Techniques of the masters brought up to date - 2

Sonia Bacchus

Sonia gained a masters degree in Fine Art at her home town university of Lodz in Poland

Quoting Sonia "The inspiration for my work is from the Old Masters, I appreciate their attention to detail. I like the light in Rembrandts work, the subtlety of the soft light in Vermeer's paintings. My paintings are figurative, metamorphic representation. The main key to my art is the relationship between light and shadow. Colours are also a very important aspect of my work so I use them sparingly with respect and with the knowledge of the relativism."

For this her second visit to Barnet Guild of Artists, Sonia chose to demonstrate her revised techniques of the Old Masters by means of a portrait. A half profile composition was chosen and the lighting positioned to provide some subtle shadows.


For a commissioned portrait Sonia would normally start with a number of pencil or charcoal or pastel drawings to gain familiarity with the facial features. This is not possible within the time limitations of an evening demonstration so it was straight in with the paints.


Here the face is drawn directly with the brush using acrylic paint diluted with water. The rest of the composition was quickly blocked in, first with diluted acrylic, then layering on stronger colour where necessary.

Here the blue background has been applied and some blue reflected colour added to the model's skin tone on the 'shadow' side. More detail has been added around the model's eyes and mouth using acrylic diluted with water or gloss medium.

Next is a period of correcting the underlying drawing and adjusting the tone values so that there is a solid foundation on which to apply the next stage - oil paint.

According to Sonia it was quite common for the old master oil painters to do an underpainting with tempera so in this demonstration she is effectively replacing the tempera with acrylic.


After the tea break, Sonia moved on to the oil painting stage. For this she used a mixture of four parts turpentine to one part linseed oil as her painting medium. An advantage of the acrylic underpainting is that by the end of the teabreak it is perfectly dry and ready to accept the numerous glazes of oil paint.


The completed demonstration.

Artist at work!

Sonia with her completed demonstration

A close up from the centre of the demonstration.

Altogether a most enjoyable evening was had by all.