Project 3 exercise 1 – a figure in an interior

The course notes for this are detailed. We were allowed to paint ourselves, from life or even to choose a stranger or a celebrity in our own living room. We were told to think about the effects we want to achieve, skin tones that reflect surrounding colour and shades, light sources and poses.

I did some preliminary research and sketches – including looking at portraits done by well-known artists.

I was quite taken with an image of my granddaughter sleeping and did some on the spot sketches of her (from a distance, so I wouldn’t disturb her sleeping). I took a photo and heavily cropped it, to help with the composition.

prliminary sketch for idea of girl sleeping portrait

I felt this would make a nuanced and atmospheric portrait. I was going to use watercolour but at the last minute decided to try gouache, as I had a larger range of colours/tones. I have run out of white gouache, so used white acrylic where necessaary. I did a rough charcoal guide sketch and started blocking in skin tones, I was very aware of how I’d not got the skin tones right for the Peaky Blinders portrait, so wanted to see if I could improve on that. Gouache makes it much easier!

I used a limited palette of white, vermillion and beige to put down the first ideas of skin tone. I felt like I was finding it easier to ‘sculpt’ the planes of the face with gouache, which I have found really hard with oils as well as acrylics (and also soft pastels). I used a mixture of burnt umber and red, with a tiny dot of black for the darker tones.

‘Figure in an interior’ Gouache and acrylics on Clairefontaine paper

I was very conscious of ‘leaving stuff out/ambiguity’ and making the portrait loose as well as light filled, i wanted it to look soft and I think I’ve achieved that. I am pleased with the overall tone of the painting and will use gouache again, it was nice to work with.

My model was very pleased with it, even though she was intrigued how I’d taken the initial sketches and photo without her knowing! She said I had perfectly captured her likeness.

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