portrait

Oil Painting Portrait - Two attempts 13 years apart

Last year I finally plucked up the courage to paint my Grandfather. It had been 13 years since my first attempt. After my first attempt I hoped one day I could paint him more realistically and vowed not to paint him again until I could do him justice.

I never got to meet my Grandad Jack, but grew up hearing stories about him. The photograph I painted from was in pride of place in my Nana’s flat, usually somewhere prominent like on top of the tv (back in the days when tvs were boxes). I knew this was a special photo of him.

I painted this portrait as a gift for my Aunty, but I had a feeling that it would be special to the whole family. I hope that I have done him justice. I am proud of my attempt and I hope he is proud of me.

During the early stages of the portrait I mapped out his face with monochromatic washes (shown directly below), focusing on form and light. These washes ran like tears around his eyes. This was an emotional moment for me, as I sensed we were connected in our mutual loss of never having met. Through the process of building the layers I felt I learnt more about the man I had heard so much about.

Value study. Close-up on the right.

Value study. Close-up on the right.

Jack Dobson Oil on canvas 350x450mm

Jack Dobson Oil on canvas 350x450mm

Below you can see a comparison between my two attempts. As you can see, I’m pretty chuffed with the final result of the painting. Below this is a video showing the painting form - I took a photo at the end of each work session and compiled these into a video. I hope you enjoy it as much as enjoyed the painting process!

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I'm addicted to creating

I've been thinking that there are some parallels between my need to paint and descriptions of addiction. But addicted in good way.

Looking back there were signs even at a young age. My Aunty Mary took me away for a beach holiday to one of our favourite beaches when I was five or six. It was a wonderful time but we hadn't packed any drawing paper. As soon she returned me home I dove into the hot water cupboard where the scrap paper was stored and then furiously started drawing out ideas on the floor. My Aunty commented that obviously I had been missing drawing equipment!

During primary school images were much easier for me to relate to than words. And word soon got out that I could draw. Kids would pass their books down the table for me to draw up a fancy title page for the latest topic.

Once when I was collected from school I announced I had had the best day ever at school.  "We did art all day. We drew pictures and made sculptures. If only school was like that every day!" I still agree with that statement, if only everyday was filled with art.

Returning from a fun weekend staying with a friend I was in a really bad mood. After some questioning from my mother I said, "Yes I had fun but I didn't get any of my project work done and I have so many ideas."

Later on in my high school years I would be up late on a painting roll. Mum would put her head around the corner and say “Come on, time to go to bed.” In those days I painted in acrylics so I had a handy excuse up my sleeve “Oh but I've just mixed up some colours Mum. I can't stop now or they'll dry” so she would leave me for another hour, for which I would have conveniently just mixed another batch by the time she came back hehe! At which point she said “You would paint all night if I let you!” And of course I replied “Then why don't you!?”

Nowadays I think about painting all the time. It's like I'm itching to get my next fix. Planning the next strokes on a painting. Seeing a sunrise and analysing how I would mix the colours. Looking at photos and breaking down the shapes in my mind. Looking at a landscape and planning the order of the layers. When there are days when I don't paint I'm anxious to when I can next get on the brushes. And when there are multiple days not painting I'm almost tapping and the table wanting to get back to it.

Am I obsessed? I hope I don’t come across that way. I think it is healthy to have a passion and a drive. Everyone needs one. I feel lucky that I have found mine and I discovered it so early on in life. It is comforting that it is something that has always been with me and always will be. It’s like a loyal friend.

A young Georgette aged 4 years. Much later in life I painted this as gift for my sister.

A young Georgette aged 4 years. Much later in life I painted this as gift for my sister.

Picking up on harmonise colours from a young age. Pig, aged 5 1/2 years.

Picking up on harmonise colours from a young age. Pig, aged 5 1/2 years.

A witch with many rings. Aged 8 years.

A witch with many rings. Aged 8 years.

Comic strip of characters I developed aged 10 years.

Comic strip of characters I developed aged 10 years.

Scotty dog, aged 11 years.

Scotty dog, aged 11 years.

Happy family. Vampire family drawing aged 11 years.

Happy family. Vampire family drawing aged 11 years.

Mural on Ashburton College 2017. Aged 17 years.

Mural on Ashburton College 2017. Aged 17 years.

'Young Georgette' Acrylic on board, 2007. Aged 17 years.

'Young Georgette' Acrylic on board, 2007. Aged 17 years.


The Canvas Project - A Visual Encylopedia

I think it's important to find ways to renew inspiration in our creative endeavours. Inspiration from external or unexpected places can result in you exploring a direction you may not have otherwise thought of. So I decided to join The Canvas Project by The Brooklyn Art Library. The project is best described by The Brooklyn Art Library

...a visual encyclopedia compiled by creative people from around the world, completed on mini canvases. As a kickoff to this challenge, our artist community contributed words that are meant to inspire and energize their fellow artists. We have exactly 2,000 prompted words that will make up the entirety of The Canvas Project.
— Brooklyn Art Library

Put simply each artist receives a tiny canvas and a word to express in their own way. The artist returns that canvas and then receives another artist's from somewhere in the world. All the canvases will be scanned to then compile in a visual encyclopedia book. How fun!

