Berlin Exhibition

From 26 June to 28 August I will be having a joint exhibition of some of my portraits in Berlin at the Galerie Friendly Society.

Ausstellung: Portraits und Köpfe – Portraits and Heads

26.Juni bis 28.August 2016

 

PortraitsundKoepfe_cleverreach_220616Am Sonntag, den 26.Juni 2016 von 15.00 bis 19.00 Uhr eröffnet die Galerie Friendly Society ihre 70.Themenausstellung “Portraits und Köpfe“, zu der wir Sie und Ihre Freunde herzlich einladen.

Präsentiert werden Arbeiten von Erik Mittasch (D), Louis Ryan (GB), Jan Scheirs (B), Inge H.Schmidt(D) und Georg Weise (D).

Wir würden uns freuen, Sie mit einem Glas Bowle begrüßen zu können.

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Whites and How to Use them

From Left to Right: Lead, Titanium and Zinc White mixed with Vermilion

From Left to Right: Lead, Titanium and Zinc White mixed with Vermilion

I own three different whites: Zinc White (unexceptional but non-toxic), Titanium White (of very limited use but cheap) and Lead White (great stuff, but expensive and really poisonous). They differ in their composition, in the effect they have on the other colours they are mixed with, their drying times, handling and legality.

Lead White

This is the granddaddy of whites, used from when oil paints were invented. It is made from a Lead Carbonate (2PbCO3·Pb(OH)2) and various oils (usually linseed oil although occasionally walnut oil). It has a thicker, stickier feel than the other two whites but flows comfortably with a little extra oil. When mixed with other colours it does not kill their chroma quite as much Zinc or Titanium White. Lead White is often sold as “Cremnitz White” and “Flake White”. When made with linseed oil, Lead White has a tendency to yellow if placed away from light. It is expensive. In the UK, it is supposed to be sold (with a health warning and a lot of small print) for restoration purposes only and, because it is toxic, in one or two countries it is illegal.

For painting portraits this is the only white that really works – it brings greater transparency to other colours when mixed with them compared to Zinc and Titanium White and enables artists to keep a vitality in lighter skin tones.

Zinc White

This is made from Zinc Oxide (ZnO). It flows quite well on the brush but has a tendency to cool colours it is mixed with. It is a very slow drier which some artists appreciate as it means they can correct their work in a more leisurely way.

Titanium White

This is made from Titanium dioxide (TiO2). It has a particular brilliancy in its pure form and is usually the cheapest of the three whites. Like Zinc White but more so, it tends to cool and adulterate other colours, giving a pastel feel to them, a bit like adding milk to a cup of tea. It is useful for painting skies as its deadening effect on blues and greys is less obvious. Also, as skies usually cover a large part of a canvas and Titanium White flows very easily, it is quicker and more convenient to use a Titanium White mix than with a Lead or Zinc White mix.

Above is a photo of the three whites mixed with a vermilion. You can get an idea of the general and relative effect each of the whites has on the colour. From left to right Lead, Titanium, Zinc.

 

 

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Open Studio

seosEvery year in June, artists across south east England open their doors to the public. It is a great opportunity to meet, talk to and see them at work. From 3th to 19th of June as part of the South East Open Studios project, my studio will be open at weekends from 10am to 5pm. For more information please visit the website: www.seos.org.

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Painting Lizzy

Lizzy II, oil on canvas, 120x 80

Lizzy II, oil on canvas, 120 x 80cm, 2016

A year ago I drew a charcoal portrait of Lizzy; this time I was painting a full oil portrait. Generally, I find it helps to undertake a preliminary sketch or two before starting an oil portrait: it allows me to identify potential difficulties and get better ideas for composition. It also gives me a bit of time to get to know the sitter and choose a more suitable pose. That said, this time, it still took about two hours to come up with a pose I was happy with. Anyway, Lizzy is a calm, relaxed and very bright undergraduate in her second year at Durham University and that is what I tried to convey.

