Category Archives: Part 3

A figure in an interior.


An exercise within the project; People in context- part 3.

People in context is about depicting human figure/s with in a particular environment which enforces the figure to become part of a wider subject. When you place a figure in an interior you are looking at a complex form within a more structured area- organic form within the confinement of walls and objects.  The meaning that can be taken from the positioning of the figure is important for example the figure in the corner can be though as being a mysterious figure lurking in a darkened corner. The figure positioned close up, dominating the image can be thought as powerful or important. The positioning of other figures can then tell a story within an image. The drawings by David Haines create a strange narrative where boys are forced to smell a range of sneakers. The images convey a thug culture, the harsh reality for young urban men but the medium the artist has used is the soft scale tonality of pencil. Here the objects such as the Bucket of KFC is given just as much importance as the figures as they are directing their gaze at the ‘fast food.’

New Balance Sneaker vs KFC Bucket (2007/8) Pencil on paper 140×216.5cm <>

The exercise was about painting a figure in a room and the course reader suggested not to complicate things as simplicity allows for the negative shapes around the figure to incorporate the form within a balanced composition. One approach the reader suggested is to place a celebrity within a  familiar room, I was intrigued by this as  I felt the lack of pressure to paint Graham Norton accurately developed the portrait to be a success.

Think about-

  • New elements within familiar surroundings.
  • Use the background to add interest to your subject.
  • Skin tones reflect surrounding colours and shades, will you exploit this?
  • It standing then think about how long they can keep that pose.
  • Experiment with simplifying the background, for example – drape fabric on a chair.
  • Light source, direction of shadows and how long will you have the natural light.
  • Do you want to suggest depth , so think about proportions, positions.
  • Exploit foreshortening of form or objects?
  • Eye level position, look down on figure means submission and looking up at figure means authoritative.

One of my all time favourite paintings is ENNUI (Boredom) by Sickert.

Walter Richard Sickert, ‘Ennui’ c.1914

Walter Richard Sickert 1860–1942 Ennui c.1914 Oil paint on canvas 1524 x 1124 mm>

‘The physical proximity of the two figures supposes an intimate connection between them such as marriage, but their complete disassociation and lack of engagement with one another creates an atmosphere of isolation, indifference and loneliness’ Tate Cited 3.3.2017

I love the warm tones and how the figures are positioned, such as the man sitting and the women standing, slumped over the chest of draws looking into something. The roundness of the table which takes up a third of the painting is a barrier for the viewer from the figures in the room, your eye either has to jump over the table or follow the curve of the table to understand the depth and perspective of the composition. The tension between the two figures, is what I remember the most about this painting, not the objects in the painting. When painting figures they mean more to me than just 3D forms that are organic, they are human and have emotions, feelings, character. To depict tension within the confined space of a room is challenging but Sickert achieves it brilliantly in Ennui.

I tried to set up this pose in my lounge, but the chest of draws were to low and I felt the room lacked light. The figures were going to be my Husband with our daughter, they have a fantastic relationship but are from different times, like all generations. I wanted to depict this relationship, a coming of age daughter and a maturating husband/dad. When I thought about depicting these qualities I looked to Hockney and how he used objects to aid his representation of figures characters such as the white cat (Percy) in Mr and Mrs Clark with Percy. 1970-1.

My painting is from a photo of my Husband and myself in our bay window with a chair that is used as a computer/ desk chair. The chair has significance because we brought a pair of chairs with the money given to us by the Labour government when Gordon Brown paid out a lump sum to couples with new born babies back in 2005. As a nation I think we are still paying for that excessive lump sum, and as a reminder of fortunate events, my husband and I call these chairs the Gordon Browns. I added in the patterned rug and then painted over it, as the design on the rug caused the perspective to become confusing, if the rug had a tile pattern then that would have worked. The light source at the centre causes problems , just so for Hockney as he mentions he had problems with tonal clarification due to the light coming in from behind the figures. I took a long time mixing the correct colour paints. I used the colour photo to aid with the pallet choices. The walls are painted white in our house but the photo is very muddy, grainy due to the light behind the curtains. The paper light shade is noticeable in the left hand corner and is on so gives a warm tinge to the interior. I feel this image is to simplistic but the best solution for a complex exercise.