The word I received was "Mallam". Which I have to admit I had to look up the meaning. "Mallam is an honorific title given to Islamic scholars." I searched around for a figure that advocated for good and came across, Makarem Shirazi an Iranian religious leader. In reference to underage marriage Makarem stated that "although such marriages were permitted in the past, in modern times it has been demonstrated that they are not in the best interest of the parties involved and should be considered invalid".

The final painting

The final painting

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Watch the painting come to life in the time lapse below.


Portrait Oil Painting - Alan Dobson

Quite often my portrait commissions are a surprise for someone. It makes it exciting waiting for the big 'reveal'. I finished this painting in December and can finally reveal it to you now. This is a painting of my Great Uncle Alan it was commissioned by his son Colin. Colin flew over from Melbourne to pick up the painting and surprised his mother with the painting. She was delighted. What a beautiful gesture from a son to his mother, just in time for Mother's Day.

I have made a behind the scenes video to show the process of the painting coming to life. Check it out below.

2017, Oil on canvas, 350 x 450mm , (13.7 in x 17.7 in)

2017, Oil on canvas, 350 x 450mm , (13.7 in x 17.7 in)


Pet Portrait Oil Painting - Rueben the Dog

I thoroughly enjoyed this commission last year. An oil painting of Rueben the Dog. I loved the challenge of creating enough mood that dog stood out from the tussocks. This dog had sadly past away so I wanted to bring life back to Rueben through this painting. The client was stoked when she saw it for the first time as a surprise gift.

Check out the video below which shows this painting evolve throughout the layers.

Reuben the Dog, 2017, Oil on canvas, 350 x 450mm , (13.7 in x 17.7 in)

Reuben the Dog, 2017, Oil on canvas, 350 x 450mm , (13.7 in x 17.7 in)


Portrait Painting - Ginny Yellow Top

Recently I got to spend time with my gorgeous wee niece Ginny over the Christmas holiday. Gosh how she had grown since I had painted this portrait. It was wonderful spending time with her and watching her learn to walk. Then she hoped on the plane with her parents back to the US.

Here is a video of the process I took to paint this portrait earlier last year. I was such a pleasure to paint, as I knew it would be for my own collection, I could relax into the process more than normal. And obviously I was inspired by the subject too! Enjoy the video.


Firenze - Portrait Painting

It has been a few months since my last 'proper' portrait. So I am excited to have started off a new one last week! Itching to get stuck into this project.

So I thought I'd show a bit of the process of 'Firenze'. I did this portrait as a birthday present for my partner's 30th. We came across this chap in a bustling market square in Florence. We wondered what was his story, was he waiting for someone, was he contemplating something or was he just having a rest?

Firenze, 2016, Oil on canvas, 350mm x 450mm (13.7 in x 17.7 in)

Firenze, 2016, Oil on canvas, 350mm x 450mm (13.7 in x 17.7 in)

First session VS final session. Clearly a bit of time between these two shots.

First session VS final session. Clearly a bit of time between these two shots.

Below shows the progression of the painting and the various steps along the way. I start off with a charcoal sketch on top of an acrylic wash. Then a monotone value study where I figure out where my high and low lights will be. This give me a road map for the rest of the painting. Then into building he coloured layers.

Progress photos:  From start to finish.

Progress photos: From start to finish.

Watch the time lapse of the painting coming together below.


Same, same but different

If you saw these two artworks side by side in a gallery you would be forgiven to think that they were from different artists. I would think so too. A few years ago these two works did hang side by side in a gallery in Akaroa. I wonder if many people noticed they were from the same artist. Were they confused, surprised, intrigued I wonder.

Two completely different styles of mine. In my best attempt to explain, I believe these artworks come from different sides of my brain. One side the detail focused perfectionist, thriving on the challenge to convey realism and the ever challenging likeness of a familiar face.

The other side the relaxed make it up as I go along, spontaneous, subconscious, imaginative, make mistakes into positives side of my brain. So in other words it's bizarre and I have no real clue why but it is fun to work in completely different styles.

Left 'Lost Youth' 2012, Ink on paper, 230mm x 330mm (9in x 12.9in). Right 'Father and Daughter' 2013, White and black charcoal on brown paper, 260mm x 400mm (10.2in x 15.7in).

Left 'Lost Youth' 2012, Ink on paper, 230mm x 330mm (9in x 12.9in). Right 'Father and Daughter' 2013, White and black charcoal on brown paper, 260mm x 400mm (10.2in x 15.7in).