Art Workshop Reviews
By Teresa Spedone
Medium: oils or acrylics
I have always wanted to learn to paint portraits, and as I have been setting up my new studio I came across photos from the past of a couple of portraits I had done of an old boyfriend. I showed them to Merilyn, my art tutor and she said that she would be running a portrait workshop for two days over two week period in a couple of weeks time. Would you like to attend? I thought to myself...Archibald here I come!
But on the day when I turned up at Merilyn’s wonderful studio in the Evan’s Plains area of Bathurst I was terrified! I thought “What am I doing here? I can’t paint portraits!”
But I took a deep breath and waltzed in. Found a place to set up and met Neville our sitter. Neville is a lively and interesting man who is full of vitality. He was a wonderful sitter as he could sit very still for long periods of time. He had a very interesting face and long white hair and beard.
Merilyn as always made us all feel very welcome and put us at ease by giving us a starting point that we could all achieve. She handed out cardboard viewfinders and asked us to do a quick 10 minute charcoal sketch. This was to allow us to warm and loosen up and for Neville to get settled into his pose. First, we were to take note of the positioning of the head on our paper and to keep our drawing light and loose until we had some proportions down on paper.
See my quick sketch.
That done we then picked up our canvases or paper which we primed with gesso and Payne’s grey acrylic paint. Using a dry brush and a mixture of Cadmium Red, Raw Siena and White for the flesh tone we concentrated on scrubbing in tonally what we saw. Starting with the darkest areas first and keeping the paint lean to start with. Those using oils used low odour solvents for this first part. This allowed us to keep checking and changing the proportions in the painting.
Merilyn continually asks us to measure and check where the edge of an eye would measure horizontally if a line was drawn to the top or bottom of the face. Using a set square, ruler, brush or hand we measured and measured again where features on the face lined up with the ears, edge of the nose, edge of an eyebrow, top of head, lowest area of the face, the chin etc. and the same vertically, where does the edge of the lip reach in relation to the widest part of the nose, the nostril in relation to the eye brow, etc. I’m sure you get the picture.
It is not as easy as using a photograph as that is already a two dimensional image. So we continued to adjust our portraits until we felt that we had the proportions fairly right and saw the likeness emerging from our work (a bit like Michelangelo’s sculptures emerging from the block of marble!) and then were finally able to start adding thicker paint.
Remember to use varied brushstrokes to add depth and interest to your painting.
The final layer is where we were let loose to fill in the details, the highlights and accents – those subtle touches that tie everything together and bring the painting alive!
It was interesting, as always, to see how others interpret the portrait work while working with the same sitter. You can view the finished art works in the gallery. Well what do you think? Am I ready for the Archibald?
Merilyn Rice is a professional artist with over 40 years experience. She was a student of Joshua Smith who was the famed model for Drysdale’s controversial Archibald prize in 1937. She is a gifted teacher who always encourages her students, nurtures their individual journey and style, and provides constant feedback of our work. Merilyn believes in promoting an understanding of good proportion (seeing correctly), composition and tonal values.
Her weekly classes are not formally structured, in that individuals start at a level appropriate to their prior training and experience then, when working freely, students can experience the joy of colour and design in their medium of choice.