Sunday, 1 February 2015

Peter Barber tries to paint a portrait

When I first started on portrait work I worked in coloured pencil, a medium which is easy to work in. The fine points on the pencils allowed one to get the fine detail and the wide range of colours available was a big help, although by use of layering thin coats one over the other it is possible to blend and produce graduation in changes in colour.

However after a while I found that working on paper was a limitation as I liked to be able to put on thick layers to get the deep intense colours. I tried working on mount board and that was pretty good but difficult to correct mistakes, which were frequent.  I then hit on the idea of using a finely textured gesso applied to mdf board. The surface could be left rough or sanded to produce a hard smooth surface which would take very fine detail, but since it was hard one could use a plastic rubber to totally remove any errors.  I also found that it was possible, with care, to varnish these pictures. Spray varnish in very thin coats worked well but great care was needed as the varnish whilst still wet dissolved the wax of the coloured pencil !

After some time I felt the need to move on and wanted to try oils, fine but colours had to be mixed as the range available was much more limited. I enjoyed this challenge although I am still having to work very hard to match mixed colours on subsequent days, particularly in different light conditions.

I have never liked working on soft surfaces so again I find that mdf board suits me best.  A couple of coats of Gesso, works well for me followed by a thin base coat of oil before I start work in earnest.  The board will tend to warp with the water from the gesso, so I find it best to coat both sides at the same time and then it stays flat, I also like to sign my boards on the back in the wet gesso!

I quite like to mount the board onto a light wooden frame, to give stiffness and also with painted edges it might not need framing. With most of my work I like to paint what I see and so the portraits are precise and detailed, it takes time but I enjoy it. The one I am working on at the moment is oil on board and I am working from a photograph.

I am also a believer in squaring up, in just the same way that the old masters transferred their sketches from sketchpad to finished pictures.  The oils I am using at the moment are the ‘Alkid’ which dry overnight, that's good but I do find that sometimes they are going off too fast as after about an hour it becomes more difficult to blend the colours. I like to do quite a lot of the colour mixing actually on the surface of the picture and have no qualms about getting my fingers in there to help the blend, or using a piece of rag to take paint off where it is too thick or not wanted. A plastic shaper is also useful

So there we are , that's how I go about it, with varying degrees of success.

No comments:

Post a Comment