Portrait painting in oils workshop at Yardley Arts

I recently hosted another portrait painting in oils workshop at the Yardley Arts Centre. This was another enjoyable experience with some enthusiastic and willing students and some great results.

In the same vein as my other portrait workshops http://www.cordellgarfield.com/workshops/  the portrait painting in oils workshop set out to really help beginners. Above all portrait painting and its anatomy are difficult to master and I tried to simplify the process. We approached the portrait painting through understanding the landmarks of the face. This could be the position of the eyes, distances between the eyes, nose and mouth and so on. We also worked on some colour theory and using a limited colour palette to produce a variety of flesh tones. Here are some examples of the work produced:

portrait painting in oils workshop yardley arts

portrait painting in oils workshop yardley arts

portrait painting in oils workshop yardley arts

portrait painting in oils workshop yardley arts

 

I also want to give a big shout out to Yardley Arts. Yardley Arts is a not-for-profit arts organisation that is really placing a focus on the arts in Northamptonshire. The spacious and light-filled centre is based at Yardley Hastings. Its range of courses covers drawing, painting, sculpture, jewellery and photography. There is even an animation workshop! Moreover, there is something for everybody with previous experience not necessary on many workshops.

I will be running another workshop at the centre in the future, but I would recommend checking out other courses. The courses are all run by experienced artists who will help improve your skills whatever your ability. Have a look at their web site https://www.yardleyarts.org/about

 

 

My visit to the BP Portrait Award exhibition

BP Portrait award Zack Zdrale
BP Portrait Award – Sister – Zack Zdrale

I made my annual visit to the National Portrait Gallery to see the BP Portrait Award exhibition 2018, sandwiched between watching England’s surprising progress at the World Cup!

One of the most prestigious portrait painting competitions, the BP Portrait Award has been running since 1980. There’s usually a mix of professional and student artists. So I just thought I’d put in a word for an inspiring exhibition and praise the art of the portrait.

The BP Award is where I go for inspiration and to marvel at the technical skills of the artists involved. I always find portraits that interest me every time I visit. Whether it’s photo realistic painting, paintings with some great inner psychology or simply colour, it’s all here.

So this time I saw great examples of photo realistic painting and some brilliant compositions. It’s not simply about a likeness, but also a mood or feel. Also I love the attention to surroundings and the depiction of props and clothing.

Looking round the exhibition I was drawn to this small portrait entitled ‘Sister’ by American artist Zack Zdrale http://zackzdrale.com/. Why was this? On first viewing it looked a little imposing and the model, Zack’s sister, a little stern with her intense gaze at the viewer. In his commentary Zack stressed that it was his sister’s expression of strength that dictated his painting. May be that’s why my first reaction was how imposing the pose seemed?

However, I think my reaction to the portrait chimed with what Zack set out to achieve. The slashes of light that hit the face and lower part of the neck immediately caught my eye. The strong triangular composition and use of chiaroscuro links in with the strength of the sitter’s gaze. Using a limited palette and with huge swathes of dark paint, my eye was directed to the boldly lit face.

This is just one of 48 paintings on show at the exhibition. You can look at the other paintings on the National Portrait Gallery’s website https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/bp-portrait-award-2018/exhibition/exhibitors/. However, I would seriously recommend a visit when you’re next in London. The exhibition runs until 23rd September.

In praise of Still Life

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Critics often say that still life paintings are a little uninspiring, an acquired taste, decorative yes, but a little dull. When compared to human subject matter and landscapes, still life ranks quite low in the pecking order of art forms.

My view is that still life art is more than just genre paintings, something pleasing to hang on your wall. So what is it about  the portrayal of some natural or man-made items that should make us reassess the impact of still life painting?

As an artist, and this is a technical standpoint, they are an exercise in looking once, and then looking again. For an artist it is the demand on the observation, the attention to composition and the arrangement of space and objects. The artist’s level of technical skill involves depicting colours, light, form and a response from the viewing experience. This experience could be anything. It could be realism, emotion or symbolism, but it depends on your style, your outlook and approach as an artist.

Still life paintings can be symbolic, as shown by many of the Dutch and Flemish 17th century painters. They would use books to represent knowledge, skulls to represent death and wine for pleasure. The still life painting would be bound up as an overall reminder for the viewer that we are all mortal and life is fragile. Known as ‘Momento Mori’ artwork (Latin for ‘Remember you must die’), http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/m/memento-mori and taken further with ‘Vanitas’ paintings http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/v/vanitas , they were a sort of visual cautionary tale that the pleasures and goods we pursued in our life were effectively worthless.

Obviously these paintings were symbolic, steeped in and framed by the strong influence of the church at the time. However, still life painting should act as a catalyst, making us look in more depth at the world around us. How many times do you watch TV, look at your mobile, answer a text while still talking to somebody? There is no focus on any of these things to any real extent, but that is how we seem to function these days. How many times have you walked to get somewhere, yet have no recollection of what you’ve really seen when walking? Do you really look at buildings, natural objects, people etc, other than a cursory glance?

Modern life has a bearing on how little we observe and really take time to look at something. Our attention span can be short on a variety of different issues. However, we know that many medical and technological innovations have come from somebody simply observing something in the first place. From really looking and understanding a problem or disease, a solution or medicine has been created. If we spend time really looking at something for more than a few seconds we can probably understand, appreciate and inform ourselves about what we have seen. May be our first impression was not entirely correct, may be we are not seeing the full picture!

Still life paintings take everyday objects we take for granted and show them in a new light. There might be symbolism, but the act of looking again is something we should probably try to practice in the outside world. In all this I’m not referring to spirituality or religion, but just the simple act of looking and observing. So the next time you see a still life painting, have a look, and may be later on see what’s around you in the real world. You might be surprised or look at things a little differently.

Kingley Vale painting

Landscape painting towards Chichester from Kingley Vale
Towards Chichester from Kingley Vale

Well, this is my first blog post on my new website. So here’s a painting from my travels.

This is a scene across Kingley Vale National Nature Reserve towards Chichester. It’s a wonderful chalk grassland littered with ancient burial mounds, yew trees and woodland dating back 500 years and more.

The view painted here is at the top of the valley with its stunning panoramic view over the woodland with Chichester harbour in the distance.