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Time Lapse Portrait Sketches

Alan Reed

Charcoal Pencil Sketch

There are no short cuts to achieving sound drawing skills. Regular practise at drawing from observation will pay off in most visual disciplines in art, whether it’s painting, sculpture, graphic design or even photography. Before working on a commission or a painting for exhibition I will often warm up for 10 to 20 minutes with a charcoal pencil sketch of a John Singer Sargent portrait. I’ve drawn dozens over the last few years, particularly as I’ve been receiving more portrait commissions.

I’ve recently started to make time lapse videos of my portrait sketches so that one can see the process on how I draw a face from the start. If you watch the video which is only 24 seconds long, you will see that I draw a faint outline for the shape of the face.

I then make a mark halfway down to indicate where the eyes are to go. I then make another mark in between the eye line and the chin for the tip of the nose. Finally I do one last guideline for the mouth, usually slightly higher than halfway between the tip of the nose and the chin.

Once these are in place, I then start to draw in with greater care the details for the eyes, working my way down the face for all the other features. After that, it’s simply a matter of shading in the hair and drawing in the neck and shoulders. You will see that I’m drawing with a charcoal pencil which gives you a lovely dark, rich tone. I’m  also a big fan of the Moleskine sketchbooks which come in a good range of sizes.

Time lapse videos are quite easy to do and it’s a great way to show folk the drawing process without it taking up too much time.

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Portrait Sketches

As I mentioned in my previous post, I will often start my painting days with a warming up exercise. My usual practise is one or two charcoal pencil studies of John Singer Sargent portraits in my Moleskine sketchbook.

Last year I did a few time lapse videos of these portrait sketches to show the process of these simple studies. I start off with the outline of the head. Halfway down I start to draw the eyes. One these are in place, halfway between the eyes and the chin I’ll make some marks to indicate the tip of the nose. Slightly above the halfway mark between the nose and the chin is the mouth.

All these distances are only guidelines for doing portrait sketches. To get a good likeness you have to be really accurate with your proportions, shapes and mark making. Like any craft or skill, regular practise in necessary to become competent.

To find out about commissioning a portrait then visit my website to watch a short video.

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Time Lapse Sketches

Alan Reed

Charcoal Drawing of a John Singer Sargent Portrait

When I have a painting day ahead of me I like to spend a few moments warming up in my Moleskine Sketchbook. Usually I’ll have a quick flick through my John Singer Sargent books and choose a portrait to draw. I’ll sharpen up a medium to soft charcoal pencil and launch straight into the study.

The idea is simply to warm up, getting my hand to eye coordination  up to speed before tackling a more finished painting. It’s more about the journey than the outcome.

I’ve recently started to do some time lapse videos on my iPhone so folk who are interested can see the process of making a quick outline of the head before adding the details of the eyes, nose, mouth, hair etc. These videos have been uploaded to YouTube so if you click on the link it will take you to their site. The image above is a still from the time lapse video. The actual real time of the sketch is no more than twenty minutes.

 

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Drawing

Sargent Studies

Charcoal Studies of Sargent Portraits drawn at The National Portrait Gallery

A few weeks ago I was asked to write an article for the website of a new initiative here in the North East called Drawing?

Drawing? is a 6 month long, region wide programme of exhibitions and events which aims to explore drawing in art and culture and also in other areas such as science, design and technology. The project is a partnership between The Customs House, Sunderland University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University and mima (Teesside University) and is being co-curated by Esen Kaya and Mike Collier.

Below is the article which I wrote describing the reasons why I draw but it’s well worth visiting the Drawing? website to find out more from other artists too.

Drawing is and always will be the main foundation of my creative process. Many visual artists and painters do rely heavily on photography to pull together the material from which they paint from. There’s nothing wrong in that, however I do feel that the discipline of drawing and observing from life is a valuable tool that can enrich the flow of creativity.

For me, one of the main uses of drawing is research. If I’m going to an exhibition, I am armed with a moleskine sketchbook and some charcoal pencils. A good recent example would be the John Singer Sargent “Portraits of Artist’s and Friends” at the National Portrait Gallery. I will typically spend several hours sketching the portraits on display as a means of achieving a deeper appreciation of Sargent’s use of tone, lighting and his characterisation of his sitters. The studies and techniques that I record in this kind of research are then translated from charcoal pencil on paper to a brush loaded with oil paint on to canvas when I come to do my own portrait paintings. I strive to keep the brush strokes as lively, free and expressive as those rendered from observation.

