Drawing & Painting Sports Figures || Jim Scullion

There’s no doubt that this is a niche market and I’d rather suspect that there may be more take-up in the sports market and by those who are looking for a showcase of the author’s work than there will be among its avowed practical art audience.

That’s a shame because, as a guide to painting the human figure in action, this is hard to better. The author has clearly studied his topic, and his subjects, in depth and he captures both general and specific poses with confidence and aplomb. The original cover image was going to be a portrait of Andy Murray just after he has won a point (it now seems to be missing from the book altogether) that absolutely conveyed, far better than any photograph, the pose and expression as well as the pent-up aggression Murray displays on these occasions. I don’t want to labour this change, because there are plenty of other, similar images in the book, but it was always going to be my way into the review and it’s something I’m familiar with, my interest in sport not being all-encompassing.

One of the things you can’t help noticing as you look through the copious images (250 in a 96 page book is nothing less than generous) is that Jim’s paintings have a strongly commercial quality. This isn’t surprising, neither is it a criticism; there’s a particular style that the market for paintings of sportspeople demands. However, if you look a little further, although a lot of this is characterised by the modelling and the use of colour, it’s also about making the subject stand out from the background, which itself has to be appropriate. This is worth further consideration, as Jim uses both clearly-defined grounds, such as the St Andrews clubhouse in a golfing picture, as well as those which are more blurred when action but also context need to be defined, or completely abstract to show speed. It’s all cleverly done and a lesson in itself.

If you want to paint sport, then this is pretty much your only guide. However, I’d recommend that anyone interested in figure painting should give it at least a look. You may not find the style is to your taste, but the execution is superbly done and you can learn a lot from just that.

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