It's a Wonderful Life

Seasons Greetings to all! It's been a frantic few weeks in the build up to Christmas and I am unprepared this year- it seems everyone around me has ordered their turkeys, wrapped presents and booked grocery delivery slots. I have done none of the above and still haven't finished Christmas shopping but am strangely unflustered about it. I keep telling myself that it's the simple things in life that really matter this time of year like spreading love and goodwill. And I've been far too busy organising my new classes for next year to have the time to worry about it.

I still have some spaces left on my new January workshops Introduction to Charcoal 12th Jan and Introduction to Pastels 13th Jan where you can learn easy tricks to get amazing results from two of my favourite mediums. And also All Day life drawing 27th Jan- a guided workshop, drawing direct from a model for beginners and advanced, go to Classes and workshops page to find out more.

I've been working on a few commissions which I'll have to wait til next month to tell you about as they are all being given from the clients as Christmas presents. I'm still hoping to get an oil portrait of a little girl finished for the big day. I went to her house for a sitting and to get some photos. It really helps to meet the subject, see them animated and to get a colour study from life. The colours are never truly represented in a photo so I can get accurate skin tones and subtle changes in value that a camera just can't pick up. Here's the colour study I did from life, below.

Whilst I drew her we chatted, which also helped to get an idea of her character. She has lovely olive skin tones which were complimented by the contrast of her dark hair and white dress. The room we were in had quite neutral coloured walls and I liked the warm and cool grey shadows that made up the background. I used the photos to work from to get the structure of the face and likeness . Before I start on the canvas I usually do a few thumbnail sketches and quick charcoal study just to get used to the pose and feel my way around the forms and shadow shapes, and to resolve any potential issues .

By the time I start on the canvas I'm not going in cold and have familiarised myself with the pose. Below is the monochrome underpainting that I started with, working with a big brush to keep it soft and loose, concentrating on get the placement of features and establishing the darks and lights

When I've established the underpainting I started with colour, below is the portrait in the early stages of the colour application. Simplifying into blocks of tone, and using the life study as colour reference. At this stage I have to resist the urge to refine and add detail until later on in the process.

This is as far as I've got but am still aiming to have it completed by Christmas.

I've been really enjoying doing ots of life drawing recently, as well as my regular group, I've been running all day classes where we had a chance to work in detail on a long pose and get the opportunity to work in colour.

I cannot stress enough the importrance of working from a live figure to help with core drawing skills. The knowledge I have gained from doing it has made all aspects of painting and drawing so much more rewarding and enjoyable. The simple beauty and design of the human form never fails to inspire me. Here are some more examples in various different mediums

I am still trying to find time to work on my own project when I get a chance -a series of pastel portraits of friends and musicians at my local pub, for an exhibition. Here is a snippet of some in (the very early stages of) progress. Below is Ellie, a talented singer/songwriter/music teacher . She bought her ukulele along when she came for the sitting and played while I drew her. She has a hauntingly beautiful voice and sings with such emotion, for her portrait I want to capture that farwaway look in her eyes when she performs.

I also want to get the feeling of movement in her hands.

Another subject for the portraits, below is Kelli. She is very glamourous and has an amazing bone structure which reminds me of the singer Debbie Harry. I decided to do this one in oils so I sketched out the drawing with charcoal on a toned canvas first then went in with paint.

I often find it helpful to work upside down for some of the process - the painting, not me:) It helps me to observe without preconceptions and forces me to view the face as a collection of abstract shapes and tones. This method is particularly helpful for portraiture when I'm struggling with a likeness.

That's about it folks, lastly I wanted to show a Christmassy landscape pic to get you in the festive mood (Winter scene of Petersfield Lake in pastels) I feel blessed to live in such a lovely location -I visit the lake most days on my daily dog walk and I never get bored of the scenery. Everyday I see something different that I havent noticed before. I've started to appreciate these simple kind of pleaures in life- I must be getting old!

Thank you for your interest and support this year and keep your comments coming:)

Wishing you all a Happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas x

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