Christan Nicholson » "Canada's most famous living portrait painter", Eclectic Art 2010

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"Canada's most famous living portrait painter", Eclectic Art 2010

Painting Technique

Dr. Marianne Scott, as National Librarian of Canada, gov. coll.

With the passing of time I have become recognized as Canada's foremost portrait painter. My training at Mount Allison University was academic, learning from techniques developed during the Italian Renaissance through the Parisian Academy period under the tutelage of Lawren Harris, David Silverberg and E.B.Pulford. This means I completed thousands of hours of figure drawing and painting, learning chiaroscuro to create form, and the structure and proportion of the human body. I was always first in my class and, as a result, was the first person in the history of Mount Allison to graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts cum laude. Today, there are few places in North America where the academic tradition is fundamental to a B.F.A. program.

I draw the composition directly on the canvas and begin the oil painting with an underpainting in sepia tones (a brown and cream rendition of the final painting). This is both as an aid and so that raw white canvas does not show through at any stage of the painting. (Many masterpieces are unfinished paintings, but look finished because of the underpainting – for example, Degas' "Portrait of a Lady" at our National Gallery.)

From here my own individual technique and style takes over. I work in glazes, often of pure color in the beginning. From there the painting is worked up in layers of thin oil paint. At a certain point the brush strokes become more evident with final strokes of thicker paint.

I am particularly noted for capturing some aspect of the sitter's personality on canvas. This is innate to myself, and cannot be taught. Just as there is a life-like quality to my work (as if the person is about to speak, or is looking at you or about to walk off the canvas). Everyone comments on this.

My work is considered realistic yet contemporary. The painting's development from drawing to the final thick brush strokes can be seen if the painting is observed closely. There is a luminosity of colour and a striking use of light particular to my own style of portraiture.