Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lighting a Model with Two Sources

Sir John Leighton, the Director-General of the Scottish National Gallery, served as both painter's model and keynote speaker at the Portrait Society's annual conference yesterday.

Sir John Leighton by James Gurney, black and white gouache, 3 x 3 inches
He was on the grand ballroom stage posing for a demo by Michael Shane Neal. I was far back in the audience watching the demo, looking at a video image projected on a big screen. Above is a 30-minute gouache sketch I did from my seat.

Mr. Neal lit him with a two-source lighting scheme inspired by Anders Zorn (Swedish, 1860-1920). The lighting scheme produces a shadow core in the center of the form and often puts the eyes in shadow.

In the case of this Zorn, those dark accents in the face float in the middle of a sea of creamy white, the reverse of the usual tonal scheme of a portrait.

Watch a 15-second video clip of my sketch in context on my Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook page.
Related posts: 
Zorn's Two-Source Lighting
Split lighting


A Colonel of Truth said...

To me, James, your 30 min. B&W gouache is fresher, more alive, and interesting than the 3 hr. (color) oil. Not a criticism but observation. There's much to be said for rapidity and quick decision-making - capturing but the necessary, simply. I've been to Zorn's museum/home in Mora, Sweden, a handful of times. His portraits are (simply) unbelievable!

James Gurney said...

Colonel, I agree. I think I probably take more chances and have more fun when the pressure is off. How lucky that you've been to the Zorn museum. His work is always a revelation.

Tom Hart said...

This gouache is clearly more spontaneous than the oil study, but I see a comparison between the two to be a matter of "apples and oranges". If I didn't know better, I wouldn't guess that the oil was the product of a public demo; I would guess that it took longer than the gouache (the medium would imply that), but to me both are interesting and fresh-looking.

Connie Nobbe said...

I sketched Sir John Leighton also that day, in pen and ink, because I felt I just wanted to sketch somebody! It was a pleasure meeting you and Jeanette!