a portrait comes together for me from

a series of drawings of the subject.  But it is more than a representation of the individual floating on a painted background.  Items about the subject and signifying them are also used in some portraits as well as the environment in which the person is depicted.

Using my portrait of Julian Burnside in the portfolio as an example of the way I build an image up.  Looking at the painting he is positioned at the left of the canvas, placed through use of stringlines and framed by a square lettered volume behind him.  the drawings I worked from were on a drawing board in my studio thus:

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The portrait is not simply a reprise of the drawings in paint.  A lot of things have to come together in the painting. The sittings were in Julian’s chambers while he worked at a laptop- included in the portrait – and Shostakovich made his presence know with a small string quartet.  The chambers are near the courts and that view crept into the composition, as the dome of the supreme court houses a law library which I feel is somewhat emblematic of the professional acumen of an eminent barrister.  Other elements of his chambers are represented, with the dining table and balloon back chairs at which he worked forming a base line, in a no linear recessive, with levels rising and fallin below a line in a dimensioning of space emulating post impressionist modes.  The low relief sculpture of letters on the wall is emulated in the square lettered area behing his figure and the busts carrying court wigs are on his windowsill and are both distinctive and striking visually.  A rough compositional sketch was made:

Compositional sketch for portrait of julian burnside ink and watercolour

On a base layer of coloured gesso I built up a composition  based on the sketches and the palimpsest behind him includes references to my impressions of him and his personality, his interest in music by the name of Shostakovich. His passion for the fair treatment of refugees is referred to by the references  Tampa and Haneef, the child/board fraud and a quote which is somewhat disrespectful of politicians (from Otto Von Bismark from the late 19th century) of “laws are like sausages, better not to see them made.”

These various elements and ideas are laid out in the completed composition, linked by texture and transluscent overglazing.  Have a look at the finished work in the portfolio to see where it went.

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