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Recently I was commissioned to paint a formal portrait of Cllr Harry Bramer – then Mayor of Ross-on-Wye. Of course I was delighted with such a treat. To paint a large oil portrait like this takes time (and paint) and a few sittings, but we are both very pleased with the results.

In order to capture Harry properly, I visited him at his house and discussed what he had in mind. It is always important to get a really good idea of what the clients sees in his mind’s eye so that I can try and create that vision in paint. With a good idea of the task ahead, we undertook an extensive photoshoot. We used various rooms in the house to get a variety of backgrounds and lighting.

I then went back to my studio to choose and edit the photos. I use Photoshop to adjust backgrounds, crop and give the image a more painterly feel, so that Harry could get some idea of what the portrait could look like. I made a selection from the photos and showed these to Harry. We both chose some favourites and we agreed what we wanted (a bit from this photo and a bit from that photo, etc). So we soon did another, much shorter, photo shoot. This time it took much less time as we knew exactly what we were after. I edited the photos on my computer until they were just right.  

I then got to work in my studio working from the many photos and sketches. I painted the portrait on stretched very fine linen. I created a ‘value underpainting’ first. At this stage I paint the portrait in just two colours: brown and white. This allows me to figure out all the lights and darks, features, composition, and details. I then painted over this with colour. I tried to push the detail in the chain and face but kept things simpler (but not unfinished) in the background and jacket. When finished I let it dry, emailed it to the Harry (no visits due to Corona) and received a warm approval.

I emailed the client some frame options and after choosing one ordered the frame. I think the golden frame complements the mayor chain very nicely.

This painting probably took 2-3 months to paint. Such a large painting does take longer to create, simply because it is such a big surface to fill. It took a lot of Burnt Umber, for sure! A bigger painting also means bigger brushes though, although for the facial details the smallest of brushes were used. My smallest brushes (size 0) are used for detailed portraits no matter what size. I use no mediums or solvents and just use paint straight from the tubes. Most of my paints for this painting were Langridge Oils.

I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to paint such a wonderful portrait.

About the author

Sophie is an artist, art historian, tutor, author and blogger. She writes on oil and pastel painting, art history and the life of an artist. She paints portraits and still life and specialises in painting drapery and lace.

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