The progress of learning during this exercise was

  • Think about what you want to depict, an emotional response to the figures or objectify the figures? Cindy Sherman parody or a Barbara KrugeR
  • What context will you insert this subject into? An interior but what is the atmosphere of this room; think light.
  • Size, painting full figures on a small board takes away key features for depicting character, posture and gesturing is valuable here.
  • Look to other artists and find out how they responded to this complex study. Find a solution to the problem.


Photo March 2017

Oil painting . Gordon Browns. 2017


Tate cited on the 3.3.2017

David Haines web site>

Google search for Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger

Exercise- Convey Character & Review Portraits.

Convey Character through facial expressions, most sitters tend to slump forward and the facial features relax and tend to look sad. It is not possible to keep smiling the whole time so a photo of an expression can be a useful way of capturing a moment of expression.

I chose Graham Norton as I found a great photo of him in the Culture supplement of the Times (Louis wise. 18.09.2016. Photograph by Francesco Guidicini)). The photographer was up close when he took the shot and I think you can see Graham ‘thinking’ in his eyes. I painted onto a pale blue paper because he wears a blue shirt and I think he suits this colour. The flesh tones with the blue and the grey spikes from his chin react well with this tone of blue. I worked quickly and wasn’t as careful like I was with my daughters and my self portrait as I didn’t care if I muck it up….it’s only Graham Norton, it’s not like he’s going to tell me I’m rubbish at painting. Due to this responds I think it’s why I worked more fluidly and I felt I went into automatic mode and didn’t think to much about what I was doing wrong. I felt like I was painting in areas and just letting some blue paper show . Then I pitted the paint with a dab of a sponge as Graham’s skin is textured around the forehead and cheeks. This technique is good at smoothing in the brush strokes that I tend to slap on sometimes. I didn’t want to paint the shirt as I wanted the blue paper to be noticeable and this allows the head to pull away from the paper as a form but with some of that background showing through.

I will try this coloured paper effect again as I think the foreground and the background can be far to finished , sometimes the blanks need to be visualised so the viewer can take notice of the painting.

Culture supplement from the ‘Times’ 18.09.2016

Pencil sketch of Graham Norton 02.2017 mw

Oil painting of Graham Norton 02.2017 mw

Look at all your portraits and ask…

  • Which one is best?
  • Any technical demands??
  • Was the element of portrait painting difficult?

The best one is of Graham Norton,, it’s fresh ,lively, fluid and delicate. These qualities. Make it a good exercise.
The technical demands were the depicting form , features and a likeness. The personalities of people close to you becomes a distraction so the Contextual research and the exercises to help loosen up were all needed to deal with this evaluation and I was able to think about strategies. To resolve the problem.

Painting portraits are very difficult but I find painting landscape a challenge also. Gesturing a line to depict a likeness is a skill of observation, getting the line correct is a fundamental structure when taking a drawing and then creating a painting.

Contextural research for Portrait project.

Before I started the Project – looking at faces, part 3 ,Painting one. I wanted to practice some different techniques. For part 5 of Drawing one I FOCUSED on portraits and the depiction of movement, So I felt I had already covered this subject in away that I didn’t want to repeat again; but in paint. I was cautious by my efforts in Drawing 1 and didn’t want to go down that rabbit hole again as I enjoy painting, drawing and looking at faces.First of all I wanted to experiment and loosen up, so looked to my exercise books such as ‘ Drawing and Painting people- A fresh approach by Emily Ball. (Crowood press. Wiltshire. 2015). On pg 27 she writes about Drawing and painting the head; chapter two, where she explains that the head is not just a face, it’s a form of the body and to think of it as a form and not a personal feature. “My reasons for giving it a very impersonal title are to allow a new view of the subject to be possible and for you to have a more personal relationship with your work, as opposed to making a copy of the way you think a person looks.” (Ball 2015) She carries out a number of exercises in her book with Charcoal as its more tactile and are similar to working with paint.

EDVARD MUNCH self portrait in 1895 is a strong representation and very memorable, the strong front position and the dark room ,use of light to convey mood.

The use of charcoal as a dust is a good technique to infiltrate the Whitness of the page. The starkness of the page can be overbearing when starting something new and her examples of rubbing charcoal dust into paper first and then erasing it away later has being helpful to me in the past. This time because the charcoal can react not so well with paint for this topic of faces I used Coffee granular and hot water. This reminded me of the works from the past and old maps where the paper had aged.

