Ahhh, people! I don’t know about others – but landscapes are fun, seascapes are tricky, skies are delicious but people, people are difficult. This is why I came to Gabriella’s workshop in the hopes that she would help make the painting of people easier.
Firstly, Gabriella discussed paint colours and tones. Using only eight colours (ultramarine, cobalt blue, cadmium red, alizarin red, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, viridian green and tallow green) Gabriella mixed and melded the colours she uses for painting portraits. The mixing of these colours allows her all the warm and cooler tones that she requires for flesh tones and highlights.
Then there was a full discussion about proportions. How the face can be split into thirds: mouth to bottom of nose, bottom of nose to bridge of nose between the eyes and eyes to hair line are all approximately a third of the face. Look carefully at the face and when drawing think of the skeleton beneath, the jaw line and eye sockets especially. Notice that the ear lobe is actually in line with the lips and the top of the ear in line with eyebrows (much lower on the face than I thought). Look carefully at what you see, not what you think is there.
Another titbit of advice – use zinc white not titanium white for mixing, as this gives a crisper colour that doesn’t muddy with mixing. Note also that someone’s posture is as indicative of them as their facial expression. As we worked through our paintings, Gabriella kindly and expertly guided us, pointing out depth of tone, how to work through the shadows to define shape and giving us pointers to making a better portrait.
I have to say that although I learnt a lot, people are still difficult; and perhaps that is why we should continue to admire the skill of the portraitist who captures not only a person’s likeness but the essence of their character. This I still have to work on!
Report by Rowena Vaughan
Gabriella is an Italian artist living in London. She studied stage design at Accademia di Brera and has a diploma in portraiture.
In London she has exhibited several times with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, Women Society of Artists, United Society of Artists and curated the Earls Court Art Exhibition for three years .
She is working as an artist and also gives drawing and painting classes. Gabriella is also helping SoFAP as our next Exhibition Manager, working with the rest of the team.