Portrait of Tony

'Tony'. Oil portrait on linen, under life size. 2017 by Helen Davison

‘Tony’. Oil portrait on linen, under life size.

First off, these really are terrible photos.

That aside, this portrait was started around January time, shortly before Meg died. That event sadly interrupted my finishing of the painting, and as such the hands remained in limbo for quite a few weeks. They were largely blocked in and positioned, but I had to use my husband as a hand model – combined with memory – to work them up to completion. In many ways I found this aspect (the hands in general) to be the most difficult of the whole thing, and have made a mental note to really start focusing more on the design of hands within a composition. Also of note is how I unintentionally seem to have worked a little blockier than usual, gravitating more towards my flat brushes for some reason. Perhaps because I liked the chiseled effect around some of the areas of broken colour, leaving them alone instead of fusing edges too much. I’m not sure. Suffice to say, it does retain many features of my usual style, but is slightly different. Arguably it is a little fussier in some ways, and it would be fair to say that it doesn’t carry across a room with the same intensity as when viewed closer up, but nonetheless, I felt some kind of breakthrough with it.

In order to fit more of the figure onto the canvas, this is painted a little under life-size. Very early on I felt that I had positioned the general shapes a little too far over to the right, and so I re-stretched the canvas to better balance it out. You can still see the ridge down the righthand side where the canvas hasn’t yet fully straightened out. This is slowly improving as time goes on. I know the positioning would have bothered me to such an extent that I would have lost focus on the whole painting had I left it alone, so despite the hassle it was worth the effort.