Practice of Painting Course Work ~ Part 3

Project ~ Observing the Human Figure

Exercise ~ Drawing the Human Figure

For this exercise I went to my local life drawing group which happens every Tuesday evening and have a nice variety of models. I concentrated on line drawings as the exercise is about drawing lines and looking at the shapes within and around the figure. Fortunately the model posed in many positions throughout the evening with varied timings to allow for quick sketches and more concentrated sketches. I used 2B and 3B pencils for the speed drawings of 2 mins and 4 mins as well as pen. I like to use a fine liner and go straight in with the sketch so as to not be too tight. I used charcoal for the 15 minute pose but found my self naturally drawing in mid tones.  So for the 30 minute seated pose I used pen again to concentrate on the line formation of the drawing. Below are the drawings from the evening.

Drawing the human figure - line quick sketches

Drawing the human figure - pencil sketch
15 min pencil sketch.
Drawing the human figure - line
2 min sketches, I like the movement of lines in the middle sketch.
Drawing the human figure - 30 min pen
30 minute life drawing in pen (pencil first).
Drawing the human figure - 15 min sketch pen
15 minute life sketch in pen.
life drawing line and tone charcoal - 15 min
Charcoal line and tone sketch – 15 minute. A3

Exercise ~ Linear figure study

My friend Helen sat for me in these following sketches to prepare for the linear painting. I chose to have her reclining on my sofa for a relaxed and comfortable pose.

Linear figure study pre sketches c

Linear figure study pre sketches b Linear figure study pre sketches

I decided to use oils for the first time in a very long time with this exercise as it’s not too detailed in terms of the brief.

Linear figure study line in paint
Linear drawing in paint for the figure. A3

I chose yellow ochre and burnt sienna for the lines as there is a dark red and purple background that she is sitting on.

Linear figure study drawing with paint 2
I like this painting at this stage with the painted quality along with the drawn lines.

It’s been great painting with oils and I found myself engrossed for hours with this painting. I like the way I could pick up the drawn line of paint and blend it into the painting. As I continued I realised I was painting more than drawing. I like the freedom of working the drawn marks into the paint to create texture and movement.

Linear figure study drawing with paint detail

I used a bit too much thinner here with has made an interesting run mark in the middle, which I like.


Linear figure study drawing with paint 3a

Linear figure study drawing with paint 4

The colours I used were: Yellow Ochre, Burnet Sienna, Alizarin, Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red and white. I mixed Ultramarine Blue with Alizarin to create the purple and muted with a touch of white, while for the flesh tones I used, Cadmium Yellow, Cad Red, white and a touch of Ochre and purple for shadows.

Linear figure study drawing with paint detail texture
detail of throw on the sofa and flesh tone.

Exercise ~ Tonal Figure Study

I prepared a ground in cream neutral oil and sketched the figure using a fine brush and burnt sienna mixed with yellow ochre. I then started painting the darker areas of the figure where the shadows were cast. I mixed tones of flesh using cadmium yellow, cadmium red, white and ultramarine blue for shadow tones. I made a series of tones on the palette so I could paint various tones to depict the form of my model. Adding in white I adjusted the tones to create the highlights showing the lit areas of her figure.

I was painting wet on wet with the oils and I like the way the colours mixed picking up the tone of the ground to create some of the mid tones. The wet ground also helped with muting the throw and sofa that Helen was reclining on.

I’m only just starting to get used to painting with oils and the way they behave in comparison to acrylics. I like that they stay wet and pliable for longer and the colours are great in terms that they remain true to the colours I’ve mixed.

Exercise ~ Tonal Figure sketch

Exercise ~ Tonal Figure

Exercise ~ Tonal Figure detail b

Exercise ~ Tonal Figure detail

I enjoy seeing the brush marks I’ve made where you can see the movement of the paint where I’m trying to create the shapes of the figure. I think the feet have come out quite well although one appears to be bigger than the other. But the angle of the top foot was going away and over the lower positioned foot where more of the inside of the foot could be seen. I picked up some of the red pink tones and mixed in with the shadows of the figure as though to reflect onto the skin. I think it helps to sit the figure in the composition.

