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Demonstration by Hashim Akib

(Learn more about him. Visit www.hashimakib.com)

Portrait demo: super heavy body acrylic, 22 August 2008

Hashim persuaded Brian Hammans to pose for him. For interesting portraits, he said, men make good subjects - women tend to value their beautiful complexions and not to like to seem rugged, with blemishes and asymmetry.

He had covered the surface of a 40 x 50 cm canvas (possibly an old unsuccessful one?) with a dark layer of greens, blues and yellows - complements for the reds in skin.
His super heavy body acrylic comes in pots. It is slightly glossier and dries a little more slowly than lighter ones - he can keep his palette for a week in a plastic bag.

Apart from some flow-improver he avoids time-wasting gimmicks like acrylic media and stay-wet palettes. He only uses water to wash the brush or to dampen it before picking up the paint.
Without any preparatory drawing Hashim started in with short lines and dabs, having loaded his 2-inch flat brush with burnt umber and violet. This outlined where the head was to go on the paper, single wide strokes placing the eyes, the mouth and hints of where the shadows were.

Quite soon he dabbed in some light red and cadmium yellow where the skin was well-lit. Then back to a very dark, almost black, background behind the head.
White and cadmium yellow started the jacket, with touches of green and blue to make it more interesting. A similar colour was used for Brian's silver hair and, with a bit more colour-variation, for the background to the right of the head. Then back into the face with red, yellow, white and crimson. Face, jacket and hair colours were touched repeatedly into the background.

Hashim picks several different colours up on the brush at once, so that the resulting effect depends on optical mixing - very little mixing was done on the palette.
The whole process was one of touches, flicks and dabs. Nothing was ever smoothed on or worked in (none of the flat areas you aim for when you are painting your bedroom wall) - no fine detail added until the final minutes of the painting. No dimensions were checked, features gradually shifted as positive or negative shapes were extended. If a line was wrong it was broken rather than being removed.

After the break Hashim moved down to a 1 inch(?) flat brush, first doing a bit of fiddling in the background to get back into the feel of the subject again. As the detail gradually developed he decided the whole background should be dark - it really did make it more dramatic.
Throughout, we got pearls of wisdom: time deadlines are a good thing; so are shaky hands (they stop tightness); don't let your painting arm rest on anything (limits directions of strokes); leave detail to the very end (constrains you if you do it too soon); only hint at glasses; remember the whites of eyes are full of tiny touches of colour; make long lines out of many separately-applied short strokes. There were probably more.

By the end of the demo Brian's likeness was very clear (more flattering indeed than the photo!). Hashim said that perhaps another hour might be needed to make such a painting ready for sale but I'd have been happy to hang it on my wall. A very inspirational evening.

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