Portrait of Richard is a large painting (for a portrait) in acrylics on canvas. Richard is brainy, he’s good at sums. A tall man with a fierce intellect, one of his colleagues described him as ‘larger than life’. Because I like to make every artwork an experiment, I decided to paint this person on a much bigger scale than I normally do. Approximately one metre square, Portrait of Richard is in the academic, realist style.

portrait of richard by alan dedman colourful academic realist portrait of a man in a camo jacket
Richard by Alan Dedman

I learned to paint like this at the Royal Academy Schools where painting from observation was encouraged. I’m glad, because it serves as a springboard for the wilder, more expressionistic work I do. You get frustrated and suppressed by constantly working to other people’s expectation about you.

Photography compromises the image by pulling it towards the centre of a camera lense. I like to have my sitter before me when I work, but it isn’t always possible for the duration of a painting. On occasions I’ve had someone present throughout the whole process – which can take 100 hrs or more. Lots of conversation – a skill which is needed (whilst concentrating). But – inevitably you have to use photo-reference, which results in a mix of natural or artistic perspective (where the image forms on the concavity of the retina) and geometric or camera perspective, against a flat plane.

Portrait of Richard is a good likeness and a fair account of the individual (he approves) when viewed with ‘the naked eye’. However, once processed back through a camera lense – it becomes slightly distorted, the jaw is harder and pulled forwards. But in reality, it is a fair account of him. I explain some of the issues arising from academic realism in the following YouTube video:

I started the painting on canvas stretched over a piece of board. I drew into it – I like the resistance of the board underneath. I used acrylic paints and after they had dried, worked over some of the detailed blends with oil paint. Initially I employed a colourful palette, then brought in more sombre, realist tones and colours. I kept some of the original bright colour in small flecks about the subject matter (artistic licence). I posed my sitter for a three-quarter view of his skull, offering the greatest perspectival depth. Zygomatic (cheek) bone coming nearest to me, spatially.

Finally, I took the canvas off the board and re-stretched it over a custom made stretcher from Russell & Chappell in London. Making the work more manageable and portable. If you would like to commission me to make a portrait of yourself or someone you know – please leave your contact details (which will remain private) on the form to be found below this blog or any other on the site.