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The Unlikely Sitters – Part 1

Daniel James Yeomans / Exhibitions  / The Unlikely Sitters – Part 1
portrait painting in old victorian oval frame

The Unlikely Sitters – Part 1

This whole idea was spurred on by an old refurbished victorian frame I recently bought that had some lovely detailing with an oval window in the centre.  It had been lying around, waiting for me to paint a portrait that would fit.  When Alicia came to visit so I decided to try a small portrait sketch to see how it would look. Painting under life size, so that the portrait would fit in the frame is fairly easy. Not dissimilar to painting a life size portrait but rather than having the canvas alongside the sitter I bring it toward me slightly. By using this method I can still stand back and view the canvas and sitter together.


Unlikely Sitters


After completion, Alicia’s portrait(above) had been sitting in the Studio for some time. I realised that if I can finish a portrait like this in 3 sittings, I could ask people that wouldn’t usually come and sit for a portrait. Friends from all walks of life, people that are not even necessarily interested in art (yet!). To have a series of unlikely sitters. The people in my every day life.



Knowing that I wish to keep each portrait to a maximum of 3 sittings I developed a method whereby I could arrive at a likeness (of the sitter) from painting the half tones and general shape of the head. Much like a sculpture would start, thinking about the main shape before adding the final detail. So the 2nd sitting consists of very carefully adding highlights and dark accents over the top. With practice it doesn’t take me long to get a good likeness and within 2 sittings it can be almost finished. A 3rd sitting usually ensues which lasts about 1hr involving miminal tinkering and fiddling with any slight mistakes whilst trying my hardest not to undo any of the good work.


And so it began, with Alicia, (we just so happened to paint on ‘International Women’s Day’) then my Mum came to sit, sister Beth was up for a visit,  and my good Friend Matt has been back and forth in between training (Matt is a professional Downhill Mountain bike rider racing for Cannondale bicycles. You can tune in to RedBull Tv this summer and catch him in action and also follow his instagram @Mattsimmondsdh.)  Next and finally for this blog was a Self portrait, (to busy the weekend that passed without any sitters available.)


Painting the ‘Alla Prima’ way


The beauty of attempting a painting in consecutive sittings is that the paint remains wet.  This means that any new paint you put on the canvas will flow with the paint put on previously.  If you are successful it looks as though the process has been effortless. In actual fact you must be more careful than if you were to put a layer down, let it dry and then move on to the next. If you missplace the accents it is almost impossible to re paint them without re-painting what is already underneath. If it does not go well in the first sitting I find it a lost cause to keep ploughing forward, sometimes better to rub it all back and start again. Ironically the more effortless my work looks the more difficult to execute.  But, when you are successful that effortless appearance is so enjoyable to look and the paint just seems to flow about the canvas.   I love the motto; It is the artists job not to just to paint life, but to bring life into the painting.


Painting the Self Portrait




What’s next

With many more to paint, I will continue this project over the Spring & Summer and a ‘part 2 blog’ will follow after the next 4-5 are painted and so-on. Once completed and framed they will form a large collection of many interesting characters that I look forward to exhibiting. To follow progress or for details & dates on forthcoming exhibitions please join up to Daniel’s Newsletter here.

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