A few months back I did a pencil portrait of myself, and was pretty pleased with the results. I wrote a blog about that process at the time. More recently, while in London, I visited the Portrait Gallery, as they run the BP annual portrait competition and exhibit the short-listed paintings, and winners. I liked many of the paintings, but there was something special about Frances Borden’s work that appealed to me: the (seeming) simplicity of the composition, and the bold choice of colour. “I think I’d like to try a self-portrait in oils,” I told my husband, buying a postcard of the work from the gallery gift shop on the way out.
Never mind, that Frances has totally different skin and hair colouring than mine, I just like her ability to convey expression in her painting. The portrait shows character, animation; just what I hope I shall to create in my own painting. Ha. Just one thing, that could possibly prove daunting, Borden mentions that she returned to this painting for many months until she felt the work finished! I was hoping that I might take a few days to achieve this. To date I have Gessoed a canvas board and transposed a charcoal image of me onto the board. Except, I realised too late that I should have painted a coloured background first.
Oh well, Just a matter of brushing the charcoal off, then apply the colour. Except…
I haven’t used oils for twenty years, and with three house moves, and downsizing over that time, I passed on my old ‘How To Paint with Oils ‘ books and paints to others. Still, I remembered the basics, like preparing the board, needing a binder for the paint, like linseed oil, or liquin, and turpentine for cleaning brushes. Ok, I thought, I’ll try the local hardware store first, then the hobby store opposite to save myself time, as I’d have to drive or bike to the art store in the next town to get supplies. But no luck in either place. Except I met a woman in the craft store who said she would give me her linseed oil as she didn’t do oils any more. “I’m just down the road a bit,” she said, giving me her details. Except when I called in she wasn’t home..
Upstairs to my neighbour after the walk, as it was Raewyn I’d borrowed art books from the night before, (and yes, I do know I can follow a video online about all there is to know about painting preparation, but being a lover of printed matter, I didn’t want to). I returned home with a small bottle of linseed oil – yeah, good one. Then I entered my study, looked at two boxes of art gear sitting on the floor, and I remembered that I kept just one small Winsor and Newton jar of something … And there it was indeed in the bottom box, a bottle of refined linseed oil.
You’ll just have to wait to see the how the process of my portrait in oils unfolds. Apologies, but I’m little tired after all that running around. See you soon, Vivienne.
What a beautiful self portrait.