Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The four year project - post 5

It's finished! Phew! :-)

Here's the final painting.

Morris & Luke june13
size 48X34           Oil on wood

I'm pleased with the result, 4 years ago I loved the painting, but my youngest Luke never quite looked like himself.  This time however it's spot on. Indeed, since finishing the painting I've had it propped up against a chair downstairs, sometimes Luke will pass and do a double-take thinking Morris is actually sitting there. So that's a pretty good testament of a successful portrait.

I'd originally planned something looser. Of course my intention was to capture their personality or inner likeness, but perhaps not paint them quite so carefully and accurately.  In the end, as I painted I slowly moved towards a more careful considered painting and didn't catch myself to keep it loose and free. I'm not unhappy with this change, but too me I still notice the change from the original plan.


Here are two details of their faces.


 Near the end I'd worked a lot on their glasses. I'd originally blocked them in, right at the beginning,  gradually painting them away as I built up the faces. I found when I restated the glasses, they proved a challenge. I haven't, it turns out ,often painted glasses. So it took me a while to find what worked. I realized that glasses seem to work best with some element of lost and found. So I worked in again with flesh tones pushing the glasses out in places.


Right at the end I went back to the painting to make a couple of minor adjustments. I strengthen some of the lighting and shadow effects on Luke's face to balance it better with his brothers. I also added some text on the title of the book.

Original it was a black hard back, Harry Potter volume, that was missing it's dust jacket. I hadn't felt it needed the title on the book. But someone identified the black book as the bible. This was a problem, since my intention had been to illustrate his love of reading, not his views on faith. Adding the text was simple enough, but choosing which tomb to portray was a difficult choice. I think in reality he'd been reading 'the half blood prince' but somehow I thought this title better?

The floating foot

Luke's foot was an interesting conundrum, Originally I painted it crisply, then it seemed to float there and I realized I needed to move it slightly. It was better then, but still a little odd. There's always a problem with body parts that poke out from behind objects - we know he needs a foot, but it appears decapitated with it. On the other hand, if removed he would have no legs!  The solution I ultimately decided was to do a pale wash over the foot so it was still visible but less, eye catching.


These shots are good illustrations of the brushy texture I've built up on the painting, it's hard to get a feel for a painting of this size online, but maybe these sort of close images help a little? I love the texture you can build up with oil, it can give a painting such a wonderful tactile feel.

If you like you can see the portrait from 4 years ago here -

Or one I did of the boys from a photo from earlier this year -


  1. This is fabulous!! Looking forward to you coming to Corse Gallery in November. Got all my paints and canvases ready!

  2. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you! I really appreciate the details and the explanations!