Portraiture & Fine Art Oil and Coloured Pencil

David Sandell

Winston Churchill - portrait study in progress

I was only half way through Boris Johnson's book, "The Churchill Factor" when I just had to stop whatever I had on the easel and start a portrait of Winston; books often inspire me in this way. First of all I looked into available reference and decided to compile my own drawing from the various sources, using a pose of him in his 80's then redrawing his features when in his 60's, probably during the war, (Surprisingly he was 65 when he became Prime Minister for the first time to lead the Britain against the Nazis). The portrait uses many sources so it is basically how I see him. Johnson's book is a great read, revealing Churchill with all his faults, more importantly it informs us of what we might have lost without his leadership, you really don't want to think about what might have been. The portrait is still in progress, and the likeness will improve as it takes on a life of its own.

Show season

Now looking forward to the Private Viewing of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries (10-21 Dec). This showcase is dedicated to Oil Painters whatever their subject. There is often a good mix of styles, although I do feel there is sometimes a predominance of loose painterly or broad stroke styles, which only the top painters do extremely well. Perhaps many developing artists feel that's what they must do. I'm always interested in seeing what the likes of Peter Wileman, June Mendoza, David Curtis and Lucy Mckie exhibit this year, each brilliant exponents of quite different styles.

Artist of the Year 2014 shortlist – Good for Morale

I was pleased to receive some interesting news in October; an oil painting 'Gary Twelve Songs’ has been shortlisted for 2014 Artist of the Year, by the Artists and Illustrators magazine. (Home page) Obviously I am just pleased to be shortlisted from 3000 entries; the exhibition is to be held at the Mall Galleries in January, so that will be a good night out whoever wins; just happy to be there. I also have two further pieces featured in Creative Quarterly design magazine and drawings in two new books, 'Strokes of Genius 7’, published in 2015, for the second time and 'Colour Pencil Treasures III', also for the second time. Its feels good to be consistent and all these little steps are good for morale.

On easel - I have a rather odd self portrait in progress, developed from a recent pencil study, not sure how this will end up, which is worrying. Also in progress is a more traditional large portrait of a well respected landscape artist who I've know for years. In a sketch book I’ve scamped out dozens of ideas which would require three lifetimes to realise, how frustrating! Ah well, mustn’t grumble. As they say, no point worrying about anything in life, nobody gets out of this alive.

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Scotch Missed

August has been a slow painting month with holidays and general admin prior to getting on with some meaningful studio work. To be honest I have also been distracted by what's in the news: Iraq, Gaza and closer to home, Scotland. I was born near the end of Hadrian’s Wall, I spent my formative years alongside brother Scots, and served with them, I enjoyed the banter and the characters. I like the Scots and Scotland, but I am not sure I like what Scotland could soon stand for. I have always said to my Jock friends; you can hate us (The English) but we still love you - that usually confuses them. However with an independent Scotland, the English wouldn’t be obliged to like or assist the Scots in future. This Scottish patriotism was fuelled by a bitter Australian actor screaming out of the cinema screen with a painted face. The Scots may think this intimidates, but it’s all just a little too vocal and the Zulus did it better anyway; instead they should beware of the quiet, angry Englishman; focused and determined. I also believe the English have a deep inner patriotism which ideally doesn’t shout out, we don’t feel the need to prove it. Neither should anyone assume that the Scots have the edge on passion when competing against England in sport; if they do they don’t really understand the English. It’s a shame that Alex Salmond (an intelligent but bitter Republican with a wicked tongue, who like most politicians likes the sound of his own voice) has created a fractured Scotland, some families at risk of becoming foreigners to each other overnight. The Scots will vote and get what they deserve. Good luck. Either way we will probably still love you, our dear petulant siblings. Scots will always try and annoy the English; so if you want to annoy a Jock ask him if he is "Scotch" he'll hate it. Now I just wish I could create an epic painting to sum all of this up!

Tribute to Artist - John Luce Lockett

It was with sadness that I heard about the passing of Northampton artist John Luce Lockett; I exchanged emails with John about 6 months ago and although he didn't elaborate, he hinted that he was not in good health. We often ranted and discussed the state of British Art. John was what some would call a proper artist, painting for a living and sharing his enthusiasm. I read somewhere that John did Jack Vettriano style six years before Vettriano; I can see the similarity in style. John had a great depth of technical knowledge of artists materials and human anatomy. I attended his life classes on and off for years to keep my hand in and I often recommended his classes to developing artists and designers. My greatest regret was not painting his portrait, an idea I had discussed with him a few years ago. He would have made a superb subject; long curly hair and that cheerful 'lived-a-life' face. I will always recall his sense of humour and gentle manner. If he showed any pride at all it was probably reserved for his son Billy, a talented musician. Thanks for all your advise and God Bless John. I know a lot of people will miss you.

