Ben Hall Portrait: The Process

In trying to create a range of bushranger themed art, specifically painting, a key component was portraits. Having already completed a portrait of Frank Gardiner and Dan Morgan, next in line was Ben Hall.

I began with a pre-stretched, gesso primed canvas and drew the outline in HB pencil.

The next step was to block in a background. I wanted each portrait to have a bit of a unique colour scheme so I dappled grey and ultramarine as I knew Hall’s costume would be prominently yellow or marigold.

Next was colour blocking: where I put the main underlying colour but no shading. The idea is, of course, to lay the ground work to build up the image from. I opted to give Hall a lot of primary colours to make him pop out of the background.

The face, being most vital, was what I worked on first due to the amount of detail it would need.

Details coming together. Fabric is a lot harder to do well with the materials I have. The face is not looking quite right. Time to take a break and regroup.

Perhaps the most crucial part of the portrait is how accurate the face is, particularly the eyes that are, of course, the window to the soul. Hall had rather heavy lidded eyes which created the illusion he was kind of squinting a lot or kind of sad. This combined with a heavy upper lip created this very sad face and Hall was always described as a very serious man. I think he must have had an overbite because in all the existing photographs of Hall he has an almost beaky look with a weak lower lip but no descriptions of Hall make a note of it so I tried to re-emphasise that aspect.

The finished product is not perfect but it’s about as perfect as I can hope to make it. The important thing is that it captures an essence of Hall as a portrait really ought.

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