Friday, 19 July 2013

Review: BP Portrait Award and Oil Painting CPD

Back in June I was fortunate to get a place on the National Portrait Gallery Oil Painting CPD, it meant giving up a Saturday but I figured it would be worth it! To give a bit of background on me and oil painting, I've never done it before! In fact despite being an art teacher I have little experience of painting in general. I said that during the introduction at the CPD and felt I got some peculiar looks! I guess it's interesting isn't it - people always think if you do art that you can paint! But i've always done different types; printmaking and graphics at college, drawing and embroidery during my degree and knit during my masters. I mostly teach Graphics and Textiles so whilst we approach painting it's never been a big thing! Right, ramble over, back to the event itself! 

The CPD day itself was really good fun! It was in conjunction with the BP Portrait Awards and to start the day we were asked to visit the exhibition and sketch from the two portraits we found most inspiring - we would have to work in the style of one of these later in the day. We were also lucky enough to meet this years winner Susanne Du Toit, she spoke to us about the portrait and then back in the 'classroom' spoke us through her painting process. It was really interesting to get this insight and was good to hear before we launched into our own paintings! 

Whilst we were painting I took a few in progress shots which I'll share with you then explain a little. One of the best bits of the day was that the whole sessions was subtly tailored in a way to make you confident in an approach to delivering oil painting yourself... 

Now I know my painting isn't incredible but it was enjoyable and the session left me feeling like I wanted to have another go! We had to choose a painting from the portrait awards (I chose Kholiswa by Lionel Smit) and select a black and white photograph to work from. In the morning we did a burnt sienna wash in acrylic to 'lift' the colour, then sketched out an outline and finally added a bit of tone all using acrylic. I felt semi comfortable at this point. We came back after lunch and started with the oil and that's when it got challenging! We were starting by adding skin tones - I found this a nightmare to do especially as we were working from a black and white photo. I think that approach could be interesting if you had students who were experienced painters but for a totally beginner like me I wouldn't recommend it! Once the skin tone was down it was time to add colour and details. In total we painted for about 2 hours, stopping intermittently to be shown different techniques for mixing, layering, using colour and finally adding the finishing touches. 

Overall it was a brilliant day and I'd really recommend it! Check out the National Portrait Gallery CPD page for info on their upcoming sessions! There's another oil painting one in October and if you wanna book really ahead there's another BP Portrait Award/Painting one next summer, this time with acrylic paints! The BP portrait awards were also great and it's free so check it out if you can! It closes on September 15th!
- Claire 

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