One of the benefits of teaching portraiture at Charles Cecil Studios, in Florence is that I get to work on head studies of my own. The rigor of portrait painting is great training for the eye. Joshua Reynolds, in his discourses, stated that ‘portraiture kept painting sane.’ (We must remember though he was exclusively a portrait painter.) I tend to see head studies as an opportunity to explore psychology and create reference images for eventual larger works. Below are couple of examples:
These are all oil on linen and life size. A big problem with seeing paintings in reproduction is the it is difficult to understand the scale. It is also almost impossible to see the texture. Recently in my work I have really been pushing the idea of texture of paint to read as flesh. A selected use of impasto is an important element in oil paint. Paint texture and the life scale renders the image more visceral.
So often students are so preoccupied with the drawing and technical difficulties of oil painting that they neglect the pose. An initial idea, complete with pose is essential. Otherwise the best possible result is a well rendered mug shot. For the above study I did a quick sketch in charcoal to ‘check’ the pose.
For me, a drawing helps me better understand the task at hand. Any problems usually come out right away. The model, Mattia, is also a very talented painter. You can see some of his work here.
The above two picture are perfect examples of studies that could be eventually utilized for a larger picture. The following is another study I did for a Christo Risorto(Resurrected Christ):
Other studies exist only for their own sake. The one below is of a girl called Fiamma. She had a regal manner so I invented a dress that suited her expression.
The continual painting from life is essential to evolve our ‘visual vocabulary.’ It has definitely helped me in my imaginative work. But that will be addressed in another post