Toothy Grin

Last month I was honoured to be flown up to Brisbane to do a demonstration of my pastel portrait technique. My hosts were the great people at Discount Art Warehouse and I had two hours to work on this portrait of a boy from Namibia. I call it “Toothy Grin”

I started it before I went and built up a portion of the right hand side (being left handed and not wanting to smudge, I generally work this way).

This next one is where it was when I took it to Brisbane, cradling it carefully in my lap on the plane.

And now I started working in front of 29 people. I must admit, I like things like this to be interactive and the crowd was brilliant. They asked excellent questions and generally had fun which made the two hours go extremely quickly. It was free for them and I was very surprised to see that almost all of them were still there at the end.

I explained how I work from a grid which I create in an editing program (in this case ‘Gimp’, image editing software) and then draw an actual grid on a piece of paper the same size as the pastel paper I will eventually use. After drawing the main features of the boy I then transfer this to my Art Spectrum Colourfix pastel paper with the aid of white transfer paper.

I talked about choosing colours to work on. Here, the boy has beautifully rich skin and a Terra Cotta base is a really good choice. I can then allow this colour to do a lot of the work for me.

As you can see, despite working from right to left, I also use paper to stop my hand from smudging.

That’s where I finished in Brisbane. Time was up and I’ve been flat out for the last month on other things but finally found some time to get back to it. Sorry to the folks who attended for the delay but the next steps take it to completion.

What you can’t see so well here is that I actually go over the Terra Cotta colour with a Terra Cotta coloured pastel to create a ‘base’ for me to work on. For some reason, this seems to work with me. I seem to be able to blend the colours better and get the results I want. I do a lot of finger blending and Art Spectrum’s Colourfix paper is perfect for this, being a sanded finish. It’s rough on the fingers but I just tell myself to ‘toughen up’!

I’m using a background that is dark behind the light part of his head and light behind the dark part. I’ve also taken him out of the schoolyard where I met him because the background was ugly.

I’ve used pastel sticks (mostly Rembrandts but I’m not picky) for the background and pastel pencils for the boy.

And finally the finished portrait

I like to work with people who exude character. In this case, this kid was simply begging to be painted and I hope I’ve done him justice.

Finally, a big thank you not only to Discount Art Warehouse but also to Maureen, who I had just met at the demo, and her husband Lexi who took me back to the airport in a massive thunderstorm. Great people!!

And finally, funny story. I had a box of pastels in my hand luggage. Naturally these went though the x-ray machine at the airport. The guy checking them seriously had me open the box to check that they weren’t bullets! I mean seriously – do these look like bullets?? (I’ve tried to replicate an x-ray in ‘Gimp’ editing software). I guess I must look a bit dodgy!

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