Research point: Artists who work on the face

We are asked to look at the work of contemporary as well as historic artists who work on the face in different ways. Particularly to compare the work of Graham Little with that of Elizabeth Peyton.

Graham LIttle is a Scottish artist who works primarily with gouache and coloured pencil. His work relies on texture and pattern and is inspired by fashion magazines like Vogue. His work takes months to complete and I find that he arranges his models in a classical way – almost renaissance in style but they are unmistakeably placed in a contemporary setting. I visited Alison Jacques Gallery online for information on his work – I was not able to download images from this website however. I felt that his portraits, whilst richly realised and beautifully constructed were lacking in dynamism. The models all seem lifeless and superfluous to the setting, they are placed in the scenes, not really participating in any way.

Elizabeth Peyton uses watercolour. Her paintings are personal portraits of celebrities and close friends. She works from life, photos and memory. I visited the National Portrait Gallery for information and images of her work, which is vastly different to that of Graham Little. Peyton’s portraits are dynamic and bursting with colour and life. She has said in a recent interview with ‘The Art Newspaper’ about her National Portrait Gallery exhbition that she works from photographs that are distorted, often taken many photos of photos over and over again. She also enjoys painting from life but I do get the impression that the bulk of her work is done from images she has found or taken herself.

Elizabeth Peyton – Alizarin Kurt (Kurt Cobain)

Historically, Sir Thomas Lawrence produced some majestic portraits of important personages and royalty. I found this painting of Warren Hastings quite strange in that he makes the man look so gentle. I’m not sure Hastings was anything of the sort, however it is a masterful study of an older statesman.

Sir Thomas Lawrence – Warren Hastings 1811

Whilst I was looking at work on the National Portrait Gallery website I came across some other artists whose work I found interesting.

Susan Greenfield, Baroness Greenfield
by Tom Phillips
computer-processed drawings and video, 1999-2000

I am intrigued how Tom Phillips made this image, which is apparently constructured from 169 drawings on paper, drawings onto computer screen and short sections of video. The resulting 22,500 frames are running on an Apple Macintosh G4 from its DVD drive.

Justin Mortimer – Three Royal Court Theatre Directors (Katie Mitchell; Stephen Daldry; Ian Rickson)
by Justin Mortimer
oil on canvas, 2004
70 in. x 80 in. (1780 mm x 2035 mm)

I love the use of black negative space in this group portrait, which was created using photography initially. Itis a theatrical painting in its own right, bursting with energy and drama.

I will close this post with another favourite from David Cobley – his portrait of the late comedian, Ken Dodd.

David Cobley – Ken Dodd 2004

According to the notes on NPG’s website, Cobley used preparatory drawings and oil sketches he did over a course of several meetings with Mr. Dodd. It is a sensitive homage filled with subtle pathos and humour of a great comedian.

Another artist who I admire for his portraiture is Tai Shan Schierenberg who is a British artist.

‘Tai Shan Schierenberg studied at St.Martin’s School of Art and The Slade School of Art. He lives and works in London, Norfolk and the Black Forest in Germany.

Portraiture is an important part of his painting practice and he has won both 1st prize at the National Portrait Gallery Awards, and The Ondaatje Prize for Portraiture at The Royal Society of Portrait Painters.’ From his website

Tai Shan Schierenberg – Portrait of Professor Stephen Hawking
Tai Shan Schierenberg – Portrait of artist, Mali Cheek

Bibliography – accessed on 3/10/2019 – Image of Untitled (Sleeping) – acessed on 07/10/2019

National Portrait Gallery for images of work featured herein. Visited 07/10/2019 for information and image of portrait of Professor Stephen Hawking and Mali Cheek Visited on 15/10/2019

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