Sargent is a hero of mine. I find his work inspirational, exciting and so beautiful. Most of the work I have seen are of his oil paintings and its mainly his portraits that really float my boat. However this last week I have been to see some of his watercolours at Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Yet again I was blown away by his work. He makes it all look so easy yet you know that if you have a go just how quickly you can muck it up. His use of colour is incredible and the simplicity to the work was stunning, so effective. His work really shows you how important it is to remember that everything is a shape and that nothing is a line. His decision in what to define and what to loosen up is key to the work. One can be so tempted to define everything as our eyes tend to want to do that. This takes away the magic. When you see his work it makes you realise how much of what you see isn’t in detail and that you don’t need to see everything in so much detail, it is not important.
His composition is also very interesting. One has a habit of wanting to include everything but instead he chooses very small key areas of the subject which you can see here in the fountain that he did. The whole fountain is not included but that doesn’t matter, the cherubs are the beautiful part of the fountain – the rest is not so important. He also shows this with the background. It can be very easy to get caught up on the background of something you are painting, thinking that it is good to record everything. Here Sargent paints a really simple and washed out background because what he wants is for you to concentrate on the fountain. Painting in a really detailed background would just distract you from the main reason for the painting. This is what I really like about his portraits. Sargent is so clever at putting detail into the most important part of the portraits – the face. The rest of the portraits are so loosely done, with huge brush strokes giving the audience an impression. This really draws your eye into their faces just like you are really drawn into this fountain.
This exhibition is on at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. If you are near, I think its a great exhibition and a must see!
It has been such beautiful weather here in the UK for the last week or two. My mother really kindly invited me for a couple of days away in Suffolk where we could get on with some painting. I haven’t really been able to use my new art box much yet as its been a busy summer with cousins. With my son away we had plenty of time to paint. It was the first time I had ever painted plein air so the whole experience was pretty scary to begin with. There was a lovely graveyard nearby which we painted first. The light was lovely on the gravestones creating lovely shadows.
The second day was spent painting a typical view of the fields in Suffolk with wonderful grass in the foreground, stubble fields with bales and lovely trees and hedges. I decided to use really small canvasses as I really like small paintings at the moment. They are easy to place on bookshelves and great to put together as a montage on a wall. I had never painted this small before and wanted to give it a go. I was quite pleased with the result in the end. I’m feeling thoroughly inspired now by the countryside and every time I get in the car I’m finding great locations. If only I had more time. The art box was a brilliant buy too. I’m thrilled with it.
For the last couple of weeks I have been painting a portrait of this women in blue. I thought that it might be a fun thing to show how the process works. It’s often fun to take photos along the way so you can see the all the mistakes you have made and the progression – hopefully!
It’s important to put a wash on your canvas/board first to knock the white away as it can be distracting. Then take your time to draw your portrait in a dark colour making sure you double check your proportions. Then find the shadow shapes and draw them and fill them in thinly. To get the likeness of someone concentrate on the 5 essential darks which are under the eyebrows, eyes, under the nose, top lip and under the bottom lip. Now add skin tone. Start painting in the colour that features the most which would be the middle tone. At this point avoid the shadow shapes as you have already blocked those in. As you go along its alway good to tweak the lines and shapes making sure that all the way along the process you are getting proportions right. Start to add in the highlights and make sure you leave all the details to the last sitting.