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Portraiture with Henrietta Graham and Tim Hall

I had such a great time in Newlyn, Cornwall last month painting with artists Henrietta Graham and Tim Hall. Henrietta and Tim are amazing BP Portrait award winning artists who run painting courses from their studio in Cornwall. My hope for the three days I spent with Henrietta and Tim was that they would take me back to the abc of oil painting and help me develop techniques that would both improve my style and save me a lot of time. Until now I have not been taught the basics of laying out a pallet, mixing black and even cleaning brushes. Having painted with acrylics throughout school and learning nothing about painting techniques on my art foundation course this is all new to me. I have obviously developed my own working methods as an artist but I'm excited to see what a difference these new foundations will make to my work.

As well as the fundamentals, my main hope for the few days I spent with Tim and Henrietta was to learn how to create tonal depth in my paintings and how to soften my paint application so that my artworks become glossy and rich. Both Tim and Henrietta were amazing at giving small tips and tricks which make a massive difference to a portrait.

My natural working method is to start with the main features such as the nose and eyes and build the face outwards from there (I understand the the most common method is to mark the head and set the features within it). Amazingly, both Tim and Henrietta are fans of getting the key features in first as well, so much so that they even start with the eyes and go straight into dropping in highlights an watermarks within the eye. I tend to save this as a little treat at the last minute but it actually works really well as a way of getting recognition in face really early on giving you the confidence to build from there.

Another problem that I had going into the course was a tendency to muddy the palette. I learnt that using colours like Crimson in darker areas of the flesh actually push shadows back more than brown and maintain a flesh like tone across the picture.

The images below are the two portraits that I worked on over the three days. The fact there are two nearly finished artworks produced in such a short time is testament to how much quicker Tim's techniques are. Within them you can see that the eyes are the most developed feature and the colours are richer and cleaner that other works.

The techniques I learned over the few days in Cornwall have revitalised my approach to painting and I hope to marry them with my own methods as I continue to work on portraiture. Have a look at the portraits of Harvey and Ollie below to see how they compare to my earlier works.