A new style of portrait

It seems like I only post here when I’ve made a self-portrait.

Only one of those is me.

They’re a little different to my previous work. I have a tendency to become obsessed with details, trying to make things dark and well defined, which often leads to overdone local contrast and colour. But I’ve always liked an approach which is more textured, with areas of detail where it matters and economy or chaos where it doesn’t - I’ve just always had trouble realising it. So here I’ve made a deliberate attempt to smudge, to lose edges and leave out details. I’ve used an acetone spray in the shadows to try and give some more texture to the charcoal. I’m trying to channel the work of Casey Baugh, and more indirectly Simon Davis

I hope to do a series of portraits like this. Hopefully it doesn’t just look like people whose heads are on fire!

(Full disclosure: the self-portrait was done from a photo, which is cheating, the other was entirely from life though!)


I thought that I’d start things off by discussing the process for my latest painting, which was a self-portrait (don’t ask why). First off here’s the final image:

The first step is a charcoal drawing, I try to make this as accurate and detailed as possible, without spending too much time worrying about neatness and rendering, because this won’t be transferred to the final painting. Time spent working on this stage is never lost though, as it is time spent looking at the subject and understanding it more fully. On the other hand this is certainly not final, changes and improvements are made at every stage.

The next stage is to transfer the drawing to the canvas. To do this I use an oil transfer technique as described here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNnNFh7YYAk. I then draw over the transfer in raw umber.

With a framework established the painting can begin! I have begun adopting a technique inspired by David Kassan’s work (http://www.davidkassan.com/) where the face is built up with many many overlapping tiny brush strokes, each attempting to wrap around the form. In this way the aim is to build up a depth of colour and texture whilst constantly reinforcing the drawing. Areas away from the focus of the painting or in shadow areas are painted with broader brush strokes. This painting isn’t really developed enough, the lattice of brushstrokes is still visible rather than blending into a smooth surface, the result reminds me of a hatching style of egg tempera painting. Still, I’m not too unhappy given the short time I had to do it.

Here I’ve included a video of the painting process:

Using Format