Stephen Ashurst – Oil portrait
It was a chilly night in February I know and it is a shame that some of you missed this superb demonstration. With Stephen’s quiet, relaxed and easy manner he explained how he developed his technique for oil portraits, likening it to watercolour in style without the precision. When painting commissions he tends to use photographs and sittings, but he loves the buzz of working ‘live’ and to a time limit, it certainly gives an edge to his work.
David was picked from the audience, he was a little reluctant but succumbed to Stephen’s flattery saying he had such an amazing face! Working on a canvas board that had been primed once to give a little absorption, a detailed pencil sketch was drawn, about twice the size of the head, filling the board.
Stephen’s palette is primary colours, 2 reds, 2 blues, 2 yellows and a violet, he didn’t specify which because he didn’t think it relevant. His brushes he now buys cheap packs from the Works and throws them away, it saves washing them. Lots of Turps is used initially giving the effect of watering down the paint.
When the sketch was finished, the first coat of ‘watery’ paint was applied finding the mid-tones in the face. Initially using a violet as this didn’t mix well later, then introducing reds and yellows, finding the darker and lighter tones, the paint running down the face and giving some interest to the painting. Trying to pick out the areas like eyes, shadows, contrasts, more and more paint was applied, Stephen described it as having to lose control before you make sense of it.
After the break several whites were introduced to create lighter colours rather than used starkly and with the primary colours, and less turps, Stephen then placed the colours in blobs bringing out the contours and details of the face.
Stephen was really happy and relaxed obviously enjoying painting, you could have heard a pin drop in the room we didn’t realise that we had gone over time. It was a great success and David was a great model. Thank you Stephen cant wait to see you at work again.by