A Small Portrait Head in Oil from Life

Ala Prima oil

I’ve just had the pleasure of completing this small  (10 x 8″) oil portrait from a model that has been sitting for the portrait class that I lead Tuesday evenings a The Honolulu Museum of Art School.

Noil is a rare find, he has a great look and focus, and maintains a pose with great accuracy.  At one sitting, (perhaps more than one, now that I think of it), he stayed in pose for the entire three hour session without a break.  Our kinda model!



Anyway, I managed this small piece while teaching, and it’s grown on me over time. There’s a simple and direct “thing” it seems to possess.  “Noil” is painted on masonite primed with Gamblin oil primer.

A Fresh Portrait Drawing in Charcoal

From last evening’s Portrait class…I managed to turn out this fairly quick charcoal drawing of Noil, a very good model we’ve had the pleasure of working with.

Vine charcoal is about the simplest drawing media one could dream up, but really deserves a great deal of respect for it’s amazing qualities.  It has a value range from a whisper to a roar,  yet can be made to disappear with the sweep of a rag.


                      Noil B. Vine charcoal on Canson MeiTeintes,  about 11 x 14″

Pastel Portrait…a moment revisited

autumn pastel Autumn, pastel on paper , 18 x 24″

I received word that this painting, which has been in my flat files for perhaps six years now, is going to be purchased. Pulling it out and re-viewing it brought back a lot of memories.

A Moment Revisited

The subject, A. T., was in college in NYC as an art major but here in Hawai’i on a visit home.  Now, she’s happily married and with two children, something that certainly wasn’t on her immediate horizon then.  I was doing mostly the ocean pieces that many viewers are used to seeing, and wanted to exercise (or revive) the portrait side of myself.  So I engaged her for a few drawings and paintings during afternoons. I thought it was a good fit. We talked about life a lot while she was posing.  I was a Sunday School teacher at the time, and  my thoughts tended toward the philosophical and spiritual, which is still true I suppose.  Posing is tedious work and she did very well. Things change, people change, and life passes quickly.   I should do more of these. They don’t stop any of the change, certainly, but they contain it somehow and there’s a solid satisfaction in providing that for other people’s lives. Autumn cropped

12/11/13 A Portrait Sketch in Pastel

This is a two session pastel head that I managed to get completed last night in our final “Drawing and Painting the Portrait Head” class at the Honolulu Museum of Art School.  The first night was an hour or two of placement of shapes and color, the second session was just moving forward with the whole piece.

Tom, our subject, was new to sitting for portraits, and did a fine job.  I’ve found that a model must, perhaps above any other quality, possess some sort of inner life….an intellectual, spiritual dimension to their character that they can exist in during the long and tedious process of sitting.  People who require external stimulation to focus on simply won’t be able to do the work for long.

Tom Ciletti

This was the first pastel I’ve done in a while.  I used Lascaux pastel ground on a piece of rag mat board, which I then toned with gouache…just  stuff lying about my studio! The work was done with my Girault setup and some  Stabilo pastel pencils for the smaller passages on the features.  I wanted the informal sort of look that I got, nothing fussed over too much, except the drawing (i.e.placement of shapes) and color choices, which I pushed forward as best I could.





12/04/13 A Small Portrait Head

If you are at all interested in painting people, you probably will understand what I’m about to write.

Walking into a party last August, I was by chance reintroduced to this gentleman, Dr. Paul Brennan and his wife Dorothy. I will admit, and you’ll likely understand,  that upon first seeing Paul again from across the room, the painter-part of me immediately took to conniving and scheming about asking this fellow to sit for a portrait of some sort. How embarrassingly crass of me. I fought it successfully for a bit , but after getting reacquainted over a friendly conversation  with the two of them, I took the plunge and inquired (with understandably high hopes) as to whether he would be interested in sitting for my portrait class.  Thankfully he was willing and available, and in November we had the happy privilege of working with him for five three-hour sessions at the Honolulu Museum School of Art.



Paul Brennan

Dr. Brennan Oil on stretched linen, 14 x 11″

Though I worked on this while teaching, which means rather sporadically, it was still a pleasure to tackle this distinguished, noble character. With his vast interests and wealth of life experiences, Paul kept all of us entertained as we chipped away at our studies.

Simply painting a head adequately is challenge enough, and the skills in painting and problem -solving are acquired slowly and require honing. My own emphasis in this particular piece, which is only 14 x 11″, was to try to get at the truth of the subject’s color and to state the color notes as succinctly as I could, using the brush and knife as directly and expressively as possible, working towards surface interest and texture as well as light, shade, and color. I’ve been interested in some of the heads painted by artists such as George Clausen, where the verity of the likeness is equal with the knowledge that  you ‘re looking at pieces of paint. I find that to be a very rich experience.

Such little assignments within the task of painting the head keep me and the students on our toes and looking ahead to the next sitting.


Public Exposure at the Honolulu Museum of Art

I was invited to do a 2-3 hour demonstration of portrait drawing at the Honolulu Museum of Art’s “Art After Dark” event last week.

I look forward to the opportunity to get out in public; it’s good to check in with the world, and let them see what the process looks like. Among other benefits, the experience of being exposed to the unfiltered criticism of anyone who cares to say something is a healthy thing. And  as it turned out people were quite kind in their remarks, making it a very pleasant affair for myself and my model Sarah, who also posed for the pastel profile I posted a month ago.

Sarah and I hard at work.

I don’t get to do these often enough, and considering that most of my day-to-day easel time is usually landscape oriented, I’d like to make more room for portrait work from the model.