Its been a challenging year for painting. My studio in Maleny was sold (along with the building it was hiding behind) and when I finally got there after a tour to clear out my gear, I discovered everything, especially my paintings, had gone mouldy.
This month there have been some heartening developments. First, my friend Peter lent me part of his garage in which to work, and it has great light. Then, I decided to do a 3-night portrait class with Brett Lethbridge in Brisbane. Its always inspiring to work with an accomplished painter and learn about their techniques. The technique Brett taught involved a tone painting in sepia to work out all the compositional and tonal issues. I would call it a grisaille, but Wikipedia says its more properly a brunaille, as it started in acrylic Burnt Sienna. Once all the lights and darks had reached their full value, we worked it over again using Burnt Umber. And a third time using Payne's Grey. By this stage the blacks looked truly black and the subtlety was there. Then, as we were working on Arches paper, we washed it liberally with watercolours, then worked the lights back in delicately with acrylic white.
The technique was disciplined and involved good observation as well as graphics techniques. I liked it and it freed up my thinking to tackle a large commission I've had on the list for a long time, and about which I've been very blocked.
I'm delighted to say its going very well, the technique translates beautifully to acrylic on canvas in a slightly more painterly style, and here is a picture of the tone painting after 13 hours of work. There is still a bit of work left to finish the Burnt Sienna layer, but its moving fast. The canvas is slightly more than a metre wide.