Last week, the recent edition of International Artist magazine dropped through my letterbox and, as usual, the first thing I did was flick to the back to read Harley Brown's invaluable insights. Those of you who are familiar with my work will know that I have been greatly influenced by Harley's portraits, and that he has been extremely kind and generous in advising, encouraging and supporting me in my endeavors.
In this edition of IA, he talks about the importance of lighting in art - direct light, reflected light, and how to nail those highlights in portraiture. He also talks about mistakes he made in his early years as an artist and he lists the excuses he made for not taking good advice gleaned from articles, mentors, books and art colleges.
This reminded me about an exchange of e-mails we had a few months ago regarding my pastel painting of an African lady, which had been painted partly from life and partly from my photograph of the model. Harley mentioned that the highlights were too similar in strength and colour and that a little more sensitivity in my handling of these areas would make all the difference. It pains me to confess that although I admire and respect Harley immensely, I felt that I had pushed the painting as far as I could and I called it finished. Looking at it now, I know it is not.
That painting is already framed and I may well pick it apart and have another go at it at a later stage, but I have revisited another pastel painting of the same model, again started from life and developed from a photograph. Here is the painting before I started the reworking:-
And here is the reworked painting.
A more subtle approach to the highlights does indeed make all the difference. I found a few images of traditional African tribal dress to finish it off. I'm reasonably happy with it now, although no doubt there is still much scope for improvement.