Exercise ~ Self Portrait

Self Portrait a
Self Portrait ~ The beginning, in oil.
self portrait b
Self Portrait ~ working on the skin tones.
Self portrait c
Self Portrait ~ A3 in oil on oil paper.

This exercise was both exciting and challenging. I actually worked from a photo I asked my son to take. I sat on the sofa which is in front of the window so there was natural light coming from my left and slightly in front. The background is the cream of the wall with a slight grey shadow which I felt would sit well with my grey top.

I drew my portrait carefully to try to capture a good likeness before starting with paint. My palette was a mix of Cadmium red and yellow, prussian blue, white and burnt umber. I started with painting in the dark mid tones and shadows trying to work with the paint to capture my skin shapes and contours. I then started to paint in some of the light tones. It’s the first time I’ve painted in oil properly and I felt excited by it and the way the colours blended so well in comparison to using acrylic for so many years. I like the way I could use a touch of another colour which would then blend easily into the already applied paint. I found myself forgetting that the paint would still be wet and found I was picking up some of the colour that I didn’t want to.

I tried to be as honest as possible with observation and to paint my older looking face such as how the cheek drops slightly into the jaw. I found it quite hard to create the contour in my cheek, but enjoyed investigating with the tones of flesh colour to create this.

I think it is a good likeness and I learned a bit more about what I actually look like rather than what I think I look like. I asked friends and my son and daughter and they all said they could see it was me. So I’m pleased with this. I would like to be able to capture a likeness with the paint being looser, I guess this will come with practice and more fluency and confidence.

Exercise ~ Head and Shoulder Portrait

Josh Sketch Head and shoulders portrait
Sketches of Josh’s head and shoulders.
Josh Sketch Head and shoulders portrait b
Sketch of Josh’s head playing guitar.
Head & Shoulder Portrait - Josh
Head & Shoulder portrait of Josh ~ A3 in oil.

I did a few sketches of Josh my son, playing guitar, sitting in the garden and sitting straight on indoors. I decided to do a full face portrait for this exercise and I’ll work up the other sketches for the other exercises. With this portrait I wanted to achieve a more painterly affect and to try to be more fluid with it and to leave it unfinished to make it more sketchy. I was hoping for the brush stokes of colour to be evident and not so blended as in my self portrait which I think I achieved this slightly. I used the same palette for the skins tones as previously but introduced a touch of blue. Josh tends to wear black quite a lot and so would add to his portrait.

Josh was amazed by his portrait and family and friends think it’s a good likeness.


Exercise ~ Creating Mood and Atmosphere

Fauvism is a movement that inspires me in terms of the use of colour and being able to express feeling and mood. It takes away the pressure to create a realistic likeness in a portrait which makes this exercise freeing and fun. In particular I like Henri Matisse’s portraits with the bright vibrating colours to create a portrait or landscape.

For this portrait I’d like to create a bright happy mood of my son Josh. I’m quite excited that it doesn’t have to be a true likeness but a panting to convey a mood, although I would like to capture a likeness. Josh is often quiet and reflective; he can be deep, but has a musical side where he plays his guitar trying out new tunes which lifts his mood.

Josh portrait creating mood
Sketch of Josh sitting in the garden sun light.

I decided to paint with Prussian blue and purples for Josh’s clothing to evoke his quiet sombre mood with a contrast of yellow, orange, pink and red hues for his skin tones to represent his livelier mood when he’s outside in the sun or playing his guitar. They work well to create contrasts in the composition. For the highlights I mixed Pthalo turquoise and white and cadmium yellow with white.


Josh portrait creating mood a
The start of the portrait making decisions on colour for the moods.
Josh portrait creating mood b
Finished portrait in acrylic (A3)
Josh portrait creating mood detail
Detail from finished portrait.
Josh Portrait creating mood sketchbook
Sketchbook page of fauvism colour for Josh’s portrait.