‘MYSELF’ Portraits by 40 artist (by Juliet Heslewood. Frances Lincoln publishers 2014. London) Was where I found a Samuel Palmer (1805-81) self portrait 1826 Chalk on paper. It’s very delicate and I didn’t get the same effect as I went to dark and bold with my lines , I needed to use a dip ink pen, but the experience of looking at the marks around the eyes and nose was very good at identifying delicacy of line.

Due to the relationship of the need to understand delicate lines in the hope of depicting delicate features as found on the face, I looked to Tom Phillips and his book ‘The portrait works’ from his national Portrait gallery show 1989-1990. (London) On pag 74-5 are portraits of Anna (1985) and Sally East (1975) Both are beautiful and delicate. Charcoal and pastel is used in a hurried fashion and the lines are gestural of movement in Anna. I like that the eyes are not white and that dots are used as well as lines.

For these drawings I used a grid system to help guild my drawing of correct details.

I started to think about the exercise of creating mood and atmosphere and was going to set up a candle in a dark area but then came across ‘The Desperate man (Gustave Courbet 1819-77. Self portrait of 1841) And thought this would be good practice of depicting strong contrasts of light and folds of fabric. When ever I paint myself I end up looking like a harassed person so coping Courbet was predictable. The White of the eyes are interesting in this composition and the hands in the hair which is very similar to mine, I was tempted to copy this pose for my own self portrait pose for the above exercise but though that I would try something else. This research was very helpful for identifying contrast and shapes of light fulling on areas of the face and hands. He has such a strong structure of a nose and the lips are delicious, he is beautiful but not handsome.

My last exercise was the portrait by Berthe Morisot (1841-95) that she painted in 1885. She married Manet’s brother after she found success as an impressionist painter and exhibited at the Paris salon in 1874.

“It is important to express oneself, provided the feelings are real and are taken from your own experience”. ( 61 2014)

Taken from her writings about her work where she was described as a feminine painter because of her light brush strokes, domestic scenes.

This portrait was great for me to get working with some paint again. The brush I used should have been smaller but the looking at her brush strokes and the tones, made me understand how quickly she did this portrait. This encourage me to paint a few self portraits quickly (45 minutes). These were not as successful as Morisots self portrait but it was a process with in progress.


All work is my own.

Drawing and painting- A fresh approach by Emily Ball Croswood publishing 2015 Wiltshire.

Portraits by 40 great artist by Juliet Heslewood. Frances Lincoln publishing Lonon 2014

Tom Phillips- The portrait Works with introduction by Bill Hurrell. National portrait Gallery publications ..London.1989

Exercise- Creating mood and atmosphere.

Oil paint, final photo

oil paint . needs more definition of features

Charcoal drawing

iPad photo with light from candle.

For this exercise I chose the topic- self portrait. Points to note when thinking about position

• Unusual

• Expressive in some way

• True to life or not

• Menace or mystery?

• All of the above can be more available when positioning myself than someone else, I am able to be as pushy as I need to be with myself but when asking someone to pose I have limited time and options. That is why I decided on a self portrait for this exercise.
Experiment with lighting to find the direction of light that best create atmosphere.
At this point I went to the library and borrowed some books on Portraits. Then I did some copy studies where I used pastel, charcoal, chalk and pencil to contextualise my research . In the last research point I was asked to look on the Internet for portraits that convey mood or atmosphere. This time I wanted to look more at the marks that they used to creat this depiction of mood or a moment. By trying to copy someone else’s work it bales me to focus and try something different, question why they used that mark, it helps to understand the expression, the speed of the lines or the speed they were working. It like reanimating another person, It’s very liberating and helps to recognise muscle memory that can become a negative habit when painting. The concentration levels needed when trying to animate someone else from history is rewarding .
I used a candle glow so this did affect the wariness of the colour pallet that I chose. I used reds, violets, yellows,and greyscale and Persian Blue for more depth to dark tones.

I needed strong contrasts but the colours I used were all on one side of the colour wheel.
• What have I achieved?

• Is it an expressive and unusual likeness?

• Interesting statement in paint?

