This was nearly the painting that changed everything. Nearly.
Painted in the spring of 2015, it’s one step away from the painting that changed my approach to portraits. It’s a crucial step and worth visiting. Unfortunately the photos aren’t great. Not sure what was going on with my phone camera, but it was picking up the overhead lights and adding a soft blur to everything.
I use my camera a lot while I paint. It has harsh eyes and lets me see where things aren’t working. It’s unforgiving but never cruel, and has become an essential tool. Sure I post as I go, but I use the photos first to adjust my direction with colour and design.
Did you know that Leonardo Da Vinci did the same thing?
Not with a camera but with a mirror. Again, unforgiving and yet a mirror changes the view enough to allow an artist to see where things are going wrong. That was one of my tools in the days where taking a photo meant film, processing and at least a week’s wait.
I believe this was my first portrait using the black canvas that I now use for everything. I know that when I used to chalk on my drawings, I always used fixative to keep the chalk in place. On black canvas, fixative makes the chalk disappear as it dries.
I reached the above point of the second photo and could no longer see my drawing. It caused a few moments of panic because an accurate drawing is the most important part of a portrait. Fuck it up, and you might as well stop painting.
Feedback was awesome though. Everyone told me to stop where I was since the intensity of the eyes was gripping. And I did stop. But only for a few days. This painting really felt like it could be something and I needed to finish it. So I held me breath and chalked on a new drawing. No fixative this time.
The reality was, many of the important parts of the drawing were in place so it was a matter of filling in the blanks. This time I worked with a red and brown base. Something I don’t do now. I add the red in at a later stage and work with a naples yellow and burnt umber base.
This was one of my more intense paintings since Sherlock was staring directly in my eyes for the entire time. Eye contact isn’t always easy, for me it’s something I learned to do since I was averse to it growing up. It was surreal, uncomfortable and ultimately rewarding to make fake eye contact for hours to get this painting done.
At this stage, this is where my phone came in handy. You’ll notice that there’s a lot of refining of the shadows. Playing with adding lights in and making sure there are no flat colours until I got to the point where I was happy with things.
And finally, the end was in sight. Lots of push and pull with flesh tones and shadows. Then I got to play with frames because this one is hanging on my gallery wall in my house. At least until it sells.
20″ x 16″
Acrylic on canvas