Assignment 5: Painting 3 – Hollow Crown I


“The Hollow Crown that rounds the mortal temples of a King” I | Acrylic 29 x 39cm

Painting 3: The Hollow Crown (I)

fiona-full length

Source photo of Fiona Shaw as Richard II, Act 1 – Photo by Neil Libbert

This full length painting of a proud and confident King (Act 1 before things fell apart) wearing crown and robes and grasping sceptre and orb was created from a photograph of Fiona Shaw as Richard II in the 1995 production. I was aiming to produce a picture with a theatrical feeling, something a little ethereal or other worldly.

My inspiration was Gustav Moreau’s thrilling 1851 study for Lady Macbeth. I painted on a yellow ground, and drew the figure in black acrylic. As I painted over using transparent layers the original lines were retained but they became soft. I touched up the lines a little later with a drawing pen but tried to be restrained as I wanted this to be an impression of the King rather than a detailed portrait. I added two ‘spectral’ figures in the background. They can represent whatever the viewer wishes… but to me they are a glimpse into the future and the treacherous friends that turn against the King and depose him. Hence the ‘hollow crown’.

What works?
There’s a story being told and while I haven’t achieved Moreau’s drama, it is a theatrical painting with atmosphere and, I feel, a reasonably successful development of my sketchbook drawings (see below).

What doesn’t work so well?
I’d like to have achieved more subtlety with the line – broken it up, made it more frail…  more like my ink sketch below with varied weights. I can achieve this much more readily with ink, bamboo pen and brush.Acrylic is a different medium that I am not so experienced in but I am beginning, finally, to get the hang of it. Perhaps blank faces for the King and the spooky characters would have added suspense / enigma? But the King looks proud and the spooks look decidedly disloyal so are they contributing to the story or am I telling too much?!

Sketchbook prep


A4 sketchbook ink painting


Colour saturated in Photoshop. This gave me the idea for the outline glow.


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