast – I wonder if neolithic folks fought over flags!