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Bring your portraits to life

Will Teather, who enjoys the immediacy of working from a live model demonstrates a portrait in acrylics, painted from life

Working from a live model for portraits has an immediacy that makes the creative experience very exciting. There is also a sense of urgency to get the work completed whilst you have them in front of you – it often takes me around three hours to complete a portrait. Having said that, Ingres spent 12 years on his longest portrait from life, recording a discernible chunk of a life lived, for both artist and sitter.

Working procedure

I find impasto painting works well for life sittings. Impasto implies laying paint on thickly so that the marks are visible and are a strong feature of the finished image, which often means it is possible to introduce a little more abstraction and that it requires a tonal approach – seeking out different levels of light of shade. As Lucian Freud once commented about painting from life: ‘The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes and, ironically, the more real.’

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About The Artist

Welcome to our May issue packed with inspiring practical features to help you develop your skills in all media. Watercolourists will love Bob Rudd's invented colour schemes for dramatic landscapes, Amanda Hyatt's five steps to watercolour success, with an exercise to try, Ann Blockley's invitation to inject some magic into your watercolour washes, Paul Talbot-Greaves' deconstruction into three parts of the painting of a daffodil, and Deborah Walker's test report on a new Winsor & Newton watercolour paper. Paul Riley and Julie Collins show how to use pen and wash and ink and watercolour in powerful combinations, while Jo Quigley demonstrates why working en grisaille in acrylics can be so beneficial. Portraitists will learn different ways to obtain a likeness from Ann Witheridge and Will Teather; adapt your sketching kit with ideas from David Parfitt; try painting seascapes in water-mixable oils with Paul Weaver, and more. And don't forget to enter our summer sketching competition with fantastic monthly prizes!