Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Robbie

This is my latest portrait. For some time I have been collecting interesting photographs , mostly from the weekend colour magazines. This is from one such photograph. 

 Initial stages


`Robbie' 16" x 12" Waterford 140lb (300gsm) Not

I first made a careful drawing using an 07 2B mechanical pencil.  I try and get the features in the right place and the right size, often using a mechanical aid like a steel ruler or my brass variscaler. I refuse to wear a hair shirt and try and do it without aids. There was a recent article in The Artist magazine describing the growth of Atelier-type drawing schools where the emphasis is on super realism. In it the use of plumb lines to ensure accuracy was described. My understanding is that the old masters used all sorts of drawing aids. Generally I don't get it right first time and have to make some changes. When I haven't got things quite right  out comes the eraser. I stress I don't aim for a super realistic image but it is nice if the subject is recognisable.

With that completed out comes the paint. I spray the paint with water from a small spray bottle about 20 to 30 minutes prior to painting, that is if I remember to do so - not always the case. As seen in the top image I used a combination of Cadmium Red Pale, Yellow Ochre or Raw Sienna, mostly the red with only small amounts of yellow. Cerulean is used for emphasis and to darken where necessary. Colours mostly mixed on the paper. I have been trying to be less precise and going for a`cruder' approach than in some of my earlier work. With this in mind I studied the portraits in Charles Reid's last book `Watercolour Solutions' and also viewed his painting of the man in his latest `Figurative Watercolour' DVD. Attempting to follow CR's teaching I did not leave an abrupt line between the face and hairline in the initial wash, but strayed beyond as this would be covered when the hair was painted. I realise by now I should know these things off by heart but unfortunately regression can set in all too easily.

The hair was painted using various dilutions of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna - lighter/darker as required. There is some Raw Umber in there and I added white gouache when fully dry, quite thickly in places. For the white I have been trying Galeria Titanium White and also Vallejo Acrylic Titanium White Gouache as an alternative to the standard white gouache.  This is something I've seen Yvonne Harry do but so far have not reached a final conclusion which is best for me.

I re wetted areas of the face and added both Cadmium Red and Cerulean to get stronger tones. The very last thing on the face was to add small white highlights on the pupils. His jacket and shirt are mixtures of Ultramarine, Cerulean and Ivory Black.

My usual brushes, the Da Vinci 44 No2 and Isabey Nos 4, 6 and 8, the small retractables used for detailing the eyes. If you wish to paint portraits in the general manner of Charles Reid then I recommend his last book `Watercolour Solutions' and the DVD `Figurative Watercolours'. You don't have to copy him exactly - very difficult in any event - and he himself says you shouldn't try.
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15 comments:

Oscar Solis said...

Nice work here. It took me a second to realize it was Robbie Coltrane (in fact, to make sure I googled his name and found your reference).

I really like the way the paint went on his face. It feels lively, even if the subject is passive.

Regarding "Watercolor Solutions". That is one excellent book. I check it out frequently from the library because, while I don't paint like Mr. Reid, I do enjoy looking at his paintings. However, he did influence me in keeping my colors from becoming mud on the palette. I suppose I was shamed into it :).

Really enjoyed the "hairshirt" comment. Made my morning. Sometimes I get the feeling that some make the process of painting harder than it is already by getting in the way of it. If you look at the work of many of the big names that is something that doesn't seem to happen and the thing is that you can tell. Of course, experience and confidence plays into it. Still...

Yvonne Harry said...

Well done, Peter, yoiu have caught his likeness, and the skin tones are lovely. I fee his jacket is a tad too bright for me..... but what do I know about portraits!

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Oscar for commenting Yes I feel opposed to the `hairshirt' brigade. I do have limits but they are fairly wide!

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Yvonne. I agree about the jacket. I may dull it down with a darker blue like PB60. I sometimes feel Ultramarine is on the bright side, possibly the version I used here as they do vary by make.

Ray Maclachlan said...

Well drawn and painted Peter. The blue could be a bit bright but does not spoil the painting. The facial colours are spot on.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks Ray. The blue is too bright. The original photo was black and white so my imagination was let loose!

Mick Carney said...

Cracking likeness and great execution. My only little niggle is a question about what is going on from the right hand corner of the mouth, the image on my screen looks like part of a moustache there.

Peter Ward said...


Thanks Mick. I see your point but in my intent to be a little `cruder' such small aberrations may well occur (grin). He does have a rather craggy face these days.

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Sharon Whitley said...

wonderful likeness I knew instantly who it was - the skin tones are great - I really struggle with watercolour portraits unless they are nice and loose and am quite tempted to buy the book you mention - another to add to my growing collection of art books that a rarely look at because I'd rather just be painting! I do love Charles Reid's work though, well done on this, a real corker

Peter Ward said...

Thank you Sharon. Watercolour Solutions is excellent - well worth buying. So is the DVD `Figurative Watercolours'.

Jan Weeks said...

Very good likeness and skin tones. I agree the blue is overpowering and draws the eye away from his eyes which you have done so well.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting Jan. Yes I'm convinced the `blue' is too blue'. I had intended to do something about it this morning until an `emergency' arose with my youngest grandson (not serious) so we've been looking after him instead.

Brenda George said...

This is a really good likeness of Robbie Coltrane, I agree the blue is a little startling but overall a great painting.

Peter Ward said...

Thanks for commenting Brenda. I intend to try and `moderate' the blue colour. If it works I might post the result if not...!