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Verticals, Horizontals and Curves

Corner of the Church of St Stae Venice Sargent c.1913

Corner of the Church of St Stae, Venice, Sargent, oil , 72 x 56cm, c. 1913, private collection

In his book Composition of Outdoor Painting, Edgar Payne mentions the effect of the direction of lines in a picture.  “The vertical line is emblematic of great height, stability and nobility. The horizontal line denotes repose and tranquility. The slanting [line] or curve indicates movement or activity and rhythm.” Here, I have chosen a few landscapes that illustrate what I believe Payne means. In Sargent‘s painting (above) the vertical lines dominate. He has chosen a portrait style canvas deliberately to add majesty and grandeur to the overall effect.

Coniferous Forest Sunny Day,1895, Ivan Shishkin, oil on canvas, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Coniferous Forest Sunny Day, Ivan Shishkin, 1895, oil on canvas, Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Shishkin does the same in his forest painting above. The eye is drawn into the scene along the mossy banks in the foreground, and lingers over the sun drenched clearing in the centre, but the overall effect is one of cathedral-like stateliness.

The Mountains of Moab, John Singer Sargent oil on canvas, 65 x 111 cm, 1905

The Mountains of Moab, John Singer Sargent, 1905, oil on canvas, 65 x 111cm, Tate, London

This painting by Sargent is dominated by horizontals: the edge of the foreground, the horizon itself and the variations in the colours in the sky. These all give a sense of calm and repose. Sargent avoids dullness by leading us into the picture with  the features on the foreground winding their way into the middle distance.

A Dull Day, Stubble, Isaac Levitan, oil on canvas

A Dull Day, Stubble, Isaac Levitan, 1895, oil on canvas

The work above is by Isaac Levitan. Here again the horizontals dominate (clouds, line of trees, line of field). Levitan leads us into the picture with the cart track and gives us sense of depth with the bundles of straw in the foreground, the unharvested fields in the middle ground and the forest in the background. The sense of calm is a little threatened by the look of ready rain in the sky.

Seascape, Edgar Payne, oil on canvas, 63 x 76cm

Seascape, Edgar Payne, oil on canvas, 63 x 76cm

Finally, above is a seascape by Payne himself. It is mostly curves and diagonals denoting activity which is only to be expected given the subject matter. All the same, Payne adds some stability with the horizontals (clouds and seashore) at the top.

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Portrait Sketches of Local Entrepreneurs

San charcoal on paper, 60 x 50cm, 2015drine,

Sandrine, Sandrines’s Pilates , charcoal on paper, 60 x 50cm, 2015

From 1 March to 2 April 2016, I will be holding an exhibition of charcoal portrait sketches of local entrepreneurs at the Trinity Arts Centre in Tunbridge Wells.

The subjects are all from Tunbridge Wells and have in one way or another given something to the community. Most are business people: restaurateurs, shopkeepers, professionals, or small scale manufacturers. Two have started up and  run charitable organisations. Rather than take up a salaried job, they have all had an idea, taken a risk and set up an activity of their own. Most make a living of some sort, a few do well. All have had the courage to turn their idea into something real. When they talk about their enterprises they are fascinating. It has been a delight to draw their portraits.

All these sketches were drawn in less than three hours.

Caroline, Coco Blush, charcoal on paper, 60 x 50cm, 2015

Caroline, Coco Blush, charcoal on paper, 60 x 50cm, 2015

Jeremy, Jeremy’s Home Store, charcoal on paper, 60 x 50cm, 2015

Steve, Chilstone, charcoal on paper, 60 x 50cm, 2015

Wang Tang, YiJu, charcoal on paper, 60 x 50cm, 2015

Wang Tong, YiJu, charcoal on paper, 60 x 50cm, 2015

Kim, Great Hairdressing, charcoal on paper, 60x50cm, 2015

Kimberly, Great Hairdressing, charcoal on paper, 60x50cm, 2015

 

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Models and Artists

Dance in Gopsmor, Anders Zorn, oil on canvas, 108 x 81cm, 1906, Zornmuseet, Mora

Dance in Gopsmor, Anders Zorn, oil on canvas, 108 x 81cm, 1906, Zornmuseet, Mora

A year or so ago I visited the Zorn Museum in Mora, Sweden, with another artist who pointed out that in the painting above Zorn had used the same model several times. Thereafter, I promised myself to take more care  when looking at genre paintings to see how often an artist might use the same model for different figures. Using a model several times is not a bad idea for the artist as he does not have the bother of finding new and reliable models for other characters in his painting. Below I have marked out the model in her various poses in the Zorn painting.

