Assignment 3 – Research

Now that you’ve worked on several figure and portrait studies, consolidate what you’ve learnt by working in a more planned and considered way on a portrait or self-portrait in either acrylic or oil paint. Show how your skills in handling paint and interpreting your subject are developing.

I’ve done more portrait studies than figures so I’d like to paint a figure for this assignment and I’ve decided to return to my friend Cameron asleep in a chair. This was the subject i chose for Figure in an Interior. I had quite a good response to my painting from people I showed it to (including some who know Cameron). They didn’t seem  as hooked up as  me on the problem with the stiff / too long neck. Anyway, it’s a good pose and Cameron is a relaxed model. Rather than reproduce my earlier painting I would like to try interpret the picture differently using my photos and painting as source material.

Inspiration (hopefully!)

Jonathan Yeo
I’m  attracted  to the combination of brush strokes and ‘drawn lines’. Earlier I looked at the work of Jonathan Yeo and this continues to inspire me. See my blog post here.

Constance Stubbs
On Friday I visited the John Russell Gallery at Ipswich Docks – this is a lovely welcoming gallery that showcases the work of first class East Anglian artists. There is always something special and in this case it was a portrait by Constance Stubbs who, I was saddened to learn, died just a few weeks earlier. She was an extraordinary painter and I wrote about her in my blog post here.


Les by Constance Stubbs

I’m reproducing the portrait of Les here with the kind permission of the gallery. Stubbs worked in mixed media, including collage. I’m fascinated by the way she has painted blocks of colour and then drawn in the detail with particular emphasis on the face and hands. I’m not sure what she used as the drawing medium, it might be Conté crayon or something similar. I note the white outline around the figure – this seems to quietly energise the portrait. It is an altogether wonderful painting, full of personality.



Detail hands


Detail face


Detail dog


I like the unfussy but  bright colour palette. The background is effective… I’ve no idea if it represents anything in particular but it seems to bounce light around and the contrast with Les’s pink sweater and seat cushion is lovely. It is hard not to enjoy the little dog at his master’s side.

Marlene Dumas
I have Stella Davis (OCA student who has just finished Level 2) to thank for the introduction to Marlene Dumas. Born in South Africa 1953 and today living and working in Amsterdam, she paints abstract figurative works. Again, she has a way of working with line that is particularly appealing. Her portraits are sometimes stark and disturbing, often in your face and always expressive. Take a look at my Pinterest board here.

Of particular interest to me –

  • the expressive drawing lines in Nuclear Family and Young boys
  • the handling of the clothing and lines in The Widow – the way they are faded slightly ghosted out.
  • Jule – the Woman – the way the background ‘skin’ colour has been used with the pink – fantastic!

There are a couple of quotes from her on the Tate website (related to The Image as Burden exhibition) that speak directly to me and  provide insight into her thinking and the way she works:

“I would like my paintings to be like poems. Poems are like sentences that have taken their clothes off. The meaning of a poem is what its beat and rhythm do. How the words move on the page. Poetry is writing that breathes and makes jumps and leaves spaces open, so we can read between the lines.”

“I worry about what they [live models] think of me and I get even more worried about what they think, I think of them. And then I lose the freedom of the amoral touch which for me is a prerequisite for making a good painting.”

I think this is saying that sometimes you need distance to paint what you really see and feel.

I’m not yet quite sure how I am going to use these influences but if I start with some experiments with drawing, paint and composition, hopefully something promising will emerge…

Saatchi Gallery
Tate Modern


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