• Mono chrome or is it and exploration of colour?
When ever I paint myself I always LOOK is terrifying, that’s why I looked to Gustave Courbet and Goya with my contextual studies. The Desperate Man by Courbet (1841) has fantastic contrast and a glow or this could be the photography or printing , I have never seen it in person unfortunately. The eye balls are positioned with the White of the eyes above the eye ball and the nose is very long and I think he has the same sort of hair as myself.

• I have achieved at portrait that is heavenly saturated in light which conceals some of my features such as the moth and left nose.

• It is a likeness.

• The paint has been used to suggest form due to the directional brush work. The gradients of colour are bold, harsh but this is to reflect the use of intense candle light within a darkened room.

• It is an exploration of contrasting tones, not so much colour but depth of colour on the jumper is the darkest tone and then this contrasted with the bright light on the face is extreme and can make me look deformed as the features are to bright to make out. At one point I had not mouth at all and this was not a concern, I though how realistic this image was….A women with no voice. In a area of saturated communication, with so many arena, platforms to speck but in a time where everyone is speaking but no one is listening. What is the point of a voice If no one is listening?

What would you do differently if you were to re do this exercise?

Make it bigger and be really expressive with the paint , push the paint around the face with my hands, sponges, ect. I was so focused of depicting the glow of the candle , the tilt of the head, the relaxed eyes, my relaxed subdued posture that I worked the paint to much, got to intense with the paint.

Part 3 Head and shoulder portrait


This is a2 size portrait, painted in oils. My Daughter is sitting up in bed reflecting on life or just sighing about having to sit while I paint her. She wears a black hood with large draw string rope hanging down and a stripped vest top. I wanted the strips to show her bunched up pose in the mid drift area and this helps to represent the posture she is positioned into. The Background is of a painted movie poster and I think the colours blend with the pillows and the bed head. The walls are cream<white so rather lifeless but didn’t want this to draw the attention away from the thoughtful character portrayed . The colour balance has been toned down with mid grey which is repeated in the mid drift area of her body so that background and body of portrait are the same tone. The telephone book paper has been used in the mid drift vest to aid with gauging the mid tone and the concept of identifying ones self with either forenames or surnames which is what the telephone book publishes ; names and numbers to contact those people.

This concept come from a walk along the sea way going towards Hern Bay, where people have pushed shells into the very soft clay Clift side and have spelled out names such as ‘Kate’ . I found this interesting as I wondered why they decided to use the shells to spell out names and not other words. The shell decoration was not as quick as to write with the found Pumas which is often used around the coast.

I think the success is the head tilt position because the colour under the neck is tonally variant from the tone on the forehead. The light violet under the neck and the red-violet found as the shadows from the hair help to represent the variations of skin tone. The hands were very blue from the reflection of the black hoody top and black pyjama bottoms. I worry when painting skin that it starts to look dead when adding to many dark tones. When I look to Lucian Freud and his nudes such as Night Portrait (1978) I notice all the dominating warm tones such as yellow, Browns, terracotta and then the violet and blues. When I first tried this , I created bruises. I realised you needed a dark back ground to give colour variation to the overall composition and then the flesh tones don’t look as dark if the back ground is dark. I keep hearing the ringing words from my last tutors report which was ‘work on your mid tones’ so with referring back to Lucian Freud, you can only have a mid tone if you understand the darkest tones and the lightest tones, everything else is mid tone. 

I think this looks like my daughter and have taken a photo of her position to help check her sitting location and took some close up photos of her hands to colour check along the way. I finally dried brush over the background and into her hoody and hands. This process of dry paint brushing is useful with blurring and softening the colour tones and edges and pushing the background back into location and intensifying the foreground or the areas of focus such as the portrait. This dry brush work can in effect delete the details so may have to wait for the paint to dry so to clarify anything, but at the moment I am happy to walk away.

My Daughter thinks the painting shows her hands are more like sausages.

I have redone the hands several times , changed the position of the hands and taken more photos but they still need work. I have decided to let the paint dry and not look at it for a while as fresh eyes upon this at a later point may allow me to see a better solution other than scraping the paint away and starting again on the hands.

