Wokingham Art Society
Sonia Bacchus demonstrations
Her website is being serviced. Temporary site www.sbsportraits.co.uk
or see her at Art Profile, pro tem
Still Life 2015 Back to Archive Portrait 2016

Pastel Portrait, 18 October 2016
Write-up by Pat Johnson.    Photos by Rod Jones.
Sonia had brought several examples of her work.

She needed a model for her portrait and John Blackwell kindly volunteered.

She used Fisher pastel paper, which will withstand water, and Derwent pastel pencils. Sonia had previously used an uneven watercolour wash in violet to add texture.

She likes to use the model in a three-quarter pose because it is more interesting than straight ahead or sideways.
Using a dark pastel pencil Sonia sketched in the main features of John's face, constantly checking the relationship of each part to the others. More space was left at the side John was looking at. She achieved a likeness immediately!

Then the shadows were placed and a brush was used to erase marks Sonia didn't want. The face was drawn without John's glasses; these would be added later. Now some details could be put in, starting with the eyes. After some consultation with John it was decided the eyes should be blue!
Sonia continued adding colours to the side of the face, to the hair and in the shadows. She then brought out her Rowney pastels which she got at a car boot sale. They have soul! Using the side of these she blocked in colours reflected from John's clothes, with some surprising but effective results!

The maroon background threw the portrait forward, helped by dark shadows behind the head. Sonia emphasised the importance of light and dark in all artwork.
She continued building up the picture with lightly applied layers of pastel, always allowing the background colour to show through. The glasses are drawn in with dark brown, some parts being hardly visible.

The portrait was finished with highlights in the hair, on John's nose and glasses using a torchon (a paper stick!) to move the pastel around. Highlights don't have to be white; they can be yellow, pink, light blue. Sonia uses cheap hairspray to fix her paintings; more expensive hairsprays have too many additives.
The end result was an amazing, colourful likeness of the model!
Many thanks to Sonia and the ever patient John.
Still Life 2015 Back to Archive Portrait 2016

Still life, Mixed Media (Acrylics and Oils), 17 March 2015
Write-up by Dani Marsden, Maddy Hawes and Sam Dauncey. Photos by Rod Jones and Sam Dauncey
Sonia Bacchus has been a professional artist since 2000, and doing demonstrations for 3 years.
She studied art in her home town in Poland and was 'spotted' by a film company, who employed her to create backdrops.
This job brought her to the UK, but she gave up the film industry to become a mother of her now 5 year old,
and more independent with her art and teaching.
Sonia set up tonight's still life of an antique iron, 2 apples and an antique soda water siphon against a background of rich, dark orange fabric with occasional gold stripes.

She used a squared frame to assist with the drawing. Unusually, she colours both the board and her palette with the same background colour, in this case a pale grey. White watercolour pencil was used to mark the board into squares to help with positioning and composition. These squares can be rubbed out later.

Sketches are used to plan the composition. Portrait orientation was preferred for this painting.
The outline shapes were put in in brown with an oval brush as construction drawings and then curves were added. She likes to show brushstrokes with acrylic underpainting

She worked all over the canvas with quick strokes using a decorator's brush for the background.

Sonia advised us to check out Leonardo da Vinci's studies of textiles. She glazes her colours, being careful to leave brushstrokes. Once acrylic dries, it will not lift.

After the coffee break she switched to oils. This overpainting is also glazed but left the acrylic showing through in places. This is the technique Rembrandt used. He also used impasto to create light and contrast, laying the paint more thickly for light or highlight areas, eg someone's nose.

The rule is to always paint fat over lean, ie oils over acrylics. Multiple glazes for rich darks, thicker paint for highlights.
Sonia painted all the areas loosely, saving detail for the focal points. She painted the contrast between light and shadow with oil paints rather than acrylic, using a flat brush for both blocking in and, on its side, for details. The oil glazes, of course, tended to enrich the darks.

Detail gradually appeared, although she did warn us that less detail is generally better than more. She looked for reflections of colour from the background on the still life subjects. There were touches of viridian and brown in the bottle, which showed both transmitted and reflected colours. Shiny surfaces like the apples pick up more colour reflection - in fact quite major colour changes were made late in the demo.

At the end of the painting, about half the acrylic underpainting was still visible, with the oil paint highlighting the main subject matter. A few white highlights brought the whole composition to life.
The demo included many interesting observations, like:

The cloth originally looked too red, so she just added a brown glaze to strengthen it.

Ultramarine is a favourite colour to use and mix.

Ultramarine and brown makes a better black than you get from a tube, because you can adjust it.

Viridian, too, is a useful colour, as it is very hard to mix.

When you introduce a new colour, use it in several different parts of the painting
She also showed us, through the use of squares of the same colour, surrounded by different backgrounds, how the background colour can affect the colour of the objects in the still life making them warm or cool. For example, surrounding the same brown square with grey changes its colour temperature to warm, and the yellow surrounding changes the brown to a colder shade.

We enjoyed an unusual and instructive evening.
Thank you, Sonia.
The end of the demo. There may be more to do back in the studio.
Still Life 2015 Back to Archive Portrait 2016

Top of page

All images on this website are the copyright of either the Wokingham Art Society or the individual artists
This document is maintained by Sam Dauncey