Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Portrait of Joel Day 18 - Taking Risks

In my last post, I wrote about the value of risk taking and how sometimes surprisingly pleasing results can be achieved by going out on a limb. Having a piece of scrap paper to practice on is a practical way of testing out colours and experimenting with technique. However, sometimes, when the test paper has exhausted its usefulness, the only option is to plunge right in and take a risk. If all fails, it could mean 2 or 3 weeks' worth of work has been instantaneously and irretrievably ruined. But, if the plan succeeds, not only can it mean the success of the current portrait, it can also add to the artist's store of knowledge about technique, building up a wealth of resources for future projects.

This is what has happened here. The colours I chose for the jumper were dark and the pigments were especially waxy. As I built up the layers, it became apparent that the texture of the fabric was somewhat grainy, perfect for a knitted jumper but rather rough for one of stretchy material. Using a blender pencil only worsened the effect by creating more of a gritty, chalky surface.

My only option for smoothing the texture appeared to remain in the use of a solvent. I don't use solvents a lot. My style is to persevere with lightly applied layers to build up the intensity of colour and texture, as I am not keen on the change of hue which is common after solvents are applied. Obviously, experience in these colour changes does avoid the problem by allowing the artist to compensate with colours which will dissolve to the required hue. In this case, however, I had applied a bright royal blue pigment beneath my darker colours as a highlight to the sunlit folds of fabric. I was aware that any solvent would accentuate this brightness and create a boldness which I wanted to avoid.

Finally, I decided that the grainy look was unacceptable. Without a solvent, the picture was already ruined in my eyes, so I went ahead and applied a layer of solvent, using a blending pen. At first, the results were shocking and I firmly believed that my previous two weeks' work was headed for the rubbish pile. But, as I progressed and applied further dark layers of pigment over the solvent, I could see that the effect was far superior to the previous grainy look I had achieved.

The contrasts were greater and the colours were more intense than in the original picture. Overall, my risk-taking had been worth the stress. I was happier with the result and a little bit more knowledge had been added to my growing store of techniques.


  1. I don't think I'd have the courage to draw and take the risks needed to produce your spectacular results. Writing is so much easier. Just delete and start again! Blogger doesn't like me today. I think I am going to have to comment as 'Anonymous'. My Google identity is being rejected. Anyway, you can guess who this is, can't you?

  2. Wow, what a lot of problems seem to creep up in art. I did mean to comment of your other post but I've just been too busy recently. But I really enjoy reading about your projects.

    By the way, wasn't Chiaroscuro a rat in 'The Tale of Despereaux'? (I hope I spelt that right. I'm not good at spelling french.)
    Imogen (Blogger's being bad)

  3. Thank you, Sue and Immy - it's so encouraging to get your feedback and I'm glad you're enjoying the posts.
    I don't know the rat's name, Immy - I'll have to look out for that movie:) Is it good? x

  4. Hi Aunty Vicky this is how you can get the url. Right click on the picture wherever you've saved it on the web. Click on Properties. A grey box should appear. Look at that. You should find the url there. I hope this helps.

  5. Thank you, Immy - I'll give that a go after my afternoon session at the drawing table:)x


Thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate your comments and feedback. Vicky