Anna and Simon portrait

Anna and Simon, oil on canvas, Matt Harvey Art
Anna and Simon final version
Anna and Simon progress 4, oil on canvas, Matt Harvey Art
Anna and Simon progress 3 – refining details and adding glazes for depth. I was trying to be economical about the details of Simon’s jumper
Anna and Simon progress 3
Anna and Simon progress 2 – here I have blocked in all the areas of colour, like a ‘dead layer’
Anna and Simon, progress 1, Oil on canvas, Matt Harvey
Anna and Simon progress 1- at this stage I abandoned the grisaille and worked colours straight onto the canvas

Here is a double portrait I worked on from a photo, to give an example of the process. I originally painted Anna in a grisaille, and went over the face in colour, having changed tack and wanting concentrate on a single opaque colour layer. It was worked into over a few sessions with additional glazes of colour.

In contrast I painted Simon’s face in colour directly onto primed canvas. I painted a ‘ground’ (or colour stain) on the canvas first, using a couple of coats of acrylic Burnt Umber. You can also see where I drew the grid. I had to leave some of the background unpainted so I could still follow the gridlines! It was one of those rare occasions where I was able to get the drawing right on the first attempt.

When doing commissions this has been something I have avoided trying too much, because when the drawing doesn’t work I can spend many hours going back over the painting, needlessly, because if the drawing was all correct in the first place it wouldn’t have been a problem.  Many bad experiences trying to fix paintings like this led me to use the grisaille method, because that is a great way of ensuring the drawing is right before attempting colour.

When I say drawing I’m talking about drawing with the paint. I’ve written about this before, especially here regarding the utmost importance of getting the drawing right first. Drawing is all of painting – figurative painting that is. That’s why even though I trained as a sculptor I could try painting portraits, because I had done a lot of drawing already.  Working to commission means I need to make sure there’s no wasted effort.

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