After my sketching trip to Leeds I have hundreds of photos and sketches to go through to potentially turn into paintings. It’s slightly overwhelming, so I decided to break the process into steps and get some prep sketches done to solidify the ideas I had when I met the sitters.
In Leeds, I used pencil to just familiarise myself with poses and faces, but translate ideas into paint I need colour so I dusted off my pastels and decided to try to work up at least two composition ideas for each person. This will also help me know what shape canvases I need.

I found it really helped my mind to get into a process going through and working on several ideas one after the other, and I’m hoping that it will draw similarities and make the paintings feel more of a series.

Pastels are bright and expressive and good to work with to boldly map out where colour should go, I only hope I can achieve that boldness with paint; I suspect I need more studies on backgrounds to get into the flow.

I think I will try to work on the images I have of musicians first, as they are the ones with the obvious links.


Initial ideas

Here are some initial ideas for Aište, Al and Rhea.

Aište loves plants, and had brought her baby orange tree along as a prop. She has a very pre-Raphaelite look with her long, curly hair so I think I will go for a circular canvas with a very classical pose.

Al is a saxophone player, so I wanted to ramp up the warm tones and colours to give a feeling of swirling jazz music aaround him. I had a number of poses among my photos but I think I’ll go for the more traditional, leaning back pose of the jazz player. It’s a shame it doesn’t show his face too much, but I have also started a little series of faces of each sitter, partly as study practice and partly with a view to being supplementary work if I exhibit the paintings.

Rhea loves to sing karaoke so we set the lights to ‘stage’ (dark with a bright spotlight), and she used the TV remote to perform. Fabulous. There are another couple of poses I’d like to try though.

Face studies

Partly because the poses I’m choosing for portraits don’t show the faces of my lovely sitters and partly for practice (and maybe procrastination?!) I’m going to do an oil study of the face of each person. I’m limiting myself to doing it in a day so each sketch has to be alla prima (in one go) and a maximum 6 hours painting time. It’s good to have  constraints, as it makes you try to solve problems and really forces you to look, even if it doesn’t always work.

I’m hoping all this work will help me really get into a rhythm of painting and strengthen my style, but we shall see! Next challenge is to tackle the big paintings!

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