Portrait of Letitia:
class study

portrait of Letitia


Portrait of Letitia:
class study done in four sessions

A South American beauty. 2003. Oil portrait on canvas, 19.5x15.5 inches (which in your modern S.I units is 500x400mm).

This painting was done entirely from life over four afternoon sessions in Douglas Druce's class at Morley College, London.

When the painting is dry enough I shall do a thin glaze of either black or raw umber over the blouse and parts of the hair.

Only five colours were used: titanium white, yellow ochre, burnt umber, raw umber and venetian red. This is the approximate order of application of the colours:

The warm darks were later deepened, and the cool darks warmed a little, by a thin glaze of burnt umber, applied when the underpainting was dry. Raw umber was used in places for the darkest shadows.

The restriction of colours is part of my ongoing experiment with what I suppose to have been the palette of the Ancient Greeks. The first century AD mummy portraits of Roman citizens, done by Greek painters in Egypt, used only four colours for the flesh tones: black, white, yellow and red. As I have pointed out before, serviceable blues and greens can be made from these colours, if the black is lamp black, and more muted hues result from the substitution of raw umber for back. All the colours I am using are absolutely lightfast, far beyond the likley life-expectancy of the canvas, and the only modern colour used in this painting is the titanium white, which I use because I do not want the health hazard of using lead white.

Further work on the blouse was prevented by the failure of the light in the room, so apart from some slight tonal adjustments, that's it.


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All images copyright 2003 Martin Dace