Thursday, 31 December 2009

Family portraits

Original oil portrait of my brother
Today I thought of contrasting two portraits I did of the other male members of my family: my dad Mike and my brother Daniel. There are plenty of contrasts to highlight: my dad I painted about two years ago, in acrylics on board; the one of my brother I did over the last two days, in oils on canvas.  I painted both paintings from photo references but I painted my dad freehand and with the painting of my brother I did a careful drawing underneath with a grid reference to get everything in the right place.  Drawing a grid helps me to cut down on the time I spend replacing noses and resizing eyes, though sometimes it is nice to paint freehand and it can bring more expression to the painting.  When I do, and as I did in the case of my dad's portrait, I often like to flip the canvas and photo upside down so that I can see the shapes better.  It's amazing how interferring the consious mind can be sometimes: we all have preconcieved notions of the shape of facial features: noses, and a portrait can easily turn into a collection of stereotype eyes and cliche mouths.  There's certainly a place for art that uses symbols but I am trying to achieve a more representational work.  Turning the canvas upside down has been a useful tool to help me see beyond the veil of what we are expecting to see, to the real subject matter.  Of course the paintings often need reworking when you flip them the right side up again, some of the facial features can really en up in odd places when you are painting upside down.

Original acrylic portrait of my dad
I like both paintings. Although I think my painting tecnique has improved since the first painting, I have managed to capture something of the character of my dad in the acrylic one.  I painted the one of my brother with his living room in mind so I tried to make it look modern, I chose oils because I'm painting a lot in oils at the moment although acrylics would have suited this style of flat planes of colour very well.  Likewise the one of my dad could very well have been painted in oils, the acrylics are nice because colours can be laid down on top of each other very quickly without waiting for the paint to dry.

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