Painting Portraits by David Douglas - from a 2015 Bonus Features E-newsletter

In recent years I have produced more portraits than ever. I enjoy the planning and execuution of portraiture. For me, the more successful ones I do, are those which contain the nick-nacks, and objects which give clues as to the sitters personality. In order to gather this information I take photos and make sketches.

Below is a photograph of my art room. As you can see it Is very messy with books, pallettes and pictures all over the place. I thought this would make a good interior to place the figure.

When choosing a person to paint it is a good idea to ask a relative. People you know are usually keen to help you out. For this portrait I asked Cyril and started by completing the study below. This was done with watersoluable crayons, with some parts dry, and some well dissolved and muted. The drawing took about two hours and acquainted me with the shapes, tones and colours I needed.

With the reference material to hand I began the final portrait. Initially I drew out the main composition in pencil. With the body and hands I used a bit of artistic license to create a relaxed pose. I selected various elements of the photograph which will give the whole image some character and mood. I particularly liked the mirror which showed the reflection of the books on the shelves. There are many ellipses and structures to choose from. When I was happy with the content of the picture I began putting thin washes of watercolour.

The above image is the pencil drawing with various washes applied. From the offset it was important to establish the light source. Yellow ochre, burnt Sienna and permanent rose was used for a basic flesh tone. The objects were painted quite slapdash, with various colours used. I just kept in mind that the picture worked tonally and was not too dark.

The above image shows the next stage where various media was applied. A non-watersoluable fine liner was used to loosely define the sitter and objects in the room. Acrylic paint and more watercolour was also applied. The approach relied very much on the initial drawing to hold the composition together as quite often, I didn't know what would happen. I also used cling film over watercolour and semi opaque acrylic paint. This was also very unpredictable. Eventually I was happy with how it turned out.

The above image is the finished portrait. I mixed up a white acrylic paint and applied this light tint over the highlights throughout the space. This further defines the direction of light in the room. Also it helps render the objects and features in a clear and crisp way.

I was pleased with the final image because the relaxed technique somehow helped create a relaxed mood in the image. Applying the white highlight at the final stage brought another dimension to the painting increasing its interest giving it a linear graphic feel.

David Douglas is a part time tutor who runs various classes in Northamptonshire and Warwickshire. For more information and to view more of David’s work visit his website and see the PaintersOnline gallery.

To view the classes David runs please visit the sites below where prospective students can enrol:

Northamptonshire County Council Adult Learning

The Percival Guildhouse - Independent Centre for Adult Education and the Arts

Warwickshire College Group