At last a moment to post on Patrick’s portrait. As you may remember from a previous post, Patrick made a “reverspective” portrait of me, and I have painted him, in order to do arty swapsies. The painting is large, as most of mine seem to be – this one, in acrylic, 5ft high by 4ft:

As some of you seem interested in how these come together, I took a few photographs of the stages along the way to show you.

I had taken a set of photos of Patrick in my studio, from which to work. I have a little cobbled-together photo studio set-up so that I can start with decent pictures. I settled on the following to use as a primary reference. It’ll give you the likeness:

The photo captures him nicely, so I printed it out (to about A3 size, around eleven inches wide) and kept it next to my canvas. The canvas and photograph I divide into quarters – when working large it’s necessary to have some sort of guide for overall proportion. That done, I start sketching directly onto the canvas. Sometimes I don’t do this and begin with the paint, but I was feeling less bold. I don’t do any preliminary sketching.

From the eyes and nose I continue until I get a sense of a portrait. Strictly speaking this level of work is unnecessary, but I like to be able to see it come together at the early stage before I involve paint:

Next I need to get some colour tone onto the canvas, so I cover it in orange. Green also works well. The pencil peeps through so I still have a guide. I’m using acrylic paint.

And some around the face. It’s important to keep the same tones in the background as in the face, otherwise the latter can end up feeling disconnected from the former:

Now I start to get some dark and light values on as the next layer. I have chosen a palette of colours ranging from a titanium buff for the highlights to a burnt umber/deep blue combination for the darkest points:

He’s already starting to look like Bertrand Russell, which is not what I want. I’ll be making corrections to the likeness later. Next I want to start getting some colour in there. So some greens, yellows, reds and blues, still allowing the orange to come through. Something starts to emerge:

More building up and something to lift it from the background. A nice fleshiness is falling into place. I normally begin now to work the eyes a little ahead of the rest of the face, which makes it seem a little more lifelike. Equally, a clear the framing of the face makes it look more worked too… these are tricks to make it seem less of a mess in the long central phase of painting:

A bit more of the same:

And I put some more love into the skin texture:

However, it doesn’t quite look right. I leave it for a bit and realise that the chin is too weak. In the next picture, I have done nothing but extend the chin, but the face looks quite different (I switch to my iPhone camera here for a bit so pay no attention to the colour shift):

Suddenly it falls into place. Now I keep working on the details and get the jacket and shirt done. I use glazes to build up better colours on the face, and I keep the detail sharp on the eyes and cheek so that the nose and neck fall out of focus. I also use a grey glaze to drop the clothes back a bit. This, along with the very start, is the fun part. Here’s a bit of work on the glasses. I need to make his nose more prominent, but can’t bring it down any lower as it will compromise the upper lip. So I lift the bridge of the glasses – first by erasing with orange – and then work up some detail on the rest of them.




Until eventually the painting is done. As I have so little time to paint, this was done in little bursts of a few hours here and there over the course of a couple of weeks:

Patrick was delighted. I was so pleased. Here he is with it (and his other glasses on)…

There you go. Hope that’s of interest to some of you.

My paintings are on view at derrenbrownart.com for your delectation. I have moved away from the caricature paintings which dominate that site to something softer and, I hope, more grown-up and accomplished (fond as I am of the earlier ones). This February I should be holding an exhibition at the Rebecca Hossack Gallery in Charlotte St, and we’ll let you know as soon as we have a date for that. The exhibition will contain these paintings produced since the publication of the ‘Portraits‘ book, such as the equally large Grande Dame below:

Aiming to paint the cellist Steven Isserlis next. Right, off you go.

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