Once I had finished the line drawing of my son climbing I wanted to paint using acrylics. I find during this course I have been reaching for the watercolours for an initial wash before adding acrylic paint and then more watercolour paints, but for this piece I wanted to use just one medium so I could get to know it and understand, out of my limited palette, what mixes well with regard to colour, thickness and washes. Also, I was not sure of the pose I wanted to capture and still feeling the ‘hangover’ from the line drawing I knew the best thing to do was to take the opportunity to sketch my son in situ again. Sketching whilst my son is climbing really helps me to see his general posture, angles of limbs and importantly get a feel for the moving figure. My main objective for this piece wasn’t just to use acrylics and work on tone of the flesh and clothes, proportions, etc but to create a piece that has energy in a naturalistic way, as I tend to lose energy I sometimes manage in my sketches and want to inject this into my bigger pieces of work. Something I haven’t managed yet but I am working towards! Sketching my son outdoors whilst he was climbing was short lived, but nonetheless very helpful for reinvigorating my approach. I also took a short video and some photos to help with the actual painting.
A4 sketch book using charcoal, wax relief and watercolours. Sketching my son climbing rocks.
After the above few sketches I chose A1 paper and plotted the outline in charcoal.
A1 paper and charcoal
Before I started painting I checked out various artists and took inspiration from the contemporary painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, because of her use of tone and the almost sketchy mood she creates in her oil paintings of men and women in various ‘moving’ and inactive portraits. In particular I found myself drawn (again) to the artist Euan Uglow (1932-2000). I love the way in some of Uglow’s figure paintings that he links a seemingly limited colour palatte, creating calm balanced tones with the visible lines peeking through the paint. His style feels structured and balanced and Uglow contrasts this with visible lines and exposed canvas, which compliments the aforementioned beautifully. I thought about this approach for my own picture and how to link my limited acrylic paints with the overall painting still revealing the charcoal sketch through the paint. I was in part influenced by Uglow but also I did find it very helpful from where I marked out the figure to building up the paint, starting with a wash and intensifying only some areas, all the while using the paint to rearrange the composition and letting those lines and mistakes show through.
First layer of acrylic. The lines are still informing me of where to continue. I also used charcoal over dried paint to alter the rocks etc.
I do not have many acrylic paints but I did spend time mixing (very relaxing). I predominately used Burnt Sienna, the primary colours and green with white mixing paint.
I really enjoyed ‘playing’ with acrylic and would like to buy better quality next time.
However, despite the lines of the figure poking through I had some frustration with the shoulder area. In the above picture I think you can see where it looks awkward. It was tricky, I had to get my son to lift his shoulder in the pose above to be able to see clearly and understand how his shoulder sits under his top and the fact it is in front of his head and not sharing the same visual plain. I also struggled with the rocks and background. I had decided I did not want a fussy background and opted for an overall impression, which I think is best for this, so as not too take away from the figure. I am not sure it was successful but my main objective is the figure in an ‘activity’. A new learning curve for future works could be to learn how to sit the figure in its space agreeably where a background is preferable but I need to balance this. Talking of balance I also altered the outline of the rocks to try and reflect and create a little more harmony with the figure.
Finished piece on A1 (although trimmed at top and bottom to square off)
Below are two examples of the mentioned artists work that inspired me.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Willow Strip, 2017, oil on canvas