Jonathan Linton gave a demo at the Vienna Art Society Thursday. I was fortunately able to capture a few photos as he painted and chatted about everything from materials, setup and approach to the new school he recently opened. I've seen other demos by Jonathan and this one was different. He used a seemingly unstructured but careful Alla Prima approach on heavily textured canvas (you could easily mistake this canvas for a gessoed burlap sack - so it had a great tooth to it). This portrait is different then those on his website but if you follow his blog, you'll see that he has finished plenty of other soft, loosely painted figure and portrait paintings.
I hope you enjoy these few photos.
Before he started painting, he spent about 15-20 minutes on setup and lighting. He prefers natural light but uses both halogen and florescent in situations like this that don't allow natural light to work. (notice the bright pink of the setting sun in the upper window within the first seconds of the demo ... the sky turned a glorious hot pink a few minutes later and then went dark ... if only we could hold that kind of natural light for 3 hours! )
Specifically, Jonathan started with a light wash of darks and lights (above)on a dried ground of mixed tones. Carefully adding the major shapes of the lit and shadow side, knowing he might correct them later.
Then, he added masses of darkest darks but took care to create the soft, artistic strokes that fade into soft edges for the hair.
Then, he scraped everything down with a knife to keep the edges turning away (from us the viewer) soft and "lost".
As he progressed, he used the palette knife often to darken areas that seemed out of balance and continuously soften by scraping off paint. I was impressed by how brave he was about removing strong strokes. Another artist and I remarked later about this because he would create strong 3D forms and then scrape off the meat of the paint leafing behind only a hint of the earlier success.
Finally, in the last sitting, he picked up a smaller brush and very carefully touched in some of the strongest lit areas (notice he avoids putting anything sharp near those soft turning edges). He could easily have taken this further given more time but I thought it was really interesting to see the alla prima work of an artist who usually spends countless hours developing a portrait.
The major lesson I took away from this was the dedication to soft edges. Jonathan was willing to repeatedly sacrifice inspired strokes of paint if the edges were too hard in exchange for a softer look.