Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Mi Blog Es Tu Blog - Sam Dalby

Lots of shows opening these days, among them an exhibition of works by Sam Dalby, whom I recently met at the opening of the Royal Society or Portrait Painters Show. Sam was elected a member last year and his beautiful portrait was hanging very prominently in the show.
His solo is opening this week at Gavagan Art  in Settle ( North Yorkshire).

I am glad that he decided to write about this pivotal work :

Sam Dalby, Yorkshire based portrait painter who spent many years as a painter and decorator, fantasising all the time about doing what I loved for a living. Attended Harrogate College of Arts and Technology, Cleveland College of Fine Art.

 It's a painting that I love every inch of, flaws and all. It had a long and troubled gestation, and was the first painting of mine that survived and emerged stronger after such a gruelling process.

This painting was started in 2009 as a large charcoal drawing of a Eliza, a young spirited and beautiful older lady. The drawing itself had to be extensively re-worked, cut down, spliced, and extra sittings demanded for repositioning the hands.
I transferred it onto canvas, blocked it in, and painted diligently from the sketch for a few weeks. I thought I was not far from finishing, when I received a lot of severe criticism (some of it valid) from an artist I went to for advice. This set off a crisis of confidence, and on returning to the picture, hated it so much that I painted it out with a dark wash, which I wiped away until Eliza could just be seen peeping out of the mist. I slowly started back working from the sketch, and realised after a month that it just wasn't working. After a few months break, It dawned on me that a lot of the problems I was having stemmed from the odd shape of the canvas, and the unstable way the figure sat on it, so I cut it down and re-stretched it on a stretcher that was the same width, but not as tall. I painted another dark glaze over the work, and called Eliza up for more sittings.
By now it was mid 2010, and sittings continued on and off for another year, as the painting inched its way forward.
Towards the end of the sittings, the painting changed from being a ground down and overworked mess. Passages of paint started to make sense, colours began to hit the right notes, a sense of light illuminating the flesh appeared. Slowly, Eliza's character became manifest in the paint, the delicate features began to carry the underlying apprehension, an old lady still with the naivety of a teenage girl.
No portrait since this has had to go through this pulverising, attritional process. It was the painting where I became a problem solver, where I learned the value of good planning, the value of perseverance, and where I finally began to understand in a profound way how to create life from paint.

I cannot remember what the specs of the original canvas were, but it is a heavy cotton, double primed with an acrylic primer.

Sitting at home. it occasionally goes out to exhibition, where people admire it and never buy it.

My palette at the start of the painting was a grisly affair, but had settled down into a recognisable tonal painters palette by the time I'd finished:
Titanium White 
Lemon Yellow
Yellow Ochre
Venetian Red
Alizarin Crimson
Cobalt Blue
Ivory Black

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