On the second day of the workshop, Jeff decided to teach us a second approach to portrait painting. He realized we were all struggling with the placement of the shapes and masses without some form of under painting or drawing. He had panels all prepared for us. He puts up to 5 layers of 100% acrylic based house paint on his panels and sands them smooth.
Using the color asphaltum, and no medium, he begins drawing with his brush (likes W&N Eclipse and Monarch soft brush for this), laying down values, masses and shapes. It's pretty much the same principle, except you aren't making the decisions about color in this step. He used this step in his technique for a number of years but realized that he could eliminate it after awhile.
Jeff did a lot of talking during this demo. He said he can usually recognize an artist who lacks confidence in painting. They usually produce highly finished works, applying paint with thin layers, afraid to fuel the brushstrokes with paint and to lose edges. Er...HELL-O...that would be me.
Jeff also said that even if you use photographs for your reference, as opposed to painting from life, treat the photo like a model. Don't rely on a grid or (heaven forbid) tracing. Don't turn the photo upside down either. The only aid he used was the mirror to check for flaws. He said if you continue to use these methods, especially the grid, you will forget how to draw. He is very confident in a person's ability to learn to see and draw accurately, but it takes practice and a desire to "do whatever it takes to stretch yourself as an artist". Always be aware of angles. Create imaginary plumb lines on your canvas. He will often imagine a shape within a shape to compare size and accuracy. Of course, the "magic Squint" is vital to this process as well.
Here are the two methods, side by side. Break for lunch and it's our turn. SURE.
To be continued...