Part 3 – Exercise 6: Creating mood & atmosphere – finished study

I was real boy of the 1960’s and 1970’s, living a life influenced by the music and culture of the times. I decided to look back to this time for my ‘mood/atmosphere’ portrait and chose an old photograph taken at the wedding of a girlfriend of my wife back in the day.

I was, and still am, a big fan of the American band The Eagles, and saw them live at the Glasgow Apollo on 8th November 1973 (they were fronted by Neil Young who spent almost all of his set with his back to the audience – boo! – but he was great too).

The Eagles album ‘Desperado’ was released in April 1973, and to be honest I probably modelled myself physically, visually and psychologically on the ‘look’ of the western desperado for most of the rest of the 1970’s. Don’t ask me why – it just was the way us students behaved and acted at the time! Probably something to do with trying to find an identity, never mind my own sense of who I was.

Anyway, I have taken this wedding photo as my inspiration for this ‘mood & atmosphere’ self-portrait:

Exercise 6 - reference photo

Exercise 6 – reference photo









You can tell that Gloria, the bride, wasn’t that chuffed with my wedding attire!

For this self-portrait I chose to do a full-length pose on a 20 x 60cm canvas and I also wanted to start to make use of my recently purchased Wilcox oil palette and the selected 6 colour palette of the ‘Colour Bias Wheel’.

This is the first rendering of my self-portrait, setting out the main components of the composition, carried out in one afternoon:

Exercise 6 - creating mood & atmosphere - work in progress (click image to enlarge)

Exercise 6 – creating mood & atmosphere – work in progress (click image to enlarge)














Stuart Brownlee – 512319

22nd April, 2014


It took me a wee while to reflect on the first attempt and in the end I didn’t make much by the way of changes – concentrating mainly on darkened shadows and some highlights – light source from upper side-body downward from right to left. Anyway, here is the finished study reflecting my mood of 1970’s bravado. The typical kind of scruffy student look, with the ill-fitting suit, but the star turn being my pair of blue suede boots – notice the not so subtle index finger pointing downwards! This was me in my ‘desperado’ phase, but you know – ‘I came to my senses’.

Exercise 6 - creating mood & atmosphere - 'Desperado' (click image to enlarge)

Exercise 6 – creating mood & atmosphere – ‘Desperado’ (click image to enlarge)













I think that I am getting a bit less fussed about the detail and more trying to capture the spirit and essence of what I would like to portray. I am pretty pleased with this retrospective look at myself from over 40 years ago. I believe I do still have some of the rebellious spirit invoked here left to see me through.

I used mainly a size 12 filbert brush for this work and plan to try scaling my brush sizes up for future exercises – I read somewhere that using larger brushes combats the fascination with too much detail?

The oil paints for this exercise were:

Cadmium Red Light – orange-red (pigment PR 108)
Cerulean Blue – green-blue (pigment PB 35)
Cadmium Yellow – orange-yellow (pigment PY 35)
Yellow Ochre (pigment PY 43)
Burnt Sienna (pigment PBr 7)
Payne’s Grey – blue-black (pigments PB 29 – PBk 7)
Titanium White (pigment PW 6)

I also used ‘Zest-it’ oil paint dilutant to thin my paints for applying washes upon dried washes. This is the first time that I have tried this technique and find that it lets you crack on with painting instead of waiting for thicker application of oil paints to dry.

In late May/early June I am planning a trip to the Outer Hebrides and plan to try and capture some of the wonderful beaches, water and skycapes there and am thinking already about taking some canvas boards (easy to carry) and a limited palette of oil paints/brushes/thinners to see how I get on with some plein air work.

So, in the meantime, it’s onto the next exercise in Part 3 ‘Conveying character’.

Exercise 6 – Creating mood and atmosphere ← click the link to download a .pdf version of this page

Stuart Brownlee – 512319

29th April, 2014