Charles Reid Workshop – Day 2 – Portraits


My painting on day 2.  I’m reasonably happy with this.  Again Charles said not to do too much (although he did tell me off for not putting the foot in – my homework for tonight).
Day 2  – the full story.

Portraits again today and like yesterday we started with a demo.    The model today was Jeanne who I later found out is South-African and lived in France and the UK before moving to Falmouth 5 years ago.   This makes for a very interesting accent but she was a great model and Charles seemed to take a bit of a shine to her.   She works at the Art Center and teaches art to children and teenagers but today was kind enough to model for us.


Today was going to be a full body portrait and Charles started out by showing us how he measures out the figure so it fits on the paper and is correctly proportioned.   He first lightly draws in the head (at least 2-3 inches high).    He then measures down the figure in head lengths and notes which bit of the figure is at 2 heads, 3 heads etc.  These positions he then marks on the paper. In this case 2 heads was chest level,  3 heads hit the top of the hands and 4 heads came to the bottom of the foot.

Interestingly he said that it’s better to make the head smaller in relation to the body than larger.   Apparently Sargent made his bodies 10 heads high (in reality they’re around 7-8).   It’s a distortion but it’s an acceptable and indeed flattering distortion.   Catwalk models have the same kind of effect.
He started the drawing with the features – the nose first,  then the mouth and then the eyes.   He then went straight to the hands and drew them mostly as a single mass (no sausages here).   Before going on he made sure the hands were big enough – they should be a head length in size.  Once the head and hands are in everything else pretty much slips into place and it’s a tip I will certainly use in future.


After the hands he finished off the torso and legs.   He concentrated mostly on the internals – the folds and creases of the clothes – rather than the outline.   This makes it easier to draw as it’s mostly abstract shapes and stops people ‘drawing from their heads’ as he puts it and putting in standard, sausage shaped limbs.


Here is Jeanne – you can see why Charles liked her đŸ™‚


Onto the painting – first the shadow under the nose – a strong cadmium red and raw sienna mix.  This was then pulled out with a damp brush to provide color in the rest of the nose.   The mouth was cadmium and alizarin with some cerulean at the corners and underneath the bottom lip.

The eyes went in next.  First the irises – dots of color leaving small white highlights.  The ubiquitous damp brush cam out again to fill in some of the spaces with lighter values.

This first part took quite a bit of time – 30 minutes for the drawing and another 15 minutes to put in the features.  


Next he moves onto the shading of the face and the hair.   The color he put on for the side of the face seemed initially to be far too strong but after he’d pushed it around a bit it dried to a much more subtle color.   The hair went in with very thick raw umber paint (with no water at all) and was lightened with water and also thick raw sienna.  Strands were indicated by scratching out regions with his thumb.  ( I tried to do this and all I got was a very grubby thumb).


The jacket and sweater were done together.   The paint was put on very thickly to start with (alizarin for the sweater and black with ultramarine for the jacket) and then pushed around with a lightly damp brush to make value changes.   Note the small strip of white paper he left for the chain of her pendant – masterful!!


In the next 15 minute chunk he put in the trousers and hands.  The fingernails in the hands were basically left white and the trousers were indicated with a very light wash with thick dark accents to indicate shadows.  This was all put in very quickly.



We were almost done at this point – here Charles is modifying something with Jeanne looking on.


Charles has a distinctive way of getting excess water off his brush.   There’s no way I could get away with this at home.


The finished article.   Finishing touches were to indicate the quilt underneath here with strong viridian and alizarin stripes.   Works pretty well I think.


Charles, Jeanne and masterpiece.


After this we broke for lunch.   I had an errand to run so I trotted into Falmouth.   This turned into a bit

of a saga which I’ll write about tomorrow.   This meant that I was 30 minutes late starting in the afternoon so didn’t get as much done as I would have liked.


As I did Katrina yesterday it was my turn to paint Jeanne.  The pose was pretty similar to the one in the morning.  I prefer this as it means we get to practice directly the things that C. talked about in the morning.  Here’s the initial drawing which I was pretty happy with.   (Charles’ comment – nice drawing.)


Starting in with the features and the hands.   I wasn’t very happy with the face – I’m finding it hard to get good color and things look a little washed out.  Everyone seemed to like it though and I was discouraged from strengthening the color.


Starting in with the sweater and jacket and trying to keep some looseness and lost edges in the folds.


More hands, trousers and, it’s hard to tell here, but I strengthened the eyes which improved things.


The ‘final’ thing.   Again I was strongly encouraged not to go any further although Charles came across and told me off for not putting the foot in.  I’m kind of ok with this  – could be a lot worse.

Photo from where I was sitting.  She’s moved her head a little from the original pose.  Can’t complain – I wouldn’t like to keep still for hours on end.