Self Portrait. Part 3.2

Exercise – Self Portrait

This exercise took much longer than expected and the project of looking at faces is something that I feel I will get involved with and in time, it will be an evolving piece of work. So far I have taped various images, drawings, photos, and paintings of my self-portrait to the wall of my studio. Some are drawn over the top of newspaper photos and some are drawings on top of photos of me. The research that I carried out, helped to progress this project because of the work by Isaac Hernandez Blog,

I like the roughness and deconstruction look of the pastels with the photograph showing though and the magazine lettering. The mirroring your image (or the’ mirror phase’ by Jacques Lacan)on someone else was something I wanted to try because the tension of looking at your own face, then drawing that onto a flat piece of paper is hard to concentrate on, as they never look the same because they are not, one is the illustration of the real thing and yourself that you see within the frame of a mirror. The image is there but the sense of myself isn’t. To draw my self-portrait on top of an image of someone else was fun. The form was already there but it made me think how other people’s jaw lines, noses  and eyes are different and how just a little line can have a big significance. This was a good exercise due to the fact that I looked much more at the features and the form of the face.


self portrait after Liam Gallagher. Pastels

My face after Liam Gallagher isn’t the most attractive image but it is a women’s face drawn on a man’s features, the combination is a visual tension of masculine and femininity facial features, Some might same ; Beauty and power. The Theory of Feminism is something I would like to study some more and I am currently reading ‘VISION AND DIFFERENCE’ BY Griselda POLLOCK (1988 London Routledge.) and her insights have questioned the way I look upon myself and others. “In effect Nochlin reinforces the patriarchal definition of man as the norm of humanity, women as the disadvantage other whose freedom lies in becoming like man.” P 50  (Pollock, 1988)

I am not suggesting that I agree with the above quote but it warrants a question of thought and I’m intolerant towards ignorance.

I like to use pastels because, the hand is closer and more involved with the process of creating, you have to push much harder and you get to feel the paper push back. The oil pastels are gritty and the tip is bold so the outcome isn’t controlled, it creates this medium to be fun and workable. I mean workable in a way that you work at the medium to blend it, layer it and cover up. The process is much harder than painting and I enjoy physical hard work so I think this is why I gain enjoyment from this medium.


self portrait, Acrylic 2016

Is your self-portrait a good likeness? I Think the shape of the face is a good likeness, my nose is small so I am always tempted  to make it larger, A certain amount of discipline is need so not to over work the features. My double chin which is far more noticeable these days is something I can over accentuate along with the lines dropping away from my mouth to my jaw line. To get over this issue of being troubled by my age lines ,I take a photo and print that because the camera isn’t as focused as my eyes.

How do you know? I did ask my children, who are always very honest and my mum. They confirmed my issues I had with the left eye and that side of my face which had dropped away from the right side, but I kept working at it and now feel I can’t go any further.

Which aspects of the face were the hardest to tackle?  The eyes; When I look at the painting and then have to look at my face, the direction of the eyes just didn’t look right. I changed the shape and angle of the left check then changed the tonal colours of the face and nose many times before I manage to get the eyelid at the right curvature and juxtaposed with the nose, eyebrow, mouth and earlobe. The skin colour was something I wrestled with, I wanted vivid colours and then I thought that was far too vivid. I painted by dim light because this helps to use intense colour and the lighting is so dim the colour really has to glow to be able to see the contrasts. I thought I was more interested by the bright colour formations on my face than some blended flesh tones. My personality is within all these drawings and paintings, My husband thinks they are ‘mean’ looking, I feel bright and happy on the outside but cautious and pessimistic within.

What technical and practical problems did you experience and how did you overcome them? I was enlarging the image and foreshortening was used for my painters arm. I also wanted a large area to be black as I felt the negative and positive space was more dramatic and the face is very intense so to give it smaller space, it doesn’t over dominate. I took a photo first and drew on this with oil pastel and practised with directional strokes to help depict form. I liked the simplest colour pallet as I don’t have a large range of colours to use but by simplifying this pallet I feel it makes the colours more intense. Looking at me for long periods of time isn’t very rewarding psychologically so I think by using the photo as a way of concentrating on the lines and form and not getting so detailed, it allowed me to distance myself from the self-portrait. The light is coming from the studios glass roof so the white patches of light on the face can be disconcerting, for example; the light under the eye which normally would be perceived as a darker tone than the area above the eyebrow, but because of the angle of the head and the light directly falling down, it hits this area of the face more than the eyebrow. The tilting of the head caused the left side of the face to become droopy. By leaving it for a night and coming back to it with fresh eyes helped to finish this piece.

