BADAS Meeting January 15th 2019

The Weatherley Centre, Biggleswade

Stan Hurr : Portrait Artist

Stan loves to get out of the house and plonk himself in a busy ‘centre’…the chaos doesn’t bother him. After working at incredibly noisy fiestas in Spain, a shopping centre in England seems very calm.

Stan Hurr has been a full time professional artist since 1980 doing all kinds of different artwork including: magazine illustration; murals; figurative and landscape painting and live performance as a caricaturist at many functions producing thousands of portraits over the years. But, the thing that he loves best is to draw from life, from a person sitting in front of him. He says that from now until he kicks the proverbial bucket or is unable to work, he will try to draw as many people as he can. If you check his Event Calendar you can see at which shopping centres he will be working each week, charging very affordable prices. . He works in oils, watercolours, acrylics, pastels and charcoal.

His goal is to create a true likeness that is lively, spontaneous and accurate yet within reach of most pockets. Sittings take approximately 20 minutes per person, and this enables him to breathe life into the portraits, even those done from photos.

Stan is self- taught, his figurative work owes a lot to the Impressionists, especially Monet, Sisley and Degas and his portraits owe a lot to John Singer Sargent. He was born in 1953, in London and has since lived and worked in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, France and a year in Mexico! His wife is French and they have 3 bilingual boys. He has been back in the UK for 20 years and every year gets busier with portrait commissions.

Stan works from photos, i pad and laptop images but drawing from life is his favourite thing to do, a ¾ profile is his favourite viewpoint. Over 40 years he has experimented with and found his preferred materials. He favours Faber Castell pastels and uses the hard version as these are easier and the best he has ever used. No 2 drawing paper from Great Art ( green soft cover) is used all the time as it has ,in his opinion, a very good surface for pencil, charcoal, pastel and takes changes well.

For this demonstration Stan chose three volunteers Lindsay, Mark and Pete and worked in hard pastel, and charcoal ( his  favourite medium ) producing two portraits and one ‘quicker’ caricature. He was very chatty, explaining his method, answering questions and giving tips and advice along with little stories about his life experience as an artist, very engaging.

Drawing in 3D is a great achievement he feels and there are lots of techniques to help. He suggests learning to draw simple shapes to start with eg circles, spheres, squares, cones, cylinders to achieve mass. Then move on to practising as many heads as possible concentrating on the general shape to start with sketching lightly so that changes can be made.

Some artists use a grid to assist their drawing, Stan uses an imaginary one. He tends to sketch the whole head quickly and very lightly, starting with the general shape, adding hair and then shoulders often in black and white and then adding colour. When feeling more confident he will push the pastel or charcoal into the paper, and blow away the excess to create a permanent almost ghostly image. Adding layer after layer in this way gradually builds his impression taking highlights out with an eraser. He loves Charcoal because it works even quicker than colours and has a huge range of tones. It is especially good for soft hair effects such as creating a very dark background to highlight white hair, see Marks portrait. It gives a lovely matt finish as opposed to shiny graphite finish too. Stan uses Cotes English Charcoal from Great Art – each piece is different some smooth and others initially scratchy but good for texture.

He can produce 6 pastel portraits in a day as opposed to only one in oils due to prep time, cleaning up and drying times. He loves to work in (cheaper) pastel because he can draw and practice more, sell more and get better and better quicker. He had a job drawing portraits in a shopping centre in France doing stints of 5 portraits broken up with short walks to move his muscles and stretch. This was a great experience he said and built up his confidence a lot.

At various stages during the sketch he uses Boots hairspray to fix his work. He uses the negative and positive spaces technique to get his work accurate. He advises not looking at the eyes too much because they often then get drawn too big, a common beginners mistake and trap to fall into. Instead he suggests looking at the big picture and focusing on the socket shapes not the actual eyes. Slimmer faces are easier to draw he feels than fatter ones like babies for instance because it is easier to capture character with slimmer/older faces. Working on the background all through also helps to get a good result for him. He uses all the colours used on the face plus brighter often complementary colours-blending the background into the portrait helps to shape the head.

Usually Stan will have cuppa at half time with his ‘Sitter’ and when he returns to work he can spot mistakes. He will often work on 4 or 5 portraits at once at home putting them away overnight and seeing them with fresh eyes the next day enables corrections and tweaks to the work.

For the end stages Stan will rest his drawing hand on a stick over his work to avoid smudging it. He uses pastel pencils in darker colours for fine details like wrinkles! and also a blender around the eye area to smooth and darken. He revisits the eyes to ensure they are absolutely right for that person as viewers will look straight at them, they are crucial. He will add clothing etc quickly to give an impression but does not focus on this aspect at all. Lastly, he will fix his work with more hairspray.

His favourite artists include John Singer Sargent, Augustus John and Mort Drucker. Please see Stan’s website for examples of his work and timetables of where he will be working.