My intention for this assignment was to be more organised and thorough in my approach. To this end the very first thing I did was to sit down and think on paper to kick things off.
I spread some of the work from part three out on the floor to take a look and how things had progressed.
Interesting…I have moved away from a more graphic style and toward a more expressionistic way of painting and the colours are softer as I have mixed more on the surface of the painting and not the pallet.
Skimming through artists that I have looked at and some that I have had on my Pinterest boards to look at, these two, although years apart have a common thread and have self portraits and portraits and are in that softer vein.
1868 – 1940
Edouard Vuillard was around at the same time as Pierre Bonnard, not surprising that I was drawn to him as, in their earlier days, they were both part of a group founded by Vuillard called The Nabis (hebrew for prophet). Both these artists use an under painting of colour which is deliberately allowed to show through, noticeable in the middle painting and the painting on the right.
Here is a self portrait, a portrait of a friend and a portrait of Pierre Bonnard.The self portrait is perhaps the more traditional but with very soft brush work and colours. The middle picture actually appeals to the graphic side of me as there appears to be a line all around the figure, in fact this is the underpainting showing through. This has quite flat areas of colour and bold light on the face and hands emphasising the intensity with which the subject is looking at the object on the table. The portrait of Bonnard is a very soft pallet of colours the only brighter colour is in the picture he is observing…perhaps one of his own?
Found this artist in Vitamin P2 and went on to look at his work on line and listen to an interview.
His work is not just about the portraits and has context beyond the image you are looking at, political satire and he definitely has something to say with each piece, but for now I am interested in the style. The portraits are classic at first glance, fine facial and physical drawing but the colours are soft and everything outside the actual face is often muted and sketchy. Brushwork very visible in contrast to the figures themselves.
My next step was to make some sketches and decide on a composition.
I liked this with all the angles and actually including the mirror – the sketch of course has my sketchbook in it so would have to try again with the easel so I could paint and look.
Hunched towards the mirror, there would be foreshortening and Id get back ache!
Starting to play more with the mirror, this would be weird, I do like it, but I think it would be difficult as if you close one eye you get a completely different view.
May well be getting nearer here, I like the playing with the mirror thing, its becoming part of the composition, need to look carefully at proportions here.
I am however, nearly back to a head and shoulders which I wanted to avoid.
I like the figure to one side, which I did in my first self portrait.
Really like this one, but just doing the sketch gave me eye ache looking back over my shoulder.
Decided on the reflection in the mirror idea, and took it a little further by adding a mirror behind me.
I began by laying a two colour wash in acrylic. Working on a board for this assignment, some of the exercises have proved tricky on paper, especially as now I am sticking to oil paint. I roughly marked in the composition with chalk.
Building up the painting, I continually adjusted as I went along. At one point I got confused as to which was the mirror I was looking in and the frame of the one behind. I also was swaying from side to side as the mirror in front was placed on the easel right next to the canvas board. Proportions were tricky and at first I made my head, reflected in the mirror too big. The other issue was how much of all the detail in refections should I use.
I have tried, particularly over the last three paintings in this part of the course, to loosen up. As a portrait this works for me, not so much because its a good likeness, a couple of my other attempts were better, but this illustrates me at my studies. Scruffy, in my painting shirt, concentrating. Looking at the two artists before I started helped to keep me on the looser track and I have left a lot of soft edges as in the Vuillard paintings, with much of the ground colour showing through.
One of the challenges working with reflections is the colours. Do they become more muted or should I have left them sharp. I believe that I could have tried a wash technique to gradually tone down the mirror reflections, but I am short on time…..NB remember for next time I try this.
Watkins, N. (1993) Vitamin P2. London: Phaidon Press.