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Stewart Beckett

8th April 2023

Nearly 50 members and guests enjoyed an excellent demonstration by Stewart Beckett, painting a portrait in oils. One of the FAS members, Naomi, offered to sit for Stewart and you will see the striking likeness he achieved in the photos below.  

Stewart briefly explained the types and makes of tools and materials he used and set his palette on another easel, so that we could see his mixing in action.  He started by roughly outlining the shape of the head and shoulders in a thin mix of burnt sienna and ultramarine, and then placing the eye line and nose. At this stage he showed the eye socket, rather than putting in the eye itself.  He showed us how he mixed different skin tones alongside one another on the palette, adding touches of colour to vary the strengths.  He blocked in the paint on the face, hair, shoulders and background quickly and loosely, using brushes held in both hands.  He emphasised he was looking for 'temperature and tone' rather than just colour.   He used a stiff, hoghair brush to 'push' the paint around and said putting energy into the mark making can sometimes make a portrait more interesting even if it is not totally accurate!

He used softer, synthetic and natural brushes to blend the contours of the face and put in detail.  He constantly cleaned his brushes on paper towel as he worked, to prevent unintended mixing of colours.  A useful tip was to use a mirror to view the model and the painting, back-to-front or upside-down, to check the shapes and tones.  He said that 'proportion, shapes and relationships' are important in portraits.  Another useful tip he gave us was to not go back to anything important in a painting after a break!  You will need to warm up.  Work on a part of the background in a portrait for example.


Finally, highlights were added to the eye and some dabs of lighter pink were added to the nose and forehead to bring the portrait to life.  

Stewart has taken part in both Portrait Artist of the Year and Landscape Artist of the Year and he amused us by talking a little about his experiences of these competitions as he worked.  He may not have won these, but as David, our Chairman said in his thanks at the finish of the demo, he is certainly very talented!  The demo was fascinating to  watch and I am sure we all picked up tips and techniques to emulate.





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