Dad – Quick Portrait

It’s been a while since I attempted a portrait in oils, so that’s what I decided to do today.

The subject is my dad and I worked from a photo that I had already used for a successful charcoal portrait.

I am aware that my painting style is very ‘tight’, so I wanted this oil sketch to be a no-pressure exercise to loosen up.

It was a classic case of using a large brush to do the underpainting (using diluted ultramarine blue, burnt umber and burnt sienna) then progressively refining the image with smaller brushes and more vivid colours.

I did keep the brush size larger than I would normally use to try to avoid ‘fiddling’ and getting bogged down in detail.

As is often the case, I got somewhat lost mid-way through and my tones are a bit clunky and crude.  The finished portrait is far from perfect (I could have spent more time finessing it)  but it was a worthwhile exercise.

Oil sketch of the artist’s father. 8″ x 6″. Oil on board.


Clyde Cycleway

Glasgow cyclist on the river Clyde cycle track. Oil on 8″ x 6″ canvas board.

Who remembers all the cyclists that pass by on any day in a city?

I like being able to take an everyday (and quickly forgotten) scene and make it something more permanent (Edward. B. Gordon is a master at this type of painting and an artist who is well worth checking out).

There’s nothing particularly special or unusual about the above cyclist.  I did, however, like how he was framed against the green cycle track and the long shadows that he cast.  So from being a forgotten nobody, Mr Cyclist becomes a painted somebody.  Forever frozen on his bike ride through town thanks to a few strokes of my brush!

Coffee Pot

Coffee Pot and Glass Jar
Oil on Board, 6″ x 6″

This shiny little coffee pot belongs to a fellow artist in the studio and it has always intrigued me.  I like the proportions, the style and the polished surface.  So I finally paired it up with a glass jar full of coffee for this small still life.




Marshmallows in a glass jar. Oil on 8″ x 6″ board.

This was inspired by a painting of bubblegum balls in a glass jar that I vaguely remember.  As I recall, it was in a hyper-realist style.

My attempt at these marshmallows is in no way hyper-realist.  Even so, it was challenging enough.  It was one of those paintings where there is a risk of getting bored or just finding it too difficult and then abandoning it half-way through.

It was completed over 2 days, with most of the marshmallows being painted on the second day.  I realised there was no way I was going to be able to ‘suggest’ the mallows (short of changing style completely).  So I accepted that I was going to have to paint each one individually, more or less.

The hardest thing was figuring out what colour the shadows were, particularly on the white marshmallows.  I settled for various warm greys, with some reflected blue nearer the base.

It’s funny, when setting this up I ate a few handfuls of marshmallows (there were too many to fit into the jar!).  Now, when I see the painting, I can taste the sweets.  It’s the same with my other subjects, I can smell the strawberries, taste the rum and  imagine the scent of the cigar…

Below is a photo of the painting on the easel next to the subject.

Studio setup – marshmallows.




Glass of Stella Artois.
Oil on 8″ x 6″ board.

I painted this a few weeks ago but have only just got around to photographing it.

The advertising images of countless beers are probably ingrained in my subconscious mind.  So it’s not surprising that I wanted to paint a picture filled with refreshing frothyness myself.   The ornate stem of the glass was also interesting in the way that it’s faces caught the light.

The painting was painted “from life” but I had to take a snapshot of the foam and bubbles just after the glass was poured.  By the end of the painting session the drink was flat and I was glad to have the image of the bubbles and foamy head to fall back on in order to complete the work.


Strawberries in glass bowl
Oil on 8″ x 6″ board

It’s not quite time for Scottish strawberries, at least not at the farm where I pick them, so these are imported from sunnier climes.

No matter … the Spanish imports did the job and provided me with the subject for today’s still life (and became lunch afterwards!)