Friday, May 14, 2010

Portrait demonstration

Throughout the year, I give portrait demonstrations to many art groups and societies. These can be great fun but also challenging in that you never know who the model is going to be. You hope that the person selected or volunteered will look interesting, striking, distinctive etc. But there is no guarantee. You hope also that they will be engaged in the process, be lively and willing to enter into a dialogue with you so that you become a sort of double act , a form of entertainment for the audience. Occasionally, I am allowed to choose from amidst the "shrinking violets" before me and I am glad to say that usually my instinct is right. But mostly, the victim has been pre-selected.
Over the years, numerous memorable things have happened. There was the time when the model, an elderly gentleman, instantly fell asleep and snoring loudly . No matter how much I cajoled or prodded, could I keep him in a state of consciousness. I cracked all my best jokes and anecdotes but the audience sat in stony silence and all that could be heard was the sound of sweety wrappers being unfurled. It was a "beam me up Scotty" night. I did struggle on manfully and produced a fairly decent portrait by the end of the evening. The group applauded loudly and said it had been extremely enjoyable and informative. Would I come back again? I smiled sweetly, grabbed my cheque and fled , vowing never to return within a 60 mile radius of the place! On another occasion, I was demonstrating to a group of over 80 people. Being such a large audience they decided to wire me up for sound. A very odd experience. Even odder when I forgot my "electronic" state and went off to the toilet and shared it with everybody.
This last Monday, I gave a demonstration to Hartest art group in Suffolk. I am delighted to say that none of the above horrors occurred. It was my third visit and so it was rather like meeting up with old friends. The banter was good with artist and audience winding each other up.

The artist at work.

I spent just under two hours on this oil portrait of Sue. I began by explaining about materials I would be using as well as techniques, proportions, tone, and colour mixing. With a large hog's hair brush and turpentine I roughly drew in the outline of the head and fixed the position of the various features. Then it was time to block in the main flesh tones, mid -tones, and shadows before concentrating on the finer details of the eyes etc. Working in this alla prima way there is only a certain amount one can do on the day, all of which was explained to and discussed with the audience. Below, is the painting at the end of the session.

To learn more of the techniques used see my various other blogs. To see me " in action " watch the video of me painting a portrait in 80 minutes in the "Tuition and Demonstration " section.

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