It seems hard to believe but I am approaching the end of my four years of training at LARA and it felt like an appropriate time to change things up a bit on my website. I think the new look is cleaner and more striking than the previous one. I'm hoping it'll provide a good basis for documenting my work over the coming months as I set up my studio at home and begin taking my work in new directions.
You'll also notice the change of name. Ever since I started showing my work in local and regional exhibitions, I have had a niggling suspicion that the name I was using was a little, shall we say, less than memorable. With that in mind, I've drafted into service one of my middle names. So, it's adios 'Benjamin Smith Fine Art'. For professional purposes, you will now be able to find me as Ben Laughton Smith!
With my head down completing my final year of studies, it's been some time since my last post. It's been a busy and exciting period for me, the highlight of which has been producing a portrait to hang in St Barts and The London School of Medicine. The portrait, left, is of Professor of Surgery David Ritchie, who was Dean of the Medical College.
The commission was a great honour to work on and posed several technical challlenges. As a posthumous portrait, I was working from an old photographic slide, the colours of which had deteriorated. The composition itself also required various adjustments in order to establish a suitable background, not to mention straightening the tie, which was flapping in the wind!
It was wonderful to deliver the painting, in its beautiful gilt frame, to the client, who was delighted with it, and I am really excited to see it unveiled and hanging on the stairs of the medical school soon.
In other news, I have just under three months of study left and so I recently took the opportunity to attend a summer drinks arranged by my sponsors, the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust. It was very inspiring to meet some of their latest crop of talented scholars. In particular I was interested to meet two conservators and I spent a fascinating time talking to them about their work at the Courtauld Institute and get their thoughts on my recent experiments painting on aluminium panels.
I am so thrilled to have a drawing of mine feature in the June edition of The English Home magazine. It's a figure drawing done in Salisbury some years ago, which I've always rather liked. Even though it's not my most developed or sophisticated drawing, there is something elegant and a little wistful about it.
Framing costs notwithstanding (!) my show at the Horsham Museum and Art Gallery has been a fantastic experience. The private view was really well attended and I have been absolutely humbled by the kind comments I received that night and since. It has been really encouraging to know that people are interested in artists who are studying figurative art.
The exhibition features, predominantly, works on paper - showing how students in the academic tradition learn to draw. The Museum shows off the works to real advantage. Being used to looking at my work in isolation, for me it makes quite an impression seeing my pictures all together in one place!
The show 'Silence and Slow Time' is now into its last weeks and closes on 10th March.
Here are some images from the opening.
This portrait was done over two weeks in charcoal and white chalk. I really enjoyed finding the soft transitions and the structure of the face. The pose itself was fairly unremarkable and the costume is plain, which meant I needed to look for opportunities to add interest wherever possible. I particularly wanted to do this around the hair, ear and earring. I also enjoyed trying to capture the texture of the jumper. The resulting drawing, I hope, captures the placid, contemplative character of the sitter.
In most traditional art schools, the transition from drawing to painting is accomplished by means of studies in charcoal and chalk on toned paper. The idea is to get you used to working with light and dark tones simultaneously on a background similar to a tinted canvas. This was my first 'go' at doing this in the context of a nude figure and was a great learning experience.
It was particularly interesting how the addition of chalk enables you to think more easily in terms of the flow of light. With just charcoal and the white of the paper you have to achieve the lights negatively (by omitting to put down charcoal) but with a stick of chalk in hand you can actually identify the areas receiving the most light and simply draw it in over the grey of the paper. The result is a really pleasing sense of depth and form.
That said, it was initially difficult to resist putting chalk all over the place. In this figure there was a marked fall-off of light as the lower parts of the figure receded from the light source. Eventually, after some push and pull, I achieved a gradation of light which really adds atmosphere and gives a nice sense of the figure existing in space.
*Those in the vicinity of Bristol can see some of my other figure drawing at the Royal West of England Academy 164th Annual Open Exhibition in Bristol which runs from 9th October to 27th November.
Ben Laughton Smith
Contemporary works of art in the classical tradition.