It’s so important to keep learning and challenging yourself.
I know that I need to spend more time painting the figure from life but it’s difficult to find opportunities to paint figures in long poses. So today I was very excited to go to the Mall Galleries to a summer workshop on Painting the model from life’ tutored by Daniel Shadbolt NEAC (He is a member of the New English Art Club who exhibit in London and are the best ‘painters from life’ around).
If you haven’t been before, the Mall Galleries run an amazing week of summer workshops in August where celebrated artists teach their subject for a day or an afternoon for a very reasonable price. The tutors are all highly accomplished and honoured in their field and the opportunity to be taught by them is not to be missed.
Daniel is a patient and thoughtful tutor and got to know each of us a bit before we started. He based the class around a painting he particularly loved by Matthew Smith, with a voluptuous model in reclining pose in a palette of rich, warm colours. Our model adopted the same pose and Daniel did a short demo of how he might begin the painting, drawing and marking in tonal shapes in a mix of raw umber and white.
I had decided that I was going to take the painting slowly as I sometimes rush in an environment with other people as it’s a bit more intimidating than working on your own. It was quite nice to start with a bit of sketching first to help get our eye in. This calmed me down a bit and got me into the thought process of how I would tackle the figure.
As the day progressed my painting went down several blind alleys. The pose was from the head end fairly straight on and drawing out the head and the hair was tricky. The model was headless several times. The colour of the drapery also stumped me slightly, as I was worried the model’s skin tones would be lost amongst the warm colours surrounding her. Also the colour nearest to me was a very strong yellow which I overplayed to start off with and needed to tone down considerably and consider the darker yellow tones.
I didn’t manage to finish the painting, but what I found interesting is that I spent most of my time juggling the background colours and elements and hardly any time painting the model’s flesh. This was even more interesting because the grey underpainting that shows through on a lot of her body provides a great counter to the warm colours around her.
It was hard work, but a very rewarding day and painting the figure in oils from life is something I’m now ready to do as often as I can.