Assignment 5: Painting 1 – “God save the King, although I be not he”


“God save the King although I be not he, ” Shakespeare’s Richard II (played by Fiona Shaw in 1995) – Final with tutor feedback applied

My tutor felt that I had not exploited the potential of line fully and also that this painting would benefit from some warm yellow. She pointed me towards Georges Rouault’s paintings where line merges with hair and line does not just delineate features but meanders around. I developed the painting above further based on this feedback, which I found extremely helpful. Two paintings of Rouault influenced me in particular (I was very pleased to be pointed in this direction) Fille (à la Cigarette) and Portrait de Maria Lani. I am satisfied that the final version is an improvement. Certainly the warmer yellow works; it seems to have made all the colours more vivid. The Additional lines  disrupt the original rather literal lines and give vitality but I may have overdone them. Referencing my original sketches, I added additional grey shadow at the hairline and in other places. I’m very interested in the use of expressive line in painting and accept I’ve much still to learn but I have made progress.


“God save the King, although I be not he,” Richard II (played by Fiona Shaw in 1995). Acrylic (40 x 40cm) – Version 1

Richard II (played by Fiona Shaw in a groundbreaking 1995 National Theatre production) is sitting surrounded by those he thought his loyal followers who have betrayed him. They are looking down,uncomfortable in close proximity to the now deposed King.

Richard II has reluctantly relinquished the crown to his cousin Bolingbroke and says with bitter irony, amid a crisis of identity; “God save the King, although I be not he”. No one gives the traditional reply of “Amen”.


Initial drawing – pencil and brush

What works?
I’m pleased with this painting… the palette is bolder than I have achieved with acrylics before and mixes warm and cold colours. The composition works; I brought the figures closer together than in the video still. The line feels fairly integrated with the picture and I have used different weights of line. The expressions are all meaningful. Of course you have to know the story to know what is going on but all the characters are contributing.

What doesn’t work so well?
Perhaps Fiona Shaw’s eyebrows could arch more to bring to bring out the ironic expression on her face. In reality her face is longer and thinner than I have portrayed. It’s amazing casting; while she plays the part with femininity, she gives the role massive strength. It is utterly enthralling. A joy for me to paint. Closer to what I would like to think of as my personal voice than anything else I’ve produced with acrylics.

Preparatory / sketchbook work


I worked from an extremely grainy video still (only about 20 minutes footage of this production is available, the rest having been lost). I photographed and cut up my sketch to pull the characters closer together in a square format.


For the colour palette for my final painting I took inspiration from work by German expressionist Emil Nolde, particularly this self portrait and a painting of a young couple.  I had gathered these together in a Pinterest Board Portraits with mood or atmosphere some time ago and it has proved to be a good reference. I rejected my sketchbook colours as too cold and unadventurous. I wanted to be bolder with colour and mix warm and cold.


A4 sketchbook exploratory pen and watercolour painting


Cut up and rearranged to put the figures closer together in a square format










Crop of A4 sketchbook in paintig

In another sketchbook exploration I did a quick painting of deposed King Richard II (Fiona Shaw) clutching the new King: “I know not what name to call myself.” I thought this had potential too with a tight crop (as below) but preferred the three figures. This colour palette was a bit too red and fiery.






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