Project -Observing the Human Figure Part 3.1

Exercise -Drawing the human figure, Linear and tonal study.

 • Set model up in comfortable and relaxed pose with light. 

 • For line drawings the light is fine being natural but for tonal; use directional light.

 • Look to the shapes surrounding the figure that will help to ground the figure- the Gestalt principal of ground and figure is good to remember.

 • Make several sketches , working quickly and making sure your measurements are good.

 • Allow your model to rest.

charcoal drawings A2 size on paper

First of all I wanted to paint from my drawings as the model was not able to stay for to long. When I attend Life drawing classes, they range from 2 hours to 6 with many tea breaks. This pose I was able to get my husband to do and was able to spend longer drawing him until he got cold. The room where I pay for a model ;unfortunately they won’t let you paint as past students have not cleaned up and none of us are trusted any more. For this reason I decided to paint my husband.

Indian ink and Pastel on card

The linear drawing was an Indian ink with a calligraphy pen and brush and masking fluid. I wanted to keep some definite tones white. The drawing at first became dark in tone and need to lighten the tonal variation so added the pastel and then decided I would blend in some colour, basically the drawing evolved after the model had finished.

Look at this link from Tate–Henry Moore- Shelters in the tube.  This was a style that influence me with the linear study and the doomsday colour combination.. Under the pastel is lots of pen details which have been clouded over.

I will try to complete some more painting/ drawings in 30 minute sessions and not focus on the background as much. I feel the ink lines still dominates even though I have added to it with PASTEL, it is still noticeable and adds depth to the medium. The scratching of the calligraphy  pen nib and the flicking of ink is a technique of not getting to caught up with detail as with one flick of the pen and a big blob of ink can dispense anywhere. I enjoy this spontaneous fluid and pen but find I can over do the detail and overall the image becomes to dark as not enough variation of tone.


Acrylic on card

The tonal figure study, mirrors the first pose and this helps with my confidence if I repeat the images just in different mediums, it allows me to think about what the medium is doing and the colour relationships and less of the figure. I worked with natural light and feel the darkness of the head and the lightness of the foot are good variations of tone. Some shadows from using directional light, could have added drama, but I wanted an essence of; privately viewed and natural setting with the nude. The life drawing classes that I attend are so staged and tutorial based therefore look unnatural.

The foreshortening was something I wanted to capture as I find these poses intriguing as the mind works to decipher if the limbs are correctly measured. The tension between what is seen and what is imagined are ways of vibrating the image and then to use colour contrasting as a complementary colours scheme to depict tonal variation allows more vibrations. I feel the painting looks contemporary mashed with the style of modernity .

Alex Katz is branded as a pop artist but he started before and kept going long after the movement. His work has strong definition of tone variation and hardly any mid tone, very flat with many layers of paint to archive that blend of colour. His work is more stylised than branded like pop and I perceive his work as intimate figure painting .

Henri Matisse colour construction as seen in -Portrait of Madame Matisse (Green Stripe) is an eclectic system and style. His development of the shapes with the medium of collage suggest his intent relationship with the exploration of the figure. The green and orange background I painted is used to show the colour system of contemporary colours that I choose as my colour pallet and I painted the layers so the complement colour could be seen in areas.

The mix of styles; old and not so old (1869-1954; Matisse and 1927- 89 years old; Katz) complement each other and I feel they vibrate together well. I don’t like the use of acrylic but this medium did help to blend the flesh tones without getting to thick with paint as I used card to paint on.

Have I created a solid form existing in space?

The pose of laying on the bed adds weight to the figure. The Gestalt principal of perception of ground and figure relate in this composition as the figures weight , especially around the left knee and left elbow indicate a sinking into the covers of the bed. The folds of the sheets indicate that the figure is laying on-top of the sheets. The lines of the bed are foreshortened and the angle exaggerated so delivered a view of perspective. I feel this painting shows solid form in an existing space as the figure is engulfed in the surrounding sheets which show pressure of weight from the figure and the use of foreshortening gives a dimensional illusion.


Henry Moore institute

Alex Katz

Henri Matisse

Gestalt Principals

Mirror Phase.