Thursday, 30 June 2011

The observer observed

As a rule, there are hardly any paintings hanging in my studio apart from the ones I'm currently working on. There is one exception however and that's 'The Observer'. For some reason I find this character's benign gaze quite encouraging and he doesn't tend to talk too much either (which is an important consideration when you are trying to work).

He was painted a few years ago but I recently found a set of photographs that show the work in progress. I hope that you might find them interesting?

'The Old Observer'
acrylics on canvas (76cm x 61cm)

work in progress  
The painting was developed from an initial quick sketch (which I've now lost) by squaring up the canvas and then roughing out the image in Payne's Gray acrylic washes. This is much the same technique as described in an earlier post: 'Reaching for the Moon'. The image is worked over with layers of Payne's Gray until it feels complete as a simple chiaroscuro under-painting.

work in progress  (click on image to enlarge)
Time to add some colour. At this stage, the colour is really under-painting and a bit experimental as the mood of the overall image is developed. Because I work with transparent colour glazes, colour undercoats will show through subsequent layers. This helps to create depth to the image and provides some fairly subtle lighting effects when the painting is completed. 

work in progress  
OK, this is where the fun starts and where everything slows down! The skin tones are gradually developed (with numerous transparent colour glazes) while the modelling and detailing of the face and hand are further defined.

work in progress 
These photographs help to show the level of detailing that's involved, it is very nearly microscopic! It's certainly time-consuming to do and there is a point where you feel that you'll go completely crazy if you have to paint another whisker or wrinkle. You begin to wonder why you ever started and swear to yourself that next time the image will be much more impressionistic. It never works out that way for me though!

work in progress  
The last stages. Detailing is complete and the painting just needs a few final transparent glazes that will 'knock back' some of the colour slightly and create a more subdued and realistic skin tone. The shading is also developed further in order to get the painting into a state where it is almost half light, half shade and where the character almost appears to be observing you from out of the canvas...

"That's a sign of a good painting Dud, if the eyes follow you round the room it's a good painting, if they don't, it isn't" -Peter Cook to Dudley Moore (At the Art Gallery).


  1. I'd say I'm speechless but I can manage a 'jeepers gee willikers'. It's like magic. Slow magic. But wow!

  2. Thanks Victoria! 'Slow Magic'... I'm truly honoured.