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Monday, March 17, 2014

The life of Brian - My portrait for the portrait painters Hunter 2014 exhibition

For this years exhibition we have to paint someone of note.  Brian has retired but was

Foundation Professor of Social Work, University of Newcastle 1990 to 2005; Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University  1997 to 2005.

He is a published nature and documentary photographer.

Brian came along as a model for one of our sessions. Here is my unfinished 2.30hr practise portrait of him. 
30 x 40cms Oil on canvas

 I was looking for someone to paint and when  I heard he was a sailor and had sailed around Australia and was soon to sail around Cape Horn I was inspired to ask him if he would agree to let me paint him.
He was happy to be a subject. My partner had just bought a boat in Pittwater near Sydney and we were looking for someone to help us sail the boat back to Lake Macquarie. Brian was keen so I took this opportunity to take some photos of him helming. I had already taken some inside the yacht club but wanted some more natural ones so this was ideal. My portrait is a combination of about 5 different photos.
 I started with another idea at first or at least another face. I was going to place the most animated face I had taken at the yacht club on one of his body helming from the trip home. Although this option would have been more flattering I  decided I would use another photo of his face taken on the trip. Here he is more wind swept and in the sun and it would better create the atmosphere I was after . 
 The painting isn't a commissioned portrait just one I am doing for myself.
If it was a commissioned portrait we would choose the most flattering photo! I have also exaggerated the character lines on his face in this painting. In a commissioned portrait I generally subdue these.

 Here you can see my first choice with his animated face from the yacht club photos on a photo of him helming on the way home. I've placed a rough grid on the canvas just to make sure I don't end up placing him too far to one side.

 I was short of time so quickly under painted the portrait ready to start as the Art Bazaar demo.I usually spend a long time planning something like this but didn't have enough time so leapt in!

I decided on the new face the night before the bazaar. Here is the portrait at the Art Bazaar with the complementary ( opposite colour) underpainting in acrylic and a rough face from the new photo.


Below- I'm starting to come back over with Oil colours in the correct colours. 
The idea is to leave a little of the under colour to peek through to make the colours vibrate a little and make the portrait more interesting and colourful.
The hard part is not covering it all up!
Here I have started on his jacket. I realised after I started that he has 2 jackets - a lightweight and a heavy weight. I ended up combining features from both for the best colour and effect. 

Below- I have roughly covered all his wetgear and it is the correct colour.

 This gives you an idea how large the portrait is. The sun was shining on half of it by now which makes taking decent photo hard. This is how much I got done at the Art Bazaar demo.

Back in the studio I take the time to get a better likeness in the blue under painting.
The wet paint has sheen on it so it is hard to take photos.
 Below is what the painting looks like at this stage.

Now for the scary part!
 As soon as I start putting the Oil colours over I lose the likeness and it goes through the ugly stage-ugh! 
Very demoralising- time to resist frisbeeing it across the room and just hang in there until it starts to look better! lol's

Time to put some sunlit highlights on his face..

 Phew .. starting to come good.I'm quite excited at this point!
Getting there!
 I'm pretty happy with his face- not quite finished a bit of tweaking necessary here and there but I'll come back at the end for that.
I need to cover the yellow in the water - It's a pity to lose the colour but it is distracting you from Brian's face and I need the water to be darker as I am planning to put some sunlit .
splashes on it.
 A lot more work to go. Refine his jacket and get some sunlight on it, do his hands and the boat railings etc and generally bring it all together.
 I'd usually work all over the painting at once and do finish his face at the end but I only have 3 weeks to complete the painting so I thought I'd get the likeness first so I won't be stressed trying to get that at the last moment.

To be continued!

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