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!
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