Portrait with stuffed fox cub and escaping armadillo

This painting explores composition. I wanted to create a diagonal focus and give as much attention to the objects surrounding the sitter as to the portrait itself. Working on a full figure, on such a small scale, presents its own set of challenges. When the face is only the size of a 5 pence coin every stroke becomes important.

Capturing the posture of Tara was important in getting a likeness. Initially the set up revolved around the fruit and stuffed fox cub, the elements of the Yew tree and armadillo developed more organically. My first idea for the large space in the foreground was to have a vixen and fox cubs, contrasting their liveliness with the static taxidermy fox. The armadillo (although also done from a second hand, rather wonky taxidermy specimen) is supposed to be running away. I wanted it to feel that as the tree morphs into the rug the armadillo is running to escape the static nature of the background.
The colour palette used was limited to 6 colours:
Titanium white
Lemon yellow
Alizarin crimson
Cadmium red
Burnt umber
French ultramarine.

Working with the limited palette helped me harmonise the disparate elements. The scarf Tara was wearing was a very bright vermillion – turquoise colour. Resisting the urge to add to the palette was hard, but, I enjoyed pushing myself to explore mixing and colour compliments to see how bright I could make the colours.

The finished piece:

armadillo3