A few days ago Charles J. Burnett Esq., former Ross Herald and current President Emeritus of the Heraldry Society of Scotland, gave me one more sitting in Falkland. Sittings are an important part of the process of painting a portrait from life as they allow me to collect visual and non visual information.
I began painting a colour study of Burnett a couple of months ago which would be useful when painting a larger portrait, perhaps depicting him wearing the painterly tabard of the Scottish Officers of Arms. When my noble guest first sat for me, I painted my subject just as I saw him, wearing an elegant day suit and tie. But as I pondered over the sketch alone in my studio, I felt it would be much more appealing to include his former uniform of an Officer of Arms, which is of an intense red, and would add more vibrancy to the whole study.
Before arranging the second sitting, I met Burnett in Edinburgh at a lecture where I got his latest book: "Officers of Arms in Scotland 1290 - 2016" published by the Scottish Record Society. I asked him if, perhaps, he could get hold of the uniform, otherwise I was going to improvise a costume with the many pieces of velvet cloth that I collect as my props.
Fortunately, the Lord Lyon allowed my sitter to borrow the livery jacket of a Scottish Officer of Arms. So during our second sitting I had much fun covering over the business suit with Venetian red and Vermilion paint and suggesting the medals and decorations of my subject (The bonnet will have to be painted from imagination and relying on a couple of photographs. After all, this is a study and I must always remind myself that I don't have to finish everything in a study, that often, less is more).
In my previous article I included two photographs of the first sitting which give an idea of the stage at which we left the study. The following two images illustrate what we achieved by the end of our second sitting.
What the images cannot convey is the non visual information that one gathers during a sitting; conversation being an important way of becoming acquainted with the subject. Of course, it does help when the subject is engaging and there are common interests to ignite informative discussions. In this case, our common interests were probably more of a hindrance for me, who had lots of questions on heraldry that Burnett kindly and patiently answered.
I found myself so absorbed, that I ended up painting an additional medal on his jacket and I even rinsed my paint-loaded brush in my cup of tea by mistake! That, of course, was less hazardous than if one had drunk from the cup of mineral spirits. Another argument in favour of those who argue against eating and painting at the same time!
Indeed, it was fun and a most wonderful day of work.