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Fatima Pantoja demonstration
Portrait in Acrylics, 3 November 2017

Visit her at www.fatimapantoja.blogspot.co.uk

Fatima has been actvely painting since she was three, encouraged by her artist father, but she actually studied science before becoming a successful full-time artist herself.

She started tonight with a ready-primed canvas, about 40 x 60 cm, and our Secretary, Marie Bunce, as her purple-dressed model.

Perhaps because of her Spanish background, she likes to use only four or five very bright colours. She gets her acrylics in big pots (2 litre or 500ml) from Acrylico Vallejo at what seem to be very good prices, and from Daler Rowney (System 3).

Her cost-saving approach to palettes is to use the sides of corrugated cardboard boxes, put paint around two adjacent edges, mix in the centre and when that becomes too messy cover it up with another old piece, leaving the unused paint edges still exposed.

She seemed at first to be profligate with brushes, although she buys cheap ones. She holds a different one for each colour in her hand (not in water). She gets away with this because she is forever switching colours - so the acrylic has no time to dry in the brush.
Fatima started drawing very quick, very rough guidelines in a vivid, almost day-glow, pink, using a long brush held way back from the ferrule. As soon as these guidelines were done she mixed a skin colour, filled in the face and neck and then indicated the obvious shadow areas (under the hat and chin and the extreme sides of the face.

She made two important points:
Don't try to paint a face - paint the tones and hues you actually see
Don't expect to know in advance what the final portrait will look like - let it grow.

She left this to dry as she blocked in the purple hat and clothing and, with a light grey, filled in the hair flowing down on either side.

Oh, and while she was at it she used a bigger brush to kill the empty white areas with a couple of neutral shades (slightly different left and right). The background had to be neutral because Marie was so bright.
Although she was still holding long brushes well back from the ferrule, the time had come to start more detail. She still claimed not to know what the final painting would look like. "Will that line be an edge or a shadow?"

Fatima's progress for the final hour was a continuous sequence of both thin overpainting of quite large areas with a big brush and hundreds of little marks and lines with a smaller one.

These marks were often really tiny but resulted from close observation of the lights and darks facing her. She did not paint features - only differences of tone or hue. Sometimes she used the edge of a bit of card to mask a straight edge.

Where she wanted opacity she added a bit of white to the mix. She was always slightly changing the mix, so the portrait did not look flat (but we were warned to flatter the subject by not making creases too prominent.

The likeness was there very early in the demo but it continually improved throughout.

Of course, you cannot watch a demo like this without getting all sorts of little hints and observations.

If you don't let your model move you will get a stiff unhappy result. Fatima puts a spot of pink paint on her own nose to pull attention back to the same place and encourage the model not to look too serious!
If you must start drawing with something other than paint, use graphite/pencil, not messy charcoal
Clothes and background both reflect colour into the face, especially into shadowed areas
Don't paint all the teeth
For watercolour and acrylic, use two pots of water: one for mixing, one for cleaning
Background music can be helpful, especially for self-portraits.

We were treated to an almost self-contained tutorial on eyes - vitally important:
Start with the face colour, not white.
The iris is part-covered by the eyelid.
The front of the eye is transparent so if light comes from above it comes out at the bottom, making the lower part of it lighter than the upper part.
Eyebrows and eyelids leave a shadow line on the eyeball.
Highlights (reflections) look better if they bridge the iris and the pupil.
Spectacles should only be hinted at - in particular the tops and bottoms of the frames are quite different (typically dark and light, respectively).
A relaxed, happy look is obvious in the eyes and surrounding creases.

And so the demo came to an end to enthusiastic applause from members.

Thank you, Fatima.
End of the demo
Artist, model and portrait

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