Max Hale Demo

Artist, painter, tutor

Friday 11th November 2017


Max Hale began the session by explaining that Muriel Woodman, who had volunteered to be his subject was his ‘sitter’ not his model.  Portrait painters have a sitter while life classes have a model.  Max then stressed the importance of getting the initial drawing right.  The success of portrait work is probably 80% in the drawing.  He began the portrait by drawing with a pencil on a piece of half imperial 300 gsm standard Bockingford.  He uses this paper because it is a good price, it is stable and does not absorb too quickly.   

He starts by mapping out the shape of the head.  The head should occupy at least half the space of the paper.  When drawing a three quarter portrait, the side of the face is the key line. He then drew in the eyeline and measured the distance to the base of the nose.  Distances and angles are vital.  The feature of the face that makes someone recognisable is not the eyes as most people assume, it is the lower half of the face, the lips and the jaw line.     

Max keeps his materials fairly standard too.  The watercolour paints he used were QOR by Golden, whose paints have a flow enhancer.  He likes to use two palettes, one for blues and the cold colours and another for the reds and the warm colours.  All his brushes are synthetic and he uses really big brushes.  “If you use a small brush you have to work twice as hard.  Large brushes give you power, square brushes give you real power while round brushes are good for detail such as the eyes.” 

Watercolour is all about planning, it is crucial to do your thinking outside of your painting time.  “Think like a tortoise and paint like a hare.”  Flesh tones are tricky.  Max uses Cadmium Yellow 1 and Cadmium Red 2 with a fraction of Cerulean. He paints straight onto the paper.  He does not stretch his paper and he does not wet it before starting.  

Max’s advice:  “BE BOLD AND BE BRAVE! Keep the brush very wet, keep it fluid so the painting keeps its vigour and life.  Don’t paint bits and pieces, everything needs to be connected.  It is vital to walk away from your work.  Painting on the flat makes this impossible.  Don’t worry about the drips!”

 Max used Cobalt and Cadmium Orange for the hair.  Be careful when painting a portrait not to make it too dark.  There needs to be space behind the head and the face needs to stay free.  He chose Alizarin for the background to balance the blue of Muriel’s jumper.  He then used a round head brush to paint the eyes.  “Remember to paint what you see, never what you think might be there.  Never leave the whites of the eye white.  This just makes a person look scary. Eyes are the settling point of the portrait”.

Be brave!  If you make a mistake, wet the area, then dry it and you can lift it out.  Soften edges with a dry brush.  Most students make the nose too long.  Creating the right length is crucial.  Remember you are creating a three dimensional picture so look carefully at the shadow areas.  When it comes to painting the lips do not make them larger or redder than they really are.  Never paint the lips in their entirety.  It is not necessary.”  

 Max concentrated on the shadow areas after the break.  In watercolour it is important to remember the tone lightens when the paint dries so make sure shadows have a strong tonal quality.  Try not to go over an area more than twice or the colours will lose their vibrancy and become muddy.  Often painters do not use enough pigment. To finish Max put in some defining lines, under the chin and around the side of the face.  He reiterated his advice to keep your palette simple.  It is dangerous to have too many colours and better to master a few.  

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