Sunday, 19 February 2012

Acrylic Painting Scares Me!

In my office/spare room sits a box of acrylic paints gathering dust. Often when I go in there, I glance across and think to myself "you haven't done a painting in acrylic for some time". In fact, the acrylic works that I have done can be counted on one hand. It's just as if I'm scared to get them out because a: I don't know what I'm doing with them and b: I can spend hours on a painting with them and the whole thing turns into one sticky mess!

A few days ago, I decided to grab the bull by the horns and have another go. Running around my mind are great ideas for a painting in this medium, but on a large scale, and in the loft I know I have some fairly large canvasses on frames, which I would just love to have a go on, but I just don't have the confidence to start on such a large work. So, I got to thinking that I would start with a small work and see how I get on.

The work above is my attempt on a 10x7 inch textured paper. At our art club, I've watched speakers do demonstrations and have taken mental notes on how they go about a painting, and have brought this into play here. I started by giving the paper a thin wash with burnt sienna to avoid having any white parts showing through in the finished work. Next I roughly sketched out Cecca's profile with a brush and darker tone and waited a short while for it to dry off (fig1). With portraiture, you have to keep checking measurements all the time if you are going to get a good likeness, so next came the first round of corrections, shortening the nose and moving the mouth (fig.2).

By the end of the first session, I had got to (fig.3). The mouth was still not right here, nor the nose and her hair largely undefined. At this stage, things were getting really sticky, including the palette!

Another afternoon saw the next session, where I completed the work, adding more definition to the nose and moving the mouth a little. This time I used an acrylic flow improver to give me more time before the paint dried out on me. This helped with the work on her jewellery and lace-work on the ruff. I could have worked more on the detail, but there comes a point when I think you have to say enough is enough, so I've called this one 'finished'!

Last night I watched a program on TV about Lucien Freud - quite an amazing artist who's work is so dramatic but really rather vulgar I feel - nevertheless, incredible work. One of his quotes I found particularly true in my case - "the promise of happiness is felt in the act of creation but disappears towards the completion of the work". 

The source photo below is only of Cecca's head and shoulders from a larger picture, where this talented girl has made a complete outfit depicting Queen Elizabeth I. My intention, if ever I get round to it is to do the full painting of her in all her regalia of robes, crown and jewellery on one of my large canvasses. But first, I have to be sure that I am good enough for the attempt!
source photo