I recently visited the Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and was inspired to get back into portrait painting. I was braver with this portrait of one of our regular models. I tried to keep the planes and values clear and free and not blend everything into oblivion.


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I have just completed this copy of a painting by Madrazo y Garreta of his model and muse Aline. I suspect from the shadow contrasts that he worked occasionally from photographs.

Copy of Aline with White Mantilla

I came across this painter through Sorolla, his contemporary, who painted his portrait. Madrazo is a much tighter painter than Sorolla, whose portrait of Madrazo (below) is freer by contrast.

Portrait of Madrazo by Sorolla

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“Come on, Will”

If I had painted this a few years ago it would have contained much more colour. This painting though is done with the same restricted palette used for classical portraits: black, white and three primaries (see the Elizabeth Farren post below).

Oil on Canvas - February 2014

Oil on Canvas – February 2014

The composition relies on diagonal flow lines to tie it in, and triangles of light and dark as I try to mass the tonal areas.

I have also tried to work with extremes of finishing: the background sky is more detailed than the loose foreground.

The scene is my children on our last day at Lake Coniston in the Summer.

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Elizabeth Farren

Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of the actress Elizabeth Farren is a fabulous painting from the Regency period. It is unashamed in its dash and flair; in its excess.

Elizabeth Farren

I took a break from rendering life drawings to do an oil study of the head. Of course there is no comparison with the original, but to work at it I did a sight-size pencil drawing and worked from that as well as a picture of the original.


I worked it up relying on a traditional limited palette for flesh tones. The warm blue greens are achieved by substituting a cerulean blue for the harsher ultramarine .




Far from perfect, here’s the finished study

Oil on canvas paper

Oil on canvas paper

I genuinely think you learn something about how the artist achieved his work by attempting to emulate it. The main thing you learn is the gulf between natural talent and hard work!

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R E Bucheli Christmas Exhibition 2013

I have two recent paintings on display at R E Bucheli’s Christmas Exhibition 2013 in Bristol. It runs from 16th November 2013 – 11th January 2014.

The paintings are “Joanna” and “Boats at Derwent Water”.

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The website is www.rebucheli.co.uk

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Even if I make things difficult for myself, I persevere with the principle of working from life and from sketches; especially with a portrait.



Above is an oil painting of a model, Apryl… It is a hybrid derived from the two 5 and 15 min sketches of the model which appear below.

It is not easy to work essentially from drawings, true, but for flesh tones I have trusted to notes and a traditional palette, yellow ochre, crimson (cadmium red and cadmium red deep), ultramarine, ivory black and flake white. (Thanks to Harriet Dahan-Bouchard for guidance there).

April 5 min sketch

April 5 min sketch

April 15 min sketch

April 15 min sketch

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Sight-size Method

I have sung the praises of people like Sargent on this site, as alla prima painters. I was unaware though, until recently coming across an excellent article on the history of its use, that he was one of many great portrait painters who used sight-size technique.


I have consciously adopted sight-size technique for this oil painting derived from a short drawing I did. Of course the “model” for sight-size purposes was the drawing itself set up at the same distance as the easel.

I have to say, having always worked by transcribing proportions, I found this method a revelation and will use it in future. The article is by Nicholas Beer and can be found among studio essays on Charles Cecil’s website: www.charlescecilstudios.com.

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Boats at Derwent Water

Just finished quite a large canvas following my trip to the Lake District…

Boats at Derwent Water

… Boats at Derwent Water.

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Lake District, Keswick and the History of Pencils

Just returned from a week in the Lake District, where I had the chance to do a few sketches.


Excuse my ignorance, but I had not appreciated that the first pencils were made in Keswick following the discovery of Cumberland Graphite in the mid 1500s. I think we’ve all used Cumberland pencils at some stage, and there is actually a lovely museum and shop in Keswick selling all those Cumberland/Derwent graphite and now coloured pencils we all know.

Seemed appropriate to then head down to the banks of beautiful Derwent Water on the edge of Keswick and sketch a bit …

Boats at Derwent Water

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Naomi 2I have just finished this oil portrait of one of our models, Naomi.

As with the others, derived from this 15 minute pencil sketch.


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