Likewise, if I’m painting a landscape or cityscape I will often paint the scene on location “en plein air”. This time however, the drawing element is achieved by using a brush, drawing directly with watercolour paint on to the paper. I rarely pre-draw the scene in pencil. This very spontaneous, direct approach means I can produce a very fluid and loose “drawing” that can prove to be invaluable when it comes to creating a larger studio painting where I may also harness the use of photography for topographical accuracy. The observational studies will help to prevent any slavish copying of the photographs that could result in a more sterile, static painting.

I also draw simply for the “fun of it”. Regular drawing helps my hand to eye co-ordination and enables me to be more visually selective when painting in the studio. It’s much easier to focus on the main point of interest when you’re drawing from life. This “focus” can be realised by using stronger, more direct lines on the areas that are really important. Conversely, the use of less fussy, more simplistic line work on background areas helps to create a composition that has more visual impact. Again, this can translate well when it comes to painting. I’ve been painting professionally for over 30 years and I’m drawing more now than I ever have done, not just to maintain my technical skills as a draughtsman, but to stay connected in a deeper flowing stream of creativity.

One of the links on this post is an affiliate link to a product which I personally use, available from Amazon. If you click on the link and buy the product then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself.

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Watercolour Tips

Favourite Artists

Watercolour Artists

I’m currently running a 6 week watercolour painting course at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland. One of my top Watercolour Tips is to study the work of some of the great watercolourists.

There are a some terrific books available which are a “must buy” for anyone wishing to develop their watercolour skills.

Starting with Watercolour by Rowland Hilder is the first book on painting that I really took note of. Not only does it contain some great watercolour advice but also some good, simple examples of basic drawing principles like perspective, vanishing points and eye levels.

Another great book by Rowland Hilder is Painting Landscapes in Watercolour. It has a good number of paintings reproduced in stages from the start to completion. This is really helpful if you want to have a go at copying them. Copying paintings is a discipline which I totally endorse as part of the learning process.

One of the finest watercolorists is the American Winslow Homer. His watercolours are breathtakingly beautiful. A book by Helen A. Cooper on his watercolours will be a constant inspiration to anyone who loves this medium.

In June I saw a couple of brilliant exhibitions of Edward Seago paintings in London. One of the exhibitions at the Portland Gallery was to coincide with a new book on Edward Seago by James Russell. It’s certainly worth getting if you like his work. Another book to add to your Christmas list (which contains some larger plates of Seago watercolours) is Edward Seago by Ron Ranson.

For more Watercolour Tips you need look no further than John Singer Sargent. The recent book John Singer Sargent Watercolours which was launched in conjunction with a major exhibition of his watercolours in New York and Boston in 2013 is another inspirational book.

There are many other books on the market which I could recommend. These however, are amongst my favourites.

Some of the links on this post is are affiliate links to books which I personally read, available from Amazon. If you click on any of the links and buy the product then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself. 

 

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Hareshaw Linn

Hareshaw Linn, Bellingham

Hareshaw Linn Waterfall

Hareshaw Linn, Bellingham

Sketchbook Study of Hareshaw Linn

Hareshaw Linn painting

14″ x 10″ watercolour of Hareshaw Linn

In April I was asked to do a watercolour demonstration for a painting/writing club who were having a weekend away together in Bellingham. On the Saturday I went out with the group to paint various scenes of the local area. I’d read about Hareshaw Linn in the hotel guide book so I decided to make it my first port of call.

I decided to do several watercolour studies of the waterfall at Hareshaw Linn which is about 2 miles walk outside of Bellingham. The walk is lovely and the waterfall quite spectacular, especially after the heavy rain we’d had the night before. In total I did two sketchbook studies and two watercolours on Arches blocks.

You can see in the first photograph my improvised studio (a moss covered rock) which gave me a standing position to paint from. The second photograph is my sketchbook. The third is my larger watercolour painted on the Arches Block. By the time I’d finished there was no time to start on anything else!

