Overview – Andrew Bonneau’s portrait painting workshop


We were recently fortunate to be able to host Archibald Prize finalist, artist Andrew Bonneau, for a three day portrait painting workshop.

In the three days we worked entirely from the model, concentrating on head/shoulders of the sitter. The workshop studio space was lit so that the model had a lighter and a darker side, to assist in the transfer of a three-dimensional image onto our working surfaces.

The seated model was on an elevated platform, which brought her eyesight approximately level with the artists at their easels.

All aspects of the process were discussed and demonstrated, such as proportion, anatomy, consideration of perspective, an appreciation of the form in relation to the light source and with this in mind modelling the form in three dimensions.

General and specific oil paint procedures were covered, including colour theory throughout.

The painting surface was prepared prior to the workshop, and instructions were given regarding a choice of preferred surfaces and their treatment.

At the outset of the workshop Andrew spoke about the overall workshop process and intent, explained some procedures and gave some practical advice after reviewing our choice of materials for drawing and painting.

Andrew showed and discussed some examples of his work that were achieved in exactly the same way that we were to work.

Day one

This was devoted to observation of, and drawing from, our model from a fixed point. With just five participants plus our facilitator Andrew, there was ample room for close observation of the model.

Andrew demonstrated the practice and intention of this drawing in relation to our goal of achieving an oil portrait from observation of the model.

To this end, the shapes of tonal values were recorded on the drawing for transfer to the canvas.

Toward the end of our first day we transferred our drawn image to the canvas surface in preparation for the second day of the workshop.

Day 1_Pencil_2_Tony Fitzsimmons_28April2018

Day two

Andrew demonstrated the underpainting, which, using different values of one colour, gave form and depth to the image on our canvas/board.

Close attention was given to preserving the drawn image on the painting surface, and we were encouraged to work with our original drawing alongside the canvas, to always check and refer to our original drawing, and of course the model was observed in this process, particularly in regard to tonal variation and contour accuracy.

It was important on this second day to cover the surface of the work with a value that would assist in the application of solid colour on the last day.

Day 2_Final Pass2_Tony Fitzsimmons_29April2018

Day three

This final day began with demonstration/discussion on some concepts and technical aspects, which were important to the achievement of our workshop goal. Terms such as local colour, how to differentiate highlights from this, the passage of light through the skin surface and how this is shown with oil paint, and many other aspects were discussed while Andrew demonstrated.

The colour palette was shown and explained, with the relative use of each colour and tone in relation to the whole explained. The overall amount of information we received regarding oil paint as a medium and why an artist’s grade vs student grade is preferred, as was the case with all materials used, were invaluable.

Particular attention was given to mixing skin tones on the palette in a range of values to suit our work.

Intensity and colour value were covered, as was application of paint and treatment of highlights, shadows, and transitory passages.

Day 3_Final Pass6_Tony Fitzsimmons_30April2018

As the end of our three day portrait drew to a close, we were each given valuable feedback, as we had been throughout, and in conclusion we were collectively given some more advice about the general and more specific aspects of our craft, with advice on further reference material, and which further activity would assist us to advance in portraiture and image making.

I think all participants had an enjoyable, highly instructive three days, which left them with the tools, and ability to continue on their chosen path, and our instructor and mentor for this time, Andrew Bonneau was thanked by all.

Special thanks must also go to our model for the workshop, Zuni, who not only displayed exceptional qualities in her ability to maintain the same pose for us over an extended period, but was engaged in the whole process, and has captured many images of all participants work at each stage; this is a valuable reference for us to be able to review our working process.

By Tony Fitzsimmons, Images of work by Tony Fitzsimmons, taken by Zuni (Model).


If you’d like to get involved in a creative workshop at Umbrella Studio, click here to see upcoming events!



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