BADAS Meeting January 16th 2018
The Weatherley Centre, Biggleswade

Peter Keegan: Portrait in Oil

Peter Keegan is a professional artist living and working in Buckinghamshire, UK, specialising in portraiture. Working in oils,
Peter follows traditional techniques but uses them to depict people in a modern and original style. His aim in portraiture is to
always create a painting or drawing that reflects the subject’s likeness and personality, as well as capturing those special
elements which make the subject truly “them”. Peter also paints and exhibits figures, local landscape and floral scenes
inspired by his studio surroundings at Claydon Estate, Buckinghamshire. He is the director of The Courtyard Art Studio,
a bespoke working art studio, based at Claydon that hosts a wide range of art courses, workshops and weekly classes led
by highly experienced, professional tutors. Peter’s painting and drawing courses all take place at the studio alongside
 running highly popular art demos and workshops for art groups and societies across the UK.

In 2013 Peter was awarded Artist and Illustrator’s Artist of the Year, People’s Choice award for his portrait of ‘Jonathan Mann,
Leader of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales’. He is now a regular contributor to the magazine. In 2006 Peter came
2nd in ITV’s televised portrait painting competition ‘A Brush With Fame’. Some of his work can be found in public collections
as part of the public Catalogue Foundation. He is a member of the Visual Images Group and is an elected member of the
Buckinghamshire Art Society.

For our demonstration Peter took a photo on his ipad of an audience volunteer. He took the lady into bright light to capture
 a clear image emphasising that light is essential. As Monet said “light is my mistress”. Generally, he likes to spend as much
 time as possible with his ‘sitter’ getting to know them and helping to catch sparkle, personality and soul. He positioned the ipad
 at the top of his easle and kept the subject herself nearby too .He feels that acrylic or oil paints are suitable, uses canvas
 paper to practice on and Rosemary and Co bristle and soft sable brushes (filbert or Cat’s tongue) along with low odour turpentine
, rags, and baby wipes (great for cleaning hands and palettes).His other preferred medium is charcoal.

Peter drew initially with brushes and paints, a number 4 brush and a mixed, neutral grey. He positions faces in the middle or
 higher on the page and feels that life sized works give more realism and presence. A hand span between thumb and ring finger
gives the face size for most people. He begins with an axis, an invisible line from top to bottom and an eye line then creates
 ‘armature’, a skeleton under the form much like wire/mesh under a sculpture. He always begins with straight lines, no curves or
 detail and keeps mineral spirits on a brush to rub out areas. Everything is estimated to begin with in a loose, foggy way
 creating a 50/60% likeness on the first attempt which can be worked over again in a darker grey to crisp up the image.
 He uses projectors and cameras to critique his work and help to see what is/is not working. After this he moves on to apply
 ‘fat on lean’ using paint neat at first flowing and buttery. For the eyes he thinly applies paint using a number 12 filbert brush
 which gives a good point for accuracy. Following this is the application of dark tones before colour for hair and eyes and blocking
 in flesh tones created from Cadmium Red, Yellow Ochre and White. Next he works ‘alla prima’ or wet in wet over the
previously applied layers in quick, gestural strokes with a desire to capture the life/personality of his subject.

The re-stating stage comes next to firm up his work following the previous overlapping marks making fluid, confident strokes
which all count. After this comes the ‘detail’ stage, sculpting as with clay focusing on the eyes which he feels are the most
 important element. He paints them from dark to light as with the rest of his approach. This strict method stops colour going
on too early in the painting causing tonal values to be lost. Hair though is always painted like ‘smoke’ giving a characterful
 impression not concentrating on individual hairs which can seem overworked.

Peter uses a large palette giving more space and mixing potential hence a greater chance of achieving the desired colour.
His portrait painting process or ‘stages’ often end with cutting in a background in colour with fun, expressive marks
which capture a moment in time.