Wokingham Art Society
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Paul Lewis, Mixed Media Demonstration
Animal Portrait, 18 December 2012

Visit him at www.starfishstudios.co.uk

Paul brought along quite a large selection of his work including sketches, drawings and paintings.
This "tryptic", which shows the triumph of the Lamb of God over evil, has been shown in several places and is available for hire.

Similarly the "Lion Lying Down with the Lamb" is a concept that he wants to develop. He had a sketch and a first stage of painting, below.
. . . . . . .
Sheep have Christmas connotations. Paul had taken dozens of photos and chose one close-up as his source for the evening.
Hint: Sheep get scared if you walk straight towards them but if you zigzag closer and closer they don't see you as a threat!

The underpainting for the finishing pastel would be watercolour on a 3' x 4' sheet of barrier board. This fairly smooth, not very absorbent, acid-free card is used by professional framers and is available from their suppliers. You can get it in white and various other colours. It was mounted almost vertically and Paul worked seated.
He mixed greys using non-staining blue, red and green and started drawing rough outlines with that mix. His No 20 round brush seemed quite small for such a big painting but care is needed in some places, he said, to get the right expression in the face: mouth and eyes in particular. Mostly, though, he seemed almost to be scribbling.

Apart from a little cropping, he had settled the composition when he took the photo. Early on he loosely introduced some shadows, too, and I noticed that the colour of his grey kept changing. He seemed surprised when I suggested that he was going more blue for the more distant animals, but the increasing yellow (less blue) for the shadowed side was certainly deliberate.
These subtle colour changes were explained when I saw his working area. His palette just had 21 little hollows some containing paint fresh from the tube. He mixed small amounts of paint in some of the others - hence the constantly changing shades.

He made marks everywhere, adding, overpainting and extending.
"Use your arm more than your wrist."
"Stand back every now and again to see how everything is developing."
"Add more cadmium red to the grey to move towards the sunset-lit colour of the wool."
Before the "Xmas-party" interval Paul had also done some blue and green greys for the background sky and trees. If he had had the time he would have done much more underpainting, including the other sheep, but he wanted to show us all stages of the work.

So next he picked out all the pastel colours he was going to use, only about 10 or 12. Limiting the number avoids confusion and keeps everything fresh.

For the rest of the evening he was making hundreds of small pastel marks. These not only gave the woolly texture and colour but corrected some of the lines that had originally been misplaced.

With pastels to cover errors, a putty rubber and a wet brush (for lifting out) he was able to adjust the jaw line, the line of the belly and the position of one eye.

Because of the clock, he said he would concentrate on the face. But in fact he couldn't resist the impulse to make more marks in other places "while the colour was in his hand". This is something demonstrators often advise us to do, to give unity to the work.

It was most interesting to see how such big pictures can still be done with the techniques we use on our smaller paintings - all it seems to need are bigger brushes and a willingness to stand back and make bolder looser strokes.

Thanks, Paul, for an unusual and inspiring evening, despite the limited time we gave you for the demo. When we had to start packing up the painting was far from finished. At Sue Smith's request, Paul said he would try to remember to let us have a photo of the final result. Bated breath!

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