Moving into Expressionism

So I am now at the stage that I will be taking my portraiture work from realism into exaggerated colour and Expressionism. I wasn’t sure how to do this, wasn’t sure how to pick the colours and convey what I wanted to. I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to convey with the paintings. Luckily, Ryan swept in from the sidelines to rescue me.

We discussed inspiration and ideas for what I wanted to present in the portraits. The subjects are my friends, and so naturally I wanted to show the good in them, the reasons they were my closest friends. But then the portrait becomes a projection of myself upon the subject. It would risk the portraits all being very similar to each other as I share many feelings among my friends.

Instead, Ryan suggested a different approach. Rather than using my own thoughts as inspiration, I should use the subject’s thoughts as inspiration. With this in mind I went to the subjects and asked them to sum themselves up in 4 words or short phrases. This way I wouldn’t just be projecting my own views/thoughts/emotions of the subject into the painting, but also their own (I wont be able to completely  remove my own projections since I know the subject).

With these 4 words/phrases I would then break it out into synonyms and then use this collective pool of words and emotions to create a basic palette to be added to the portrait.



Stuart Words

From this pool I refined it down to:

  • Confidant with himself,
  • Able to laugh at himself,
  • Fun & silly,
  • Relaxed,
  • Childish, but in a good way.

And from all of these I then chose the following colours:

Stuart palette

  • Red (Scarlet): Attention-getting, bold, enthusiastic.
  • Orange (Amber): Sociable, enthusiastic, confidant.
  • Purple (Lilac): Immature, creative, social.
  • Blue (Azure): Calm, peaceful.
  • Turquoise (Aqua): Clarity, balance, calm.

Alongside these I have several intentions towards the application of these colours and the overall composition of the painting:

  • Strong, confidant strokes,
  • Few sharp edges/points,
  • Exploding colour patterns,
  • Tie-die inspiration (90’s),
  • Laughing expression.


Karolina Words

Refined down to:

  • Strong-willed (both good and bad),
  • Caring and faithful,
  • Humorous, but blunt,
  • An anchor in the storm.

Into the colours:

Karolina palette

  • Yellow: uplifting, critical, fun.
  • Blue (Dark): Loyal, responsible, rigid, caring.
  • Red (Burgundy & Crimson): Assertive, strong, domineering.
  • Purple: Integrity, structure, faithfulness.
  • Green (Jade & Yellow-Green): envious, spiteful, reliable.

Compositional elements:

  • Arms crossed, proud and confidant.
  • Cracks and/or lightning to show harsh sarcasm.
  • Fills canvas imposingly/solidly.
  • Happy expression.

It should be noted that I am not yet sure how much I will be incorporating each of these colours  into the portraits , they are simply a base.

Also, when linking colours to emotions, I used several colour theory references alongside my own understandings. In particular I found this website extremely useful, as it also shows how slight changes in hue (for example burgundy compared to scarlet) can alter what expressions the colour connotes.


Posted on March 19, 2015, in Friend Studies. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Moving into Expressionism.

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