Coloured Pencil Portraits

I have just completed some work for Derwent Pencils, using their Coloursoft range. A really good pencil, well designed with a soft quality which sharpens to a good point; a useful combination. Coloursoft have some similarities with the soft ranges from USA and Central Europe but Derwent's range is also nicely branded, easy to read etc. I’ve used most of the well known soft brands and these are amongst the best with a good range of colours as you’d expect from Derwent. Colour pencils have come a long way in recent years with a pencil type for everyone, which is why I still enjoy using them for developing ideas for oil paintings as well as more considered finished pieces in coloured pencil.

Portrait of a Songwriter

April - while on holiday in Cornwall I was asked to give a portraiture talk and demo at the local Women's Institute! Yes, I know it sounds scary, but it was fine and the lovely ladies were very kind. On my return I have to prep 3 pencil pieces for the UKCPS Open Exhibition at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists in May. 2 pieces chosen are studies for my "Winter" oils project, which I've just started, the other was a pencil study for a recently completed oil portrait for singer/songwriter Gary Holt.

"Life Songs" - Chosen for LYRA AWARD for BEST PORTRAIT at UKCPS show. (pencil study below)

Book Features

Looking forward to seeing the two new books published this year featuring some of my work. Strokes of Genius 6, which features "After Lunch" in pencil which was Best in Show at 2012 UK coloured pencil awards. African Sister appears in CP Treasures Vol 2. I tend to use coloured pencil for studies to plan how I might tackle larger oil paintings. These pencil studies can take on a life of their own and end up as framed pieces. However, prior to this I also do a lot of scamps and scribbles in my sketch/notebook. These serve as shorthand visual notes or brain dumps; I'm sure other artists will agree, often you do a quick line scamp and wish you'd used a larger piece of quality paper, you are so pleased with it.

Currently working on a some pastel studies for end of March, more later.

After Lunch - coloured pencil study.

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Upcoming projects

Having completed a few commissions in oils and pencil in 2013 I'm now looking forward to 2014, perhaps entering a few shows. At present I have an oil commission for a friend in progress, which I need to keep under wraps for now.

However I am also working on a series of pencil studies, if they work I hope to complete a series of 4 pieces in oil. My initial study for Winter is working quite well, (my daughter in fur hat) I now need to work on developing the background part of the theme behind the model, so we'll see.


I have decided to start a blog to support the work on my website, so here goes: I have worked in pencil for as long as I can remember, both as a child and as a professional designer. It seems to me there is something primeval about making a mark on paper.

For many years I have also used coloured pencils to rough out ideas as well as finished illustrations in their own right. My working life in the main involves managing a professional design practice, which involves managing a digital design studio whose job is to design for the ever changing technology; iPad, web etc. 

The rest of my free time is taken up with oil painting and drawing. In truth I have always been interested in technology as a design and art tool, however away from professional practice and by contrast, painting and drawing appeals to me because the medium and resulting art work has essentially been the same for centuries. 

There is an enduring quality to the work, whereas digital work tends to be transient. So there we are, that's the reason I have two approaches to art and design and I love them both. 

My next blog will expand on my painting and drawing portraits and if nobody reads it then at least it will provide me with a journal of sorts to reflect on at some point in the future.


2012 - The Gallery Owner portrait commission

2011 - Charles Dickens study for 200th anniversary. 

2010 - Major 8 page feature on Davids work in latest International Artist magazine Feb 2010. 

2009 LIBERATING LIVES Exhibition - Mall Galleries London, Sue Ryder Care - (Self Portrait). 

2009 - First Prize - Royal Institute of Oil Painters Live Art Event, portrait of Antonio Carluccio. 

2008 - Sisters of Ghana - selected as Finalist in International Artists magazine. 

2008 - Completed two large canvas commissions for Standard Chartered Bank collection. 

2008 - A double portrait has been selected for this years Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Open Portrait Exhibition in July. 

2008 - Highly Commended in the Artist of the Year, Artist Magazine. (Emma’s Necklace)

2007 - Finalist in the Artist & Illustrator magazine Self Portrait award, in association with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. 

2007 - Highly Commended in the Artist of the Year, Artist Magazine. (Plumber’s Break)

2006 - 2nd Place in Royal Institute of Oil Painters Live Art Event Mall Galleries – Painting from life.