Portrait in acrylics
Maybe I should have used oils, but - I didn't.
I hardly ever paint portraits. I paint landscapes in oil, acrylic, and watercolour. I draw with pen and ink (sometimes), conté crayon, and carbon pencils. Sometimes with charcoal. Often with one of those plus water. But a colleague of mine has been our organization's treasurer for 40 years, and we decided he deserved a present. So I asked him what he'd like. And he told me he'd like a portrait of Jeremy Corbyn. Now - imagine my horror. I do not know Mr Corbyn. The likelihood of his posing for me is remote, especially under current circumstances. While I'm a member of the same party, I am not particularly a follower of Mr Corbyn. Far, indeed, from it..... But if that's what you're told is wanted, what are you to do? So I thought, well - I have some photographs; I can't just copy one of them, which might be easy enough (I suppose): but I just hate that.... Copying, tracing a photo, colouring it in, calling it a portrait? Not on your Nelly. Instead, I made a corporate portrait from various photographs - actually, I'm not that clever. I just took a lot of photos from the web, chose the one I thought might work, and used the others to tweak it. But it's perhaps important to know what I did NOT do: I did not map it out. I did not project it onto a screen. I did not measure the features with callipers and attempt to reproduce them. I took those photos - I made a sketch from them - I've worked from that sketch, with occasional peeks at the photos - and I have painted it (so far: we are not finished) freehand, on the canvas, with my brush. Now, I didn't think this would work at all. Surely, portraits call for strictly accurate measurements, carefully transferred to the canvas? Only, I think, if you wish to ensure they're dead on arrival. I cannot boast: my portrait is a long way from being finished; it may yet go horribly wrong. But I'm glad I didn't transfer it to the canvas from a tremendously accurate drawing, because I know I should just have worried and niggled at it. Now then: it may yet go wrong: I take a big risk telling you about it: I may muck it up like nobody's business. But if I do, I can always start again; and I think I would much rather work this way than go in with the measuring tools, rulers, whatever, than trust my eye, and a bit of measuring by brush length held artistically against the image I'm trying to work from. I HOPE my portrait will have life, even if it's at the expense of clinical accuracy. Would I rather have worked from Mr Corbyn sitting in front of with a nice cup of tea for occasional refreshment? Abso-perishing-lutely I would! But if I can't get that, I either work this way or - and perhaps more sensibly - I won't work at all. If you're going to have to work from photos, in short - take from them; take from several of them; tweak and select and manipulate - but the moment you try to copy: you've had it.