Conveying character

Portraying character through facial expression – !!!!!   How hard is this!


Well, I never take the easy way – so decided to paint a portrait of my son with his young niece.  Obviously I know both of these wonderful people very well- they both have very marked characteristics which I wanted to try to convey. The image depicts the young man tenderly reassuring the child while the young child is anxiously studying the group of ducks which are being fed with bread.  Both of these qualities of tenderness in the young man and thoughtfulness in the toddler are evident in their characters…not easy to depict!  But it was huge fun trying…..

As always I started with my pencil- I really needed to tease this image out as I had no idea of what was going to happen.  The pencil image of the young man is successful I feel because I can really feel warmth in his expression – not sure how I achieved that but really pleased to see it.  The drawing of the baby is not as good-rather bland!  But I also was working on the element of contrast in this first study – I was just thinking through the image all the time I was drawing.


I wanted to take this analysis a step further before going into paint so used coloured pencils to explore colour contrasts between the two faces to see if it worked as a composition.  I was really pleased with this image – the expressions on both faces are perfect in what I am trying to say – tenderness, reassurance, humour contrasted with the hesitancy, thoughtfulness and slight anxiety in the baby.


The next stage was completely experimental!







As a composition I didn’t want to just paint the likeness – I wanted to try to get to the essence.  So the image went through several stages of experiment – each time getting looser.


The final image is the result of hours  of thinking, pushing, struggling – mostly with the unknown!  I seem to spent much of the time just standing back and looking at the image.  I am not sure if the last image is successful – I do know that it has captured the child’s expression but am not sure about the young man’s expression. I learnt loads about the paint and mark making again.

Actually I quite like it!

However I am not sure it works as a composition.  The two faces side by side are a little disconcerting.



About pbfarrar

I am an Australian living permanently in England. I have recently retired from the position of Principal of an independent school and have taken up the study of Fine Art with the OCA.
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