Exercise ~ Conveying Character

I’ve been watching Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year recently and I find it fascinating to see how some of the artists start their paintings. Seeing how the artists work in very different approaches has inspired me to try different techniques and approaches to these exercises. Some of the artists work quite methodically by drawing in a whole drawing first and then paint with meticulous skin tones in exactly the right position. While  other artists go straight in with a strong colourful background wash and then draw in the construction lines for their portrait with a brush and then build up in layers of interest brush marks which then makes the portrait lively with the under painting glimpsing through the layers.

I’m doing a portrait of my daughter Georgia for this exercise and to capture her zany colour character. Georgia is lively in personality, never stops talking and lives her life 100 miles an hour! I’m working from a casual photo I took of her at breakfast time to be able to create her smile. Georgia has a weak left eye which is also slightly smaller than her right eye in real life, so it may look like the eyes are the wrong size in the painting to the viewer. However I do realise Ive made her ear a bit too big! but I think I’ve managed to get a good likeness which excites me.

I worked in a very different way to approaches I’ve taken before and it felt exciting and I do feel I’ve learnt how certain marks of colour can make up the shape of a face and build in the features. Any little mark can also undo what was working and also it is easy to lose the likeness by such a little mark or change of colour tone.

My palette included, Cadmium yellow, cad red, crimson, white, burnt umber and black. and I started with a bold baby pink as a background to reflect her personality. Below are the stages of Georgia’s portrait.

Georgia Portrait sketch
Sketch to construct the portrait.
Georgia portrait a
First applied wash of pink.
Georgia Portrait sketchbook page
Sketchbook page with colour mixing.
Georgia portrait b
First hues applied to create the flesh and hair.

Georgia portrait c

Georgia portrait d
Decided to work on her cheeks to even out the shadow tones.
Georgia Portrait e
Finished portrait ~ (A3) acrylic.
Georgia portrait detail
Detail from Georgia’s portrait.


Project ~ People in context


Exercise ~ A figure in an interior

I chose to paint my son Josh in our lounge as he is an accessible model and he is often playing his guitar on the sofa. I chose to be at eye level to him and also focused on an angle toward the corner of the room to create an interesting composition. I wanted the background to be pale in colour and that is the colour of the lounge any way. I kept the painting on the wall in the composition to create depth for my figure to be placed in. But I painted it very simplistically. I’m getting more used to painting in oil and so kept using oils for this exercise. The below pictures show the development of the painting. I painted the top part of the background first and then concentrated on the figure. The sofa was painted in last and it is actually a deep dusky purple. I wanted to achieve a sense of David Hockney’s ‘Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy’ painting being very simplistic.

A Figure in an interior ~ josh a

Josh in an interior b

I painted detail of the face in the dark and mid tone areas and then added the highlights. I found that I was using white too much and felt I was losing some of the deep flesh tones.

Josh interior colours
Sketchbook pages with colour mixing notes.

Josh in an interior c

Josh in an interior d
Finished painting (A3) oil.

Josh in an interior e

I found it difficult to paint the fingers with the foreshortening, and also the contorted angles of the fingers playing the guitar. I’m pleased with the clothing folds which help to depict the shape of the figure and I simplified the figure as much as I could.

Revisiting the monochrome colour mixing exercise using oils

Experimental monochrome tones in oil

Exercise ~ Telling a story

This simple narrative is from my life at the moment, where Josh had just found out his A level exams had been cancelled and that his school had suddenly closed the next day due to the Coronavirus. I’ve been working from home as well and in my lunch time we sit in the garden and Josh plays his guitar. It is a way for him to relax. I kept this painting quite free in terms of sketchy and drawing with the paint in places.

I painted in oils for this and diluted so I could move freely with it and keep the consistency more fluid. I like the simplicity of this painting and made a change from really concentrating on the other exercises.

Josh - telling a story
Telling a story ~ Josh playing his guitar after his school closing due to Coronavirus outbreak, oil.
Josh ~ telling a story detail a
Painting detail. oil
Josh ~ telling a story b
Painting detail. oil