Dance in Gopsmor, Anders Zorn, oil on canvas, 108 x 81cm, 1906, Zornmuseet, Mora (annotated)

Dance in Gopsmor, Anders Zorn, oil on canvas, 108 x 81cm, 1906, Zornmuseet, Mora (annotated)

The Russian artist Abram Arkhipov, was strongly influenced by Zorn, and in this version of his Washerwomen, he uses a couple of models several times, just like Zorn.

Washerwomen, Abram Arkhipov c.1899

Washerwomen, Abram Arkhipov c.1899

Below are my marks showing the models in two or three positions. Arkhipov sensibly paints a couple of back views of the models making their appearances less obvious.

Washerwomen, Abram Arkhipov c.1899 (annotated)

Washerwomen, Abram Arkhipov c.1899 (annotated)

Newcomer at School, Emily Shanks, oil on canvas, 79 x 105cm,1892

Newcomer at School, Emily Shanks, oil on canvas, 79 x 105cm,1892

Emily Shanks was a British-born Russian artist. In this emotionally charged painting she uses just two models, but we see their faces only once each.

Newcomer at School, Emily Shanks, oil on canvas, 79 x 105cm, 1892 (annotated)

Newcomer at School, Emily Shanks, oil on canvas, 79 x 105cm, 1892 (annotated)

Below is one of Ilya Repin’s better known works which appears to have taken him about a decade to complete.

The Zaporozhye Cossacks writing a letter to the Turkish Sultan, Ilya Repin, oil on canvas, 358 x 203 cm, 1880 to1891, State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg

The Zaporozhye Cossacks writing a letter to the Turkish Sultan, Ilya Repin, oil on canvas, 358 x 203 cm, 1880 to1891, State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg

I believe he uses the same model three times for the top-knotted Cossacks in the foreground (see below).

The Zaporozhye Cossacks writing a letter to the Turkish Sultan, Ilya Repin, oil on canvas, 358 x 203 cm, 1880 to1891, State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg (annotated)

The Zaporozhye Cossacks writing a letter to the Turkish Sultan, Ilya Repin, oil on canvas, 358 x 203 cm, 1880 to1891, State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg (annotated)

The way to work this multiple use of a model successfully, I find, is to avoid making it look obvious – Cagnacci in the following painting does not quite pull it off. I have a strong feeling here that even if one Cleopatra has died we have six more who can easily take her place.

The Death of Cleopatra, Guido Cagnacci, oil on canvas, 153 x 168.5cm, after 1659, Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

The Death of Cleopatra, Guido Cagnacci, oil on canvas, 153 x 168.5cm, after 1659, Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

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Artists using the sightsize technique

Sir Gerald Festus Kelly painting Edith Teresa Hulton (1923)

Sir Gerald Festus Kelly painting Edith Teresa Hulton (18901972), Lady Berwick (1923)

I paint using the sightsize method which means placing the image alongside the subject. When I stand back from the subject and image, I can compare both at a glance and paint more accurately and effectively. Here are some photos of old masters doing just that.

Above is the British artist, Sir Gerald Kelly  (1879 -1972) painting Edith Hulton. Kelly has placed his model seated on a pedestal ensuring that her head is level with his own and  can stand back to view his work and the model together. As Kelly demonstrates, using sightsize can produce an accurate likeness.

Sargent painting Mrs. Fiske-Warren and her Daughter.

Sargent painting Mrs. FiskeWarren and her Daughter, 1903.

The photo above shows Sargent painting Mrs Fiske-Warren and Her Daughter. Sargent is working in the Gothic room at Fenway Court and has placed a curtain of some sort over a large stained-glass round window to block the direct sunlight which would be distracting. Here Sargent does not place his easel quite alongside the models but he does have his models up on a pedestal like Kelly.

