Exploratory studies for McCoy Commission. (Timelapse filmed for ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’)

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5 Responses to Exploratory studies for McCoy Commission. (Timelapse filmed for ‘Portrait Artist of the Year’)

  1. Mick Carney says:

    Fascinated to watch the technique of working from behind the easel. What is the reason for that? If these are studies what are the final works like? Great video.

    • ewanmcclure says:

      Hi Mick,

      I originally devised the backwards approach for painting self-portraits, painting from life and viewing myself and the painting side by side, in the mirror. Although slightly hit-and-miss with brush control, the benefits include maintaining a sufficient viewing distance from the developing painting to keep the work broadly accurate but loose in detail.

      For the final commission on the Sky Arts series, we were obliged to paint from photos we’d taken, and I wanted to avoid the tedium of a photographic finish. So I opted for the backwards approach, enjoying the struggle with the paint and peering at the reflection of the photo and painting through the small eyehole, (to help with sight-size alignment) before working from a more conventional position.

      You’ll see the final piece in the other video. It consolidates some of the lessons I learned with the prior studies.

  2. Will Nathans says:

    Dear Ewan,
    Beautiful work and very exciting to watch you on Sky Arts as well as the time lapse process. We were all glued to the TV! Correct me if I’m wrong but do you work with a CSO technique with your oil painting? I myself discovered this a few years ago from a Mr. Louis Velasquez from the internet and noticed a significant change in the handling of pigment. Your paintings have a rich quality to them that I enjoy in paintings. I’ve been experimenting with the technique now for a while and would love to know what you think of it all. Well done with your work and congratulations with your painting!


    Will Nathans

    • ewanmcclure says:

      Good to hear from you, Will!

      Yes, CSO makes a real difference doesn’t it? (For the uninitiated, that’s Calcite Sun Oil, or chalk powder ground in sun-thickened oil. Used in 1:1 proportions with tube paint it makes for more viscous, thixotropic handling and a richer, more translucent paint quality.) More precisely, though, I currently use the slower-drying, shop-bought stand-oil with chalk as we simply haven’t sufficient sun during a Scottish winter for thickening oil. Mind you, I had some success making my own two summers ago, (Using safflower oil for minimal yellowing) and have experimented thickening oil with an aquarium aerator, which also works.

      I tend to stick to an unsystematic wet-in-wet painting approach, so I haven’t explored the full gamut of multi-layered techniques which Louis Velasquez recommends, beyond a few promising studies. My main interest on the technical front is approximating the qualities of Flake white using Titanium, chalk, and a little egg white. Otherwise I keep things uncomplicated. I’d be delighted to hear your experiences and discuss these matters further.

      And thanks for the link to your Website. Very fine work indeed.

      Best regards,

  3. Dear Ewan…..I stumbled on this by pure accident…..
    I am so thrilled and extraordinarily impressed……I’ve never seen anyone paint backwards…but I have experimented with painting with a blindfold…you can do it! I’m grateful that you give CSO its proper due. Thank you..I’ll write a letter to you via email in a week..I’m currently babysitting a 7 year old grand daughter…..thank you for this video.
    In recent months..IVE examined with a London painter ..Francis Oneil.. A good friend..that Velazquez painted Las MENINAS. From a mirror reflection…you are proving that ..in some degree….I’m wondering now if he used the same method? ..best wishes…LOUIS R. VELASQUEZ

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