It was so sad to hear of John Sulston’s passing earlier this year. In my previous life I had the pleasure of working under his leadership on the Human Genome Project in Cambridge UK. His scientific vision, ethics, and leadership are unparalleled. He is greatly missed.
Having said that I really didn’t want to screw up his portrait. I haven’t done a portrait in a long time and this was really hit and miss. First of all you need to get a likeness. This means concentrating on observation skills for shapes and angles. Banish from your mind things like ‘now we do the eyes, now we do the nose’ and just get the relationship of the shapes exactly as you see them. When I’d finished the drawing I definitely wasn’t confident :
The beard was throwing me off a little but I couldn’t see anything obviously out of whack so it was time to go in with the paint.
First washes – some warmth in the face fading out to cool near the hairline. Very Charles Reid this bit.
Next to start on more details. First the eyes, being careful to not paint them in outline but place pieces of color where I could see them. Then onto the nose and mouth. The mouth was the trickiest bit – John had a very distinctive mouth that had a lot of humour and kindness in it. Combined with the beard (oh that beard gave me all sorts of trouble) this could be make or break.
But the Gods were smiling on me and the likeness appeared out of the mist. At this point I did a test and showed James asking ‘Guess who this is!’. Thankfully he guessed right and also gave very good advice to not do too much more to it.
It was very good advice which I promptly ignored. Thankfully I put the brushes down before doing too much damage and I’m very pleased with the final thing.