All the paintings were made without any preliminary pencil work which enabled me to paint very directly onto the paper with a size 20 brush. The paintings can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

Since this weekend  away I’ve painted a larger watercolour of Hareshaw Linn using the studies made on location. I’ve kept the palette the same and tried to avoid getting into complicated detail, maintaining the freshness of the “en plein air” watercolours.

 

 

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Sargent Studies – A Daily Sketch

Gouache Sketch

Gouache Sketch of “Old Man with a Dark Mantle”

For the last few weeks I have been continuing with my daily discipline of a sketch a day. I try to do this for 20 minutes to an hour, 5 or 6 days a week, usually in my Moleskine Sketchbook. 

Most of my studies have been made with a charcoal pencil, however today I decided to do a gouache rendition of John Singer Sargent’s oil sketch of “Old Man with a Dark Mantle”. Although I would prefer to paint this in oils, the advantage of using gouache paint is that it’s quick drying.

I’ve photographed the palate, brushes and Winsor and Newton paints, together with the reference book I’ve used, John Singer Sargent Figures and Landscapes, 1883-1899 by Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray.

Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray have written some brilliant books on Sargent’s paintings which give a fascinating insight into his work.

To follow my daily sketches on twitter, go to @adailysketch

The links on this post are affiliate links to products which I personally use. If you click on the links and buy any of these products then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself.

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Sargent – A Daily sketch

Charcoal Sketches

Studies of John Singer Sargent Drawings

Every so often I like to set some kind of painting/drawing discipline to keep on top of my game. Good habits are hard to form and easy to break and sadly the converse of that statement is also true!

I tend to find that my regular sketching habit falls by the wayside, particularly if I’m busy with commissions or working towards an exhibition. However, despite being very busy at the moment working on a series of portraits in oils of City Church, Newcastle members, I’ve decide to set myself the goal of doing some kind of sketchbook study every day for about 10-30 minutes.

The two charcoal sketches above were drawn in my Moleskine Sketchbook and are studies of John Singer Sargent’s Portrait drawings. Making studies of this kind is a great way to develop your own drawing technique, particularly if you are unable to find a willing model to sit for you.

To see my daily (hopefully) sketches, you can follow my twitter accounts @artistalanreed and @adailysketch

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Painting of Burnham Overy Mill

Watercolour Study

Sketchbook Study of Burnham Overy Mill

In September 2009 and July 2010 my wife and I spent a weeks holiday in Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk with our daughter and two of our grandchildren.

It proved to be a mini inspirational homage to one of my painting heroes Edward Seago. Like Seago, I was captivated by the distinctive flat landscape and “big skies” punctuated by windmills, sailing vessels and trees.

I would rise early in the morning before the family woke up so I could spend an hour or so painting directly, without any preparatory pencil drawing, into my handmade sketchbook and Arches watercolour block. As one study was drying, I would alternate to the other until both were completed. Two hours later I was back at the cottage cooking breakfast!

This sketchbook watercolour of Burnham Overy Mill has been painted into a mini handmade sketchbook of Norfolk and is based on 4 separate watercolours painted on location “en plein air” in September 2009. The watercolour of Burnham Overy Mill I painted on the Arches 14″ x 10″ block can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Sketchbook Tip – Painting “Plein Air”

plein air painting

Sketchbook Watercolour of Burnham Overy Mill

I’ve enjoyed a couple of very enjoyable painting trips using my Sketchbook in Norfolk in recent years following in the footsteps of one of my painting heroes Edward Seago who lived and painted around Norfolk. For those of you who are interested in landscape painting, there are some excellent books available about this immensely gifted and popular artist whose exhibitions would sell out within hours.

I’ve made several studies of Burnham Overy Mill on these trips. Whilst I was painting the one above, I also did a larger 14″ x 10″ on an Arches 140lb watercolour block whilst the washes were drying in the sketchbook which you can see on my website alanreed.com

I would keep reverting back to the sketchbook study and back again to the watercolour block. I also did another watercolour in my moleskine sketchbook.

It’s a useful “plein air” painting tip to employ for several reasons:

You can generally get twice as much done in the same amount of time whilst you are waiting for paint to dry.

The scene is usually a changing one because of the sky and cloud formations.

You will become more visually aware of your subject.

You will have something to refer back to in your sketchbook if you sell your other painting.

Next time you’re painting “plein air” in watercolour, try painting two of the same scene. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

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