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Workshop: Olympic Portrait from Life with Aine Divine

With your host John


Join award winning portrait artist Aine Divine and Olympic Gold & Silver medallist Callum Skinner, for a 2.5hrs live model portrait workshop webinar. Filmed live on 22nd October 2020.


**See Reference photo and recommended materials below**

Please note: If you're new to this (or you're a friend/fan of Callum and giving this a shot for the first time), please see alternative materials in note below.


"I'm delighted to share with you this first love of mine as a painter; The process of making a watercolour portrait direct from life, and without drawing first.

It's quite an adventure, and will appeal to anyone that wants to experience the joys of painting in this way. You are very welcome to join me as we navigate the way!

I love the drama possible with this medium and the places it takes me to when I steady myself in front of a model and make my response in paint. I've outlined the materials and equipment and set up at the end of this page.

We'll have a wonderful model Callum Skinner to work from (reference photo coming soon) Callum is an olympic gold medallist and I'm honoured to paint him. Inspired too, as he has those chiseled features that make for a great portrait.

Really, there's a wealth of information to pass on during the act of painting, and it's a delight knowing I'll have the opportunity to engage with you as I work. I'll explain in full the brush marks I make and will pass on ways to simplify the process so it becomes a deeply satisfying and enjoyable experience. I look forward very much to hearing from you and elaborating on this exciting process."

Reference (Callum) <DOWNLOAD HERE>

Photos by Jim Mackintosh

Here are some things we will cover:

1-3 preparation;


Setting up the model: you want to be inspired by the subject, so it's important to give time to this. I like a single source of natural light and place the model at eye level so I'm looking across and not down on my sitter. I want there to be a dramatic contrast in tone and the form of the face to be clearly seen. **See further set up advice below for today's workshop


Arranging equipment so you are inspired and prepared and can get on with the job of being attentive to what you see.


Limbering up physically and keeping a radar up for any tension arising in the body as you work. It's important to feel fluid and at ease yourself. This makes for keener observation.

4-9 practise;


Colour mixing. I'll describe the colour combinations I like to use for shadows in the skin. The different darks you can make with these colours and how to describe the light.


I'll discuss brush marks and consistency of paint. As the pigment is transported by the water rather than being pushed by the brush, paint consistency is important to consider. I'll also demonstrate the many uses of the 2 inch flat brush and how it directs the flow of water.


I'll talk about proportion and ways to place the features convincingly in the landscape of the face. I'll show you how I simplify things for myself. And extract what is needed from the vast array of visual information. To this end I'll encourage you to half close your eyes and stand back regularly.


Lifting off. The paper I recommend is sized all the way through which means it's a great surface for lifting off the paint. I do this to retrieve the light, like a rubber in charcoal you can carve a light eyelid from a dark socket. Features can be modeled as though in clay with this approach of lifting off and laying on tone.


I'll give reasons for a sweeping splash from the shoulder and discuss the value of runs and drips, and why I like to work with the board vertical.

This way of working involves a leap of faith..It's also a very satisfying and freeing way to paint.

I do hope you'll join me for this rare and delightful opportunity!

Example portrait:

Materials Top-Up

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What you'll need

As mentioned above, if you're new to this (or you're a friend/fan of Callum and giving this a shot for the first time), all you really need is a paintbrush suitable for watercolour, some water colour paint, mainly red, blue and yellow (in pans or tubes) and white paper. Plus something to lean on. Cartridge paper is fine, watercolour paper even better. Avoid photocopy paper because it's too thin to take the water. It'll be fun!

Those of you who are interested in my particular approach and the equipment and materials I use, I recommend you do your best to find the following;


• Paper: You'll need bockingford paper 535 gsm 250 lb it's called the NOT surface in between rough and smooth (can be bought from the SAA website ) masking tape to secure it to the drawing board.  • Colours: Here are the colours I recommend in tubes (I use Windsor and Newton professional tubes, but Cotman or something similar are also fine) 

Viridian green, Alizarin crimson, Ultramarine Blue, Vandyke brown, Sap Green, Cadmium red, Cadmium lemon yellow, Yellow ochre, Cerulean blue, Windsor orange (optional) Burnt sienna (optional) 

• Brushes: You can order the set of three craft brushes here, or buy them at The Range (good for lifting off)

Or you can go for the full 'Aine Divine' Set here;


• Drawing board and easel if you have one (see 'set up' below for more info) a small table to hold water and brushes etc.

You will also need a palette (or a couple of white plastic plates will do) **Set up:

I recommend that you stand at an easel if you can and that your board is vertical to avoid distortion in your painting.

If you prefer to sit be sure you have room to lean well back so you are at arms length from the board.

You want to work with an open chest and fully occupy the space that you are in.

All equipment will be placed on the right if you're right handed and vice versa.

If you are working from a live model sit them to the left of your easel. If you're right handed you want to look out the left side and left handed you'll look out the right side of the board.

If you're working from the photo of Callum then stick it in position to the left of your paper as though he was sitting there (If you are left handed the model will be on the right).

Be sure all your equipment is within easy reach and especially that you can easily access your water.

A plastic palette is handy as you can hold it in your non dominant hand as you work.(see link to my favourite palette in equipment above)


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