The Face of Homelessness, Earls Court

demo exhibition. London FACE OF HOMELESSNESS homeless oil on board portraits ROI The Anders Zorn Palette

The Face of Homelessness, Earls Court, Oil on Board, 12" x 16", 2012

I'm back to my series of Homeless faces and sketches on public Transport, I'll also be posting some of my recent plein air work too. This particular piece was accepted into the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries. I am happy I was able to get this one in. Also I am happy I have some stage shots to share my thought process at different stages of the painting.

 Standing beside my painting at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Exhibition at The Mall Galleries

I met Macky briefly while walking along Earls Court Road, I must have passed him, when I walked back and pleaded with him if he would allow me sketch him. He agreed but only gave me five minutes. He was happy with the sketch and allowed me also to take a picture. I then worked from those references in the studio.

STAGE 1-Nothing here, but a lot goes on  before. I am using a Winsor & Newton Canvas Board. But to remove most of the coarse texture, I sand the surface a bit, then I add a light wash of acrylic for a background underpainting. The wash is a mixture of Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna. I really get excited when I look at a ground ready for ACTION!!!

STAGE 2- This is where I love the painting process, the sketch stage! I really get into the spirit of a sketcher at this stage. I'm working on the drawing with the tip of a sable brush but also getting the slight temptations to start the painting proper. Its a combination of both! I really wish I could stop the painting at this stage. The sketch stage just has a beauty of its own that is beyond explanation. The lyrical line and the connecting of shapes in their preliminary form makes this stage a delight. I am using the Anders Zorn palette-which consists of Titanium White, Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red and Ivory Black. I am getting really addicted to this palette, it's simple and helps me to get the most of a basic primary combination. 

STAGE 3- At this point I introduce the background and start to connect shapes around the edges of the face, leaving the main facial features of eyes, nose and mouth till later. I'm thinking of the general colour scheme and muted tones of his hat that will bring out the more vibrant tones on his face later on. I am painting in thick oil colour with no medium, straight from the tube and just moving along. I think I added a bit of Liquin to help the colours dry quickly, I forgot that.

STAGE 4- Here I get into the face proper! I just love his face! There's a feel of curiosity in there! My main goal is to place all the shapes with  brushstrokes that define the form and follow the movement across the structure of his face. I almost treat his face like a landscape-following the undulating ups and downs and reacting to the turns and wrinkles the way I would approach the topography of a landscape. I think it's worthy to note that the ability to sketch comes in very handy while painting the face. Every stroke is a sketch stroke! Life becomes really exciting when one just concentrates and conforms to the rhythm of each twist and turn with the tip of the brush-it's what I love in's hard to separate from sketching. Edges are another important thing to note here-in simple terms, I paint what is in front, last, so that it reads as something in front. This comes in handy when thinking about his coat.

STAGE 5-Here I get more definition into his face and connect all the loose shapes and rough edges together. That's the main change here.

STAGE 6- I was very careful not to paint his clothes in any kind of   colour that would distract attention from his face. I made sure all the colours here were of the most mysterious and muted greys. The collar of his coat was my emphasis here and I wanted it to have a life of its own. I added texture with a few calligraphic strokes.

STAGE 7-The final bit was the rest of his coat below the collar. The goal was to keep it simple and unobtrusive. Muted greys but varying the tones to keep the interest focused on the face.

"He emphasised the importance of the the rhythm, balance, shape and weight of a composition. Without these qualities a portrait has no meaning. He insisted students approached their work on an emotional and poetic level rather than concentrating purely on technique. He tried to instill his view that if a work of art can move an audience through its emotional substance then it achieved its purpose."- Micheal Simonow on KEN PAINE, his life & work

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