Time for this assignment was getting short with just ten days to go to submission date on the 20th May. So, I decided to return to acrylics for this study for the sake of speedier drying time. I also chose to slightly reduce the size of canvas used and selected a pre-gessoed 40.6 x 50.8 cm Crawford & Black white canvas board in landscape format for my chosen composition.
I had been thinking about this final assignment 3 piece over the last few weeks while having exercises 7, 8 and 9 all on the go at the same time to maximise both time and paint! I found doing this had benefits of cross-fertilisation between paintings as well, informing and sharing practice across canvases.
My thoughts for the final assignment piece were turning around a head and shoulder self-portrait of learning artist (me as student) at work – self-advertisement (in terms of the National Portrait Gallery categorisation – http://www.npg.org.uk/assets/files/pdf/learning/NPG_17-21C_portraits.pdf
I had also been on the recent OCA study visit to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern 2) in Edinburgh to enjoy and explore the work of the Scottish Colourist J.D. Fergusson. What I particularly took away from this visit, amongst other learning points, was the impact of vibrant colours, bold marks and brush work within a composition that can really lift and bring alive a piece of work beyond what might might be expected.
Experimenting with mirror images of myself in ‘painterly’ pose I made a couple of initial sketches to judge scale and angle that would be appropriate for what I thought I wanted to convey in the study. I also made some other sketches from photographs:
I then tried out a couple of other poses appearing to paint onto a canvas and chose the bottom one as the basis for my study:
My next decision was what to place on the ‘blank’ canvas as my painting. Looking back at previous exercises in this part of the course I chose to use the head & shoulder portrait from Exercise 5:
The head & shoulder self portrait painting showing me painting the head & shoulder portrait of my wife seemed appropriate, particularly as she has been supportive of my efforts, commenting and offering constructive criticism on my progress through Painting 1.
The acrylic paints I chose for my palette were based on the same range of oil paint pigments that I had used for Exercise 5:
Cadmium Red Cerulean Blue
Primary Magenta French Ultramarine
Primary Yellow Phtalocyanine Emerald
Burnt Sienna (and including: Titanium White and Payne’s Grey)
The brushes used were: Short Flat – size 10 | Filbert – sizes 2 & 6 (the brush in the painting) | Fan – size 2
The background for this study was my studio wall and the painting being painted ended up as a part-portrait to fit with the overall composition. I believe that I was influenced by my visit to Edinburgh to view the work of JD Fergusson and my mark making and use of colour is bolder here that in my previous exercises. An admission to one wee ‘cheat’ here, as I am now kind off silvery-grey haired I used a sneaky wee tube of Pebeo Iridescent Silver to better capture that effect in my self-portrait.
There are three portraits that I discovered in my research that particularly appealed to me in their use of brush strokes, colour and composition.
The way that the eyes in particular are depicted in Kees van Dongen’s 1905 ‘Portrait de Fernande’ intrigued me [see Research & Reflection – Part 3 – Research Point 2 – Mood & Atmosphere, p6] and although I didn’t quite capture the depth of emptiness painted by van Dongen, I still managed to paint a pair of scary eyes.
A similar approach to eyes can also be seen in ‘Head’ by Alexei Jandensky (c1910) [see Research & Reflection – Part 3 – Research Point 2 – Mood & Atmosphere, p8] and the exaggerated mark making of this German Expressionist ‘Blue Rider’ artist again influenced my not very flattering handling of the eyes and mouth shapes in this study.
The final influence on my approach to this study was seeing JD Fergusson’s self-portrait ‘The Grey Hat’ (1909) up close, which “is remarkable in the use of the flat black outlines of the figure – more linear in approach I think than tonal. The image is also quite geometric in relation to the way in which the composition makes use of line and rhythm of brush marks.” [see Study Visit to the Scottish Colourist Series: JD Fergusson, p2].
Perhaps the trickiest part of achieving my finished study was in the handling of the flesh tones. I ended up over-painting parts of these twice or more in order to get the effect I was after – kind of unnatural but striking. My forehead and nose really were that reddish colour (either due to being out in the sun too long or one whisky too many, or maybe a combination of both!).
In terms of the overall composition, I have been exploring the ‘Golden Ratio’ Phi 1.618 and came across a piece of software ‘Golden Ratio Design and Analysis Software’ www.phimatrix.com that enables you to overlay a range of ratio templates, from golden rectangles, spirals, rule of thirds and other grids, onto your photos on screen. Without knowing about this when I started to paint the study, it would appear that the two halfs that make up my finished piece are in Phi 1.618 ratio – two side by side golden rectangles:
Assignment three ← click the link to download a .pdf version of this page
Stuart Brownlee – 512319
17th May, 2014