Painting Rankin


MAY, 2020

Sky Arts
Portrait Artist of the Week

Sundays are now officially portrait painting days! Week three of Sky Arts’ fanulous Portrait Artist of the Week continues with reowned photographer Rankin. He was being painted by Samira Addo, winner of the Portrait Artist of the Year prize in 2018 in the same year I competed and it was great seeing her again! 

After the explosion of colour following Bernadine Evaristo’s portrait last week, I decided to take this portrait completely in the opposite direction favouring dark colours. The background used for the screenshot was a green-grey wall and door and I felt I’d use a bit of imagination this time round and frame it almost like a photographer’s backdrop.

The intensity of his gaze struck me almost immediately as if the portrait painter was being scrutinised by the portrait photographer. The dark background really emphasises the highlghts of his face and I hope conveys a sense of reflection and thought.

Rankin. 12″ x 18″. Oil on canvas.

Painting by Alastair Faulkner

Just like last week I prepped the canvas with a thin burnt sienna tone which was extremely warm and served to provide helpful tonal highlights that I incorporated into the final portrait and didn’t want to fully paint over. As the lighting on the webcam was quite harsh, I was worried I would paint Rankin with an anaemic pallor (!) so the burnt sienna really helped warm his skin tones from underneath.

 For me the sketching phase is very short. I use charcoal to really map out the composition and basic proportions but over the last couple of weeks I’ve spent little time over this. I almost never achieve a likeness on sketch alone with this amount of time. The main reason being I like to use thin, high turp raw umber to map out the main tonal values which if I did with charcoal would result in smudgy muddy work. I think charcoal is good if you have time on your hands but if you’re in a hurry with 4 hours then I minimise this step.

After this it’s all about applying paint and I start fairly logically by going for the brightest tonal values, followed by mid and followed by darkest. Everything in between then follows which requires me to place the canvas upside down to refresh my gaze and notice the shapes better.

“The intensity of his gaze struck me almost immediately as if the portrait painter was being scrutinised by the portrait photographer”

Over the course of the week I made very minimal changes, mainly to the eyes, clothing and anatomical left cheek to resolve a few tonal areas. Out of the three thus far, this is my favourite portrait because I thoroughly enjoyed painting the expression and the ambiguous psychology underpinning it. Also, I love painting hands!!! More of this please.

Already looking forward to next week – bring on Judge Rinder!