Following on from studies of portraits in the National Gallery, a few offerings by my own hand from the last few weeks, the paintings from a class. As I mentioned before, part of the interest is in the difficulty, so I cringe a little in sharing these. But I’m very enjoying portraiture and am quite hooked, always seeking out more interesting faces to sit for me.

The lovely Eleanor. Normally I don’t enjoy drawing pretty faces, as their symmetry and neat features are frustrating. There’s less to grasp and hang onto and, to be honest, its less interesting. Not so with Eleanor, who has a lot of character in her beautiful face. With large dewy eyes, gentle curling hair and cupid’s bow lips, she has a doll-like beauty. She never seems to be seeing blankly though, underneath a calm demeanor I think I can see a head that clicks and whirrs in thought, the occasional eyelids blinking quickly, lips that purse and soften and purse again as something in her thoughts tick over. In-between conversation, I enjoy watching someone who is generous enough to sit still for me and focus on being composed reveal their character with little quirks.

Keith watching the News at Ten

Keith is a fine draughtsman with a portfolio full of wonderful portraits studies. It was half nerve-wracking drawing a drawer, it’s also very nice to be comfortable with a fellow who understands the challenge. Keith is an animated, chatty character, so it was fun to make him sit still for a half hour. I think the drawing shows a still man but with lively eyes already thinking through what art conversation her wants to raise next.

Model in a painting class

I find colour very difficult, but with this model her beautiful brown skin tone and colourful clothes set each other off. Some eastern genes provided an entire different eye structure and contours that were challenging to navigate. Painted over half a day in changing natural light, I found myself tired as the light faded, and abandoned this study in favour of a wider view. This second picture took about an hour and a half but I think I prefer it more. I’ve tried to capture the slight fatigue of the model at the end of the day, and my own weary brush strokes were more gentle, less fussy, and in the end, perhaps more natural to the atmosphere.

Kit, the painting class

Kit was a wonderful model. He has a noble face and took the job very seriously, looking dapper in jacket and tie, he took great care to hold his face and composure through the day. As the class takes just one day, it can be fast, but also intense, and most of the artists have a tendency to find their eyes tired and ability to make decisive judgements tested by the afternoon, especially after lunch. I guessed pretty quickly that Kit was an actor when not modelling, such was his attitude to the task and the way he held himself. His appearance and air of dignity would cast him as a suitable cousin to the Fox brothers.

Oliver, from the life class

Another from natural daylight, which seems to work for me best as it brings out honest colours. Sometimes its not always flattering. Here, Oliver looks pasty. But there was a rich, milky quality to his paleness that brought out beautiful blue shadows under his eyes and cherry-red lips. He had a very distinctive face, even without the crown of disheveled curls. After some sketching and starting to paint and work out his face and watery eyes, I decided that he would suit being a writer. I continued with this characterisation in mind, imagining his pale complexion born out late nights working and studious and sincere thoughts. Afterwards, I asked. Turns out he is a writer, so I felt pleased that, with practice, I was able to try to discern things from the face of a complete stranger. One of my most pleasing paintings yet, because he had such a distinctive face and I feel I was close to capturing it.