Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Impromptu Oil Portrait

Here’s a quick oil sketch of a guy I met at a friend’s house. It’s painted on an 11x14 inch piece of gray cardboard, which was first sealed with acrylic matte medium.

He was telling the story of one of his adventures so I knew he’d be there a while. I asked him to sit near a light and try to remember one position and return to it from time to time.

I’ve found most people are willing or even flattered to oblige such a request, and I cherish the resulting paintings far more than I would a study of a stranger from a sketch group.

10 comments:

Eric Orchard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric Orchard said...

You really epitomize the approach to life the rest of us envy, the ability top trust people and your own instinct. The results are beautiful, a wonderful record of your chance encounters and moments with real people.
And I had no idea about those foliage rules! That makes sense.
(PS I've posted page 1 of he robot museum on my blog and I'd love your thoughts, I'm writing quietly because I don't want to advertise on your blog...)
Interesting thought about wanting to avoid presenting a story in two mediums that are too close together...

Timpa said...

Agreed with Eric, the foliage was great Jim! I myself am trying to study these trees on my excursions lately.
I have a question about when you get people to pose for you. What is your usual reaction/answer when people inevitably want to keep the portraits? I.e since they sat for you for free, then they should be entitled to keep the portrait (in their minds of course)

jeff f said...

Nice sketch!
Did you use your OpenboxM?

I guess you gessoed the clayboard to gut down on the paint sinking in.

Erik Bongers said...

I really love this portrait.
Although very sketchy, it shows a very strong facial expression.
The person looks worried or better - intensely concentrated.

The 'muscled' forehead with those lines converging to the upper nose point, those intense eyes behind the large glasses...

This may be a coincidence but the hard light and black background intensifies all of this. Even the dark shirt (and if he'd been wearing a white one I'd say good choice in turning it dark !)

Yeah, really love it.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, you guys are all so nice.

Jeff, as I recall I used a French easel for this one, which wasn't so good because it took up too much space. I also have a homemade thumbbox I've used in tight spaces, but I made it wrong and my thumb kept getting stuck in it. And yes, I sealed the chipboard with matte medium to let the oil float on top and not soak in.

Timpa, so far no one has really expected to own the portrait, and usually it's bound in a sketchbook. But if they like it (which is not always) I offer to email it or send a xerox, and jot down their address on the facing page. When I ask them to pose, I usually say I'm "just learning to draw heads." That lowers their expectations and keeps them from being too self-conscious.

Dianne Mize said...

Excellent portrait, James, catching a fleeting moment rather than just a mug.

By the way, go to my blog and pick up your Arte y Pico award. I'm at http://diannemize.blogspot.com

Lorna said...

I am impressed that the glasses seem to be part of the man's face. I have difficulties painting them naturally and get bogged down with accuracy.

Tom said...

James, thanks for this fantastic website! The time,energy and talent you share with us are much appreciated.

As to the oil sketch portrait: would you please tell us what colors were on your palette - or (I guess, more accruately) which ones you used? Also, what was the sketch and/or underpainting process for this?

Thanks very much.

James Gurney said...

Tom, I can't recall the colors offhand. Probably the usual suspects. I started right off drawing with a brush, which you can see around the collar.

Lorna, I'm usually stumped by glasses, and it's amazing how often the challenge comes up in real life, but in art school, models always take their glasses off. I think the key is to understate them, and here I just tried to do a few strokes and show how they changed the contour of the face.

And thanks, Dianne, for the award. That's a real honor, and I appreciate it.