Progression #1 Sullen

Progression is a new blog mini series detailing many of Russell Edwards’ artworks.

#1 displays Russell Edwards’ process for painting a beautiful Commission Portrait, titled “Sullen”, in oils.

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Sullen | Oil Painting | Russell Edwards Art

In The Artist’s Words

“Ever since I was a child in primary school I’ve been fascinated by portraiture and figurative painting. I remember vividly, a print of ‘The Milkmaid’ by Vermeer hanging on the wall of my Standard 3 classroom, and staring at it constantly, wondering how anyone could produce something so beautiful and so realistic. I remain to this day, in awe of his skill and expertise.”

“My inspiration, apart from Vermeer, is my grandchildren, and I’m continually making quick sketches of them, (I have to be quick as they’re never still long enough for anything else!)  and taking photographs of them to use as source material for my paintings.”

“This piece is painted from a series of photographs I took of Holly, using a zoom lens so that she was unaware of what I was up to! The photograph I selected to paint was cropped quite closely because i wanted to capture her rather sullen expression when she was told it was time to go home! Apart from trying to capture her ‘sulky’ expression, I loved the challenge of painting the strong sunlight and the shadows across Holly’s face.”


I drew a grid onto the canvas and working directly from the photograph, copied the image using a mixture of Burnt Umber and turps. I’m not being too precise at this point, just trying to map out main features and making reasonably sure that proportions are fairly accurate. This process took about an hour.


I begin to indicate the light and shadow areas of the face. The colours for the light areas were yellow ochre, cadmium red and titanium white. The shadow areas were the same plus raw umber and a touch of cobalt violet hue. I’m still not too concerned about the details of the features. I block in the hair with a mixture of burnt umber, yellow ochre and titanium white. Another hour or so to reach this point.


I begin to paint the main features in more detail. I alter the forehead as it was too broad. I was happy with the placement of the eyes but the mouth and chin needed adjustment. Lips are a mixture of cadmium red, rose madder, cobalt violet and white The darker areas on the face in the photograph were a little flat and and darker than I wanted them to appear in the painting, so I’ve tried to lighten these areas by adding white and a touch of cadmium orange to ‘warm’ the flesh tones.


Further work done on the main features. The mouth had to be repainted as it was a fraction too far to the left. I added burnt umber and a touch of prussian blue and raw umber to the hair in shadow. I completed the background at this point, in order to define the side of the face but also, I didn’t want to ‘paint round the figure’ at a later stage and produce an ‘outline’ around the image. The inspiration for the way I’ve painted the background are the wonderfully lush greens seen at the Masters golf tournament held in Augusta, Georgia. I painted her top in pure white and indicated the arm and shadows with a mixture of raw umber and prussian blue


Completed hair by adding highlights and the fine strands of hair using a rigger brush. I’ve painted the white top and indicated the arm and shadows with a mixture of raw umber and prussian blue. Darken shadow area of white top with a mixture of raw umber, prussian blue and cobalt violet.


Added stripes to Holly’s top thereby helping to define shape and form.

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