Early this year I decided I was a bit tired of painting portraits that took five or more months to complete. So after I finished two big ones I set about doing some ‘exercises’ – small portraits that had the same dark background and close enough to the head that little clothing was included. I also decided, and I took reference photos, that I wanted the sitters to not look at the camera or have an open mouth smile and the post didn’t have to be front-on. I reckoned I could do one of these per month.
It proved to be great fun. While I do like painting backgrounds and clothes, minimising them meant I could hone my skill at depicting skin and hair and eyes. Being able to paint heads from the back was a rare treat, too. By December I had eight paintings, not far off one a month since I started them a few months into the year.
Now I’m wondering what to do next year. Keep painting my little ‘exercises’, go back to big portraits, or try something else? People have often said to me they like my underpainting, which I do in watery acrylic paint in either alizarin red or viridian green. I might try doing one intended to be the final piece, starting off with the usual big sweeping paint strokes then adding finer ones, perhaps layering alizarin over viridian or visa versa.
I’ll see how I feel when classes start again next year.