Self portrait challenge

20160128_121649So for a few months on and off now I’ve been working on my second ever oil painting: a self portrait derived from some old photographs that I took for my periodic table art project that never made the final cut. The main photo I based the portrait upon on was actually my tinder profile picture from which I only ever went on one date with a guy who is now my fiancé, so the photo holds quite a lot of significance for me and I liked the idea of immortalising the “moment” we met as well as changing the significance and purpose of the photo back to an artistic one from its short life as a ubiquitous proffy pic. Also I have always loved the diffused light in the photo and wanted to challenge myself to try and capture this. I knew it was going to be a tough ask but that hopefully I would learn a lot along the way.

I’ve uploaded some photos of the progress so far… it’s been difficult to say the least, particularly because I live in a tiny studio flat with very little space or natural light which has played havoc with my colour palette. So many evenings I would go to bed thinking “ye I’ve made good progress, finally getting there” only to get up the next morning and see that in natural day light it had more of a resemblance to some sort of dead mermaid with green hair and purple cheeks… so lesson learnt, try and paint in the day as much as possible or buy some natural daylight effect bulbs. I started with a very rough grisaille underpainting and added thin transparent layers of colour; I really wanted a delicate and refined finish similar to that of one of my favourite portrait artists, Mary Jane Ansell. I swing from hating it to loving it…. it just doesn’t feel finished yet and I can’t put my finger on it but I’m too scared too mess around with it too much… I think the hair just needs more work and perhaps more light contrast on the face, oh and the ear is annoying me too…. ah well I’m still learning, I can’t expect to be creating masterpieces just yet!

Goya, The Portraits, at the National Gallery

What an exhibition! I visited last week, it was mesmerising, and such a vast collection, makes me question my own work output…. his portraits are so expressive and dreamy, with such emphasis and attention to the character and psychology of his sitter. I left admiring his devotion to his work; you really sense his passion and determination to capture his sitter’s quirks and qualities. His portraits aren’t all technically perfect, with vanishing table legs and ill proportioned limbs, but these inconsistencies complement the attention to detail elsewhere in the painting, revealing so much more about the artist’s character and approach to painting. I was also so impressed with how he captures different textures in his work with sumptuous velvet and etherial lace cuffs painted so convincingly. I particularly loved the portraits of his close friends with the leaflet that accompanied the exhibition saying:

“With all those that he loved, it seems that painting their portrait was an essential seal of his affections, the portrait functioning as a special bond between artist and sitter.”

This really resonates with me as I feel almost compelled to create portraits for my own family and friends, like my recent portrait of Izzy. I guess it gives me a chance to really express how I see them as well as give them something that is unique and that they can pass on.

Anyway, if you’re in London you must go! Keep an eye out for the little business card type advertisements of himself incorporated into his paintings and also make sure you watch the film at the end, its a short summary of his life and work, adding more light to his character as well as concluding the exhibition perfectly.

Find out more here:

My first oil painting

Well my first proper oil painting, I experimented for a few days on my art foundation course and I started a self portrait this summer as a learning exercise but I haven’t decided if it is salvageable yet… Anyway, I have always wanted to paint with oils and finally had a summer free of revision and summer jobs to give it a real go! I love creating pieces of art for my friends and family and decided I would paint my friend Izzy for her birthday, although she didn’t get it till a few months later …need to work on my speed a little! I learnt so much though including: how eyebrows are a lot harder to paint than eyes and how easels are pretty handy if you don’t want to transfer black paint from the background on to the middle of the canvas…. I’ve posted a few photos during the development, the first photo is a little scary sorry Izzy! and also of Izzy finally getting to see it. I hope she liked it because she’s awesome and deserves the best birthday presents.