Monday, March 29, 2010

Portrait Re-draw

oil on cellophane

This is a cellophane correction sheet on two different backgrounds. I made it in a final attempt to get a likeness in a troublesome portrait. The clear cellophane was taped over the (dry) painting and the face safely redrawn and painted on it in oil paint, without disturbing what good stuff there was on the original surface. It’s a bit like using Photoshop layers. The cellophane is a huge improvement on using tracing paper for corrections, and for trying out and adding new elements to an established painting.

Once happy with the new likeness, I traced the face in ink lines on a new cell sheet, removed it from the painting, and pricked out the lines with a needle. I taped this pierced ‘cartoon’ (yes, that’s the technical term) back onto the painting, and lightly worked water-based gouache paint through the holes. When the cartoon was removed there was a map of the new, corrected image over the original, inaccurate work. I repainted that with oil, using the dots as guides, with the painted cell propped up nearby as a model. Any anomalous gouache dots were washed away with water. It’s actually quite simple. You can see what a difference this correction made by having a look at the ‘Works in Progress’ link to the right.

This sheet looked so fresh and alive, even though it has alignment marks all over it and was taped to a piece of cardboard, that I may get it properly framed up as a work in itself.

The really tricky bit was making the corrections. I had to make the image unfamiliar so that I wouldn’t be repeating the same old mistakes. The new image was created by studying both the painting/cell and my reference image in a mirror facing the easel, then turning round and applying the paint the right way round.

Now, that actually wasn’t simple…

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Study - Anton Walbrook

pencil 20x19cm

I needed a face I could reference for the painting. It had to be a mixture of sophisticated, remote, a bit strange, and also quite powerful. I quite liked the idea of a nineteen thirties/forties smoothie.

Anton Walbrook in Powell and Pressburger’s ‘The Red Shoes’ was perfect. He plays Lermontov, the manipulative impresario. Madam has the DVD, so I played it on the computer, took screenshots, and with a bit of tweaking, got the model I wanted.

The drawing took less than two hours, very fast for me, and I think it’s a good one. It actually looks like the subject, is full of information about form, and the marks are quite deft and confident. This is one of those occasional bits of work where you look at it the next day and think ‘Did I do that?’ (in a good way).

I find doing ‘portraits’ extremely difficult; you have to be very good to do it consistently, and it’s something I should practice more. In reproducing specific faces and expressions the variables are so many, and the tolerances so critical, that a likeness can easily slide into a similar person – in this case, Stewart Grainger or David Farrar.

This phenomenon is quite similar to the way that the theme tune for ‘the High Chaparral’ turns resolutely into ‘Telstar’.

I think this needs serious scientific research.