Painting 2: “I give this heavy weight from off my head”


“I give this heavy weight from off my head” Richard II (as played by Fiona Shaw in the deposition scene) | Acrylic 33 cm x 21

Fiona Shaw as Richard II in 1995 plays the deposition scene with  passion and fragility in a way that totally suits the slightly unhinged King who goes through a crisis of identity as he relinquishes the crown to his treacherous cousin Bolingbroke. It really is a tremendous piece if theatre (better in my view than David Tennant’s version although that was critically acclaimed).

In this painting I reworked the portrait I did in Part 3 for the Mood & Character exercise. I cropped it sharply to give drama and focused on the facial expression and the hands  which act out the removal of the crown… without the crown. This makes it very powerful as the crown itself throughout the productions always looks a bit of a gaudy play thing.

The vibrant colour palette was influenced by the work of German expressionist Emil Nolde (and also my own colour expeiments in my sketchbook and in Photoshop) and the use of line by Ecuadorian Oswaldo Guayasamin (1919-1999), German painter and printmaker Erich Heckel (1883 – 1970) and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (see my Hands Pinterest Board).  My recent visit to an Andy Warhol exhibition at Firstsite may also have rubbed off.

heavy-weight-interimI did an underdrawing in acrylic paint (black) on a yellow ground which in my enthusiasm I forgot to photograph. At an earlier stage my painting was a bit washed out. This was when I made the decision to be less cautious about the colour and reinstate the line which I had painted over . I mostly used transparent paint in layers. I’m learning to let it dry properly in between and clean my brushes and change the water regularly  in order to retain the brilliance of the colour. Basic but important lesson.

What works?
I’ve captured the anguish of the expression and that is what this painting is about. The colour palette is vibrant as I had planned and does demonstrate that it is not necessary to use gloomy colour to express an anguished mood as I might once have thought. While the very bold line wasn’t my original intention, as I was working I liked the melting together of the line around the finger tips and so used more of this approach which I feel helped to make a more cohesive whole. There’s an echo of Modigliani in the end result. This painting is my personal favourite of the five.

What doesn’t work so well?
Although I experimented with a very vibrant alternative colour palette (see below) I actually painted an ‘exaggerated normal’ so perhaps I could have been braver. The right-hand is a bit weak in the drawing and smaller than the other… but then again sometimes technical accuracy drains the emotion from a painting. There are limits to this line of thinking course as if something looks really wrong it may be the only thing the viewer notices.

Sketchbook exploration
I used my sketchbook to explore colour and also an alternative pose / position of the hands.


A4 sketchbook – ink









The sketchbook painting above with colour saturated in Photoshop. This helped me to let go and move away from totally realistic colours.









Alternative pose with praying hands (A4 sketchbook – ink)









Playing around with colour and saturation in Photoshop. Had I not run out of time, I would have done a bit more work on the praying hands and painted this pose as I feel it is expressive and strong.









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