Are hard. Not with pencil, charcoal or pen and ink. I can do that. But because I started out as a sculptor, I want to use my fingers and my hands. I want to push stuff around. With the aforementioned materials, that is pretty hard. Pencil and charcoal admit of a little finger work, pen and ink not at all. (Stumping is, I recently learned, the correct term for rubbing graphite or charcoal particles around until a life-like effect has been achieved, and is now generally frowned upon.) The very fact that there is so little stuff to push around, means that it is easier to get rid of the sculptor in me and just draw what I see.

With oil paint, that’s harder. It’s such delightful plastic, messy stuff — it just begs for the judiciously applied finger nail, the scratch with a pointy stick, the aggressive thump in the right direction. And it doesn’t work that way. Apparently, with oil paint, you need to observe to colours, the tonal values and the way they blend into each other. And then try to achieve a thorough technical knowledge of which type of white is good for mixing, which for highlight and which for underpainting and more like that. It’s hard, that’s what I wanted to say. But I’m a little stubborn and not a little foolhardy, so I try to persevere. And I want a nice portrait in oils of my daughters.

Attempt #1:

I carried this painting a little beyond this snapshot; but I did so using mixed white for glacis; and that just doesn’t work. The whole attempt was spoiled by a spotty, rusty fungus-like layer over Naomi’s face. I tore the thing up,  which I perhaps shouldn’t have done. But it did me good…

Attempt #2:

In this attempt I made the mistake of trying to draw instead of paint. Menna’s face — the one on the right — is not too bad, but the rest is just horrible. Inaccurate in colour, line and composition, and with no real dash. It was a mistake not to paint the background first, I noticed with my third attempt. A strong background, as in the first attempt, really helps to define the faces, as opposed to the white of the canvas-like paper.

Attempt #3:

This is better. In dim light, it actually looks not too bad. It’s just not a good likeness of Menna, whose immensely joyful grimace at the time the photograph was made is hard to believe — it was a Church feast the snap was taken. Still, the painting has form, and a measure of dash.

Maybe that’s part of the problem: I ought to work to a living model. Anyway, I’m learning — and that’s always fun.