Miss Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies painted by Philip de Lazlo, 1933

Miss Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies painted by Philip de László, 1933

In an earlier post, I gave a link to a Youtube video of László painting. In both the video and in this photo, László favours painting with his canvas already framed. Here also he seems to make a lot of use of his mahlstick.

Leopold Seyffert painting portrait of Helen Wills Moody

Leopold Seyffert painting portrait of Helen Wills Moody

Leopold Seyffert  (1887 – 1956) was an American portrait painter who had a successful career painting wealthy bankers. He also painted the renowned tennis player Helen Wills (above). Here again, the pedestal. Seyffert is standing quite close to both model and easel, but the portrait (below) shows a broad handling and a lack of extraneous detail which imply he actually stood further back from the model than the photo suggests. It is also shows that the model is out of pose in the photo.

helen-wills-moody-roark

Helen Wills Moody by Leopold Seyffert c.1933.

Frederick (1826–1902), 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, by Henrietta Rae (English 1859-1928)

Frederick, 1st Marquess of Dufferin and Ava being painted  by Henrietta Rae (1901)

Henrietta Rae was a British artist of the late Victorian period who gained recognition and success specializing in classical, allegorical, and literary subjects, often treated in a grand style. Here she is painting the portrait of the Marquess of Dufferin. Rae, like most of the other artists in this series, places her model on a pedestal. If you look carefully you will notice that she has painted him sitting slightly straighter than in real life. Either Dufferin had sunk into the pose or Rae was using artistic licence.

Cesare Tallone in his studio in Corso Garibaldi, with Alessandro Pirovano posing next to his portrait, 1911

Cesare Tallone in his studio in Corso Garibaldi, with Alessandro Pirovano posing next to his portrait, 1911

Above is Cesare Tallone who studied at the Brera Academy in Milan. The portrait in the photo is painted sight size but smaller than life size. This is done by bringing the easel forward towards the artist. The artist then copies on to the canvas what he sees to the side of his easel. Again we see the model standing on a pedestal.

Carolus Duran painting under sigthsize portrait of the King of Siam, 1907

Carolus Duran painting under sigthsize portrait of the King of Siam, 1907

Above is a photo of Carolus Duran painting the King of Siam. Carolus Duran is perhaps best known for having set up a very successful atelier in Paris where he taught inter alia, Sargent and R.A.M. Stevenson. He paints the king slightly smaller than life size by bringing the easel closer to him than the model (like Tallone above). Again we have a pedestal, and, like László, Duran seems to favour painting with the canvas already framed.

Ilya Repin painting a portrait of N. Kareev

Ilya Repin painting a portrait of N. Kareev

This is Repin painting the Russian historian Nikolai Kareev. He has placed the canvas alongside the model although not quite at the same level and has started painting the shadow shapes of the face during the initial lay-in. The lighting comes from above. Kareev sits on  a high pedestal and Repin mixes his paints about six feet away from the canvas.

For many of these photos I am indebted to Darren Roussar who has the website Sightsize.com.

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Bridget’s Portrait

Bridget, oil on canvas, 2015

Bridget, oil on canvas, 2015

Bridget works for a US investment bank in London. She came to the UK as a student from Nigeria almost ten years ago. This portrait of her took me about 13 hours. I had a limited palette of Ivory Black, Yellow Ochre, Vermillion, Cremnitz White and Cadmium Yellow (the last for the stole only).

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Forest Landscape

Beech Wood, 46 x 61cm, oil on canvas, 2015

Beech Wood, 46 x 61cm, oil on canvas, 2015

Last week I had a couple of days with no students to teach which happened to coincide with some very sunny weather. I made the most of it by going out to the woods and painting the picture above. Last year I painted a small sketch of the scene from more or less the same angle, and had planned to produce a larger version.  The benefits of painting the first sketch were significant: I could plan the composition more accurately, paint into the effect (anticipate the effects of the change in light and choose those I wanted in my picture) and work out the quickest way of painting the scene. Below is my initial sketch.

Beech wood in Kent, oil on board, 20 x 30cm, 2014

Beech wood in Kent, oil on board, 20 x 30cm, 2014

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