Sunday, June 6, 2010

Under Painting

"Where did you study?"

For some reason I always let out a small barking laugh when someone asks me that question. Yesterday I was asked a lot and I found myself smirking slightly.

Where do I study? Everywhere. Everything in life is a study that can be applied to my artwork.

Certainly, there are techniques that can be taught, but a lot of it is intuitive and ultimately, it's about self expression. For some reason though, I really can't stand doing self portraits, which is why I portray myself as a wolf so frequently. Of course, this was also why I chose to sign up for Sadie Lee's Portraiture class.

I can pull off relatively accurate portrait drawings when I'm in the right head space, but when it comes to drawing a self portrait I cringe. It's my mouth. I can never get it right. And then the fact that I wear glasses and any artist can tell you they're ridiculously difficult. Even photographers are inclined to ask you to take them off for the glare they cause.

So I signed up for my first official 'art lesson' since high school because I knew it would make me have to do something I am entirely uncomfortable with. It was held at the National Portrait Gallery, which just sounds really cool, doesn't it?

'I attended a class on Acrylic Portraiture this Saturday, taught by Sadie Lee at the NPG in London.'

It was really cool, but not because of where it was or who it was (Sadie is brilliant, albeit a bit blunt.) but because it was so different for me. I don't sit in a classroom when I try new techniques. I didn't get instruction on how to use gouache or how quickly one must work when working with water based paints. Certainly there was an element of lesson in High School, but most of this was very simplistic and even then I had to figure a lot of it out on my own.

I figured out under painting when I started 'Guardian'. I was nineteen then, maybe twenty? It occurred to me that, like painting a wall, brighter colours took better when they had a tinted undercoating. Of course my under painting was generally always done in white tinted the colour of the top-coat. I knew a lot of artists used the technique and often grey or green was used. I'd even tried grey in a tentative way once before, but still always tinted with my overcoat colour.

Yesterday Sadie had us do several styles of the same photograph. My favourite was actually the very wet and blobby acrylic on water colour paper, but the ultimate finished project would be the Katz Style canvas. I can't say I'm entirely pleased with the result. The proportions aren't right. But the glasses work and I'm actually really pleased with the light and shading of the sleeves, which make it look like real material.

I did learn a lot and I'm excited to delve further into it. I feel like I've got new tools to experiment with and new ways to take my artwork further. I also got a lovely history lesson about Mary Beale, England's first female oil painter and Angelica Kauffmann, one of the founding members of the Royal Academy. I mention them as Sadie has made it her personal mission to highlight these generally forgotten women in history and I would like to contribute to her cause.

Following the class I went elephant hunting. It was a gorgeous day, I felt the need to stretch my legs, and Green Park was only a short jaunt away. Here they are: a whole parade of elephants.

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