View Full Version : Portrait Painting

02-04-2007, 10:10 AM
I did this in my Portrait class this week but cannot continue with it as we are having another model next week :( Other students used colours but as this was my first attempt with paint I decided to restrict myself to monochrome. Now my tutor wants me to finish it in colour :shock: So I thought I would try and play around with it in ArtRage first. However, I do not have a photograph, so I thought of using either a Cezanne self portrait or Derain's portrait of Matisse as reference. Can anyone suggest some alternatives?

02-04-2007, 11:25 AM
I like it as it is,
its a wonderful painting!

02-04-2007, 11:13 PM
Vil..... I Will tell you the easiest way possible to colour your painting without messing up anything......
Use a second layer to put what colour you want where you want it,then use a blend layer from the list of layer blending modes...
If your unsure how to do this check out HANZZ tutorial on caracature painting where you are even given screen shots of how to do it.....The easy way.....Jack.

02-06-2007, 09:44 PM
Thanks Enchanter.
Thanks Jack - I do want to learn to use layer blending modes!

D Akey
02-07-2007, 08:48 AM
What the 'value' of a full value underpainting is to use it as a map for mixing your colors.

So you would mix colors that match the corresponding value.

But that's for a traditional painting. Different people have made their underpaintings sketchier when they know where they're headed. Experience will generally bring forward how much one needs to do, and how loose it can be. A lot depends on whether any of the underpainting will show through when done or not.

I'm not sure about other substitute reference. Many of these more modern guys didn't use full value underpaintings (Don't know about the guys you mentioned).

Anyway, if your question is more about where you can get a model, if it's really different, then it was pointless to have the underpainting. Start from scratch. So if you're keeping with this one, perhaps mix up color paint, and place it, but don't get too loose or thick with it or you will lose the underpainting.

But once you get your canvas covered with pigment in place, then you can push that paint around.

Sounds to me like your tutor isn't giving you enough information (and they may themselves not have it either). That was often the type of teachers I had. Drove me nuts until I finally found an old pro who did teach very clearly. From that I could see what I had been missing. . . all those years.

Be careful of teachers' motivations. They may unconsciously not want you to get better than them or learn what they know too quickly, or even know what they haven't themselves mastered. Artists are a weird group that way.

Your guy is probably fine. But pick his brain. Ask why he wants you to do something -- i.e. what is the lesson or skill you will get by doing any given exercise. Believe me, knowing up front is better than worrying about stifling your creativity (which might be their excuse for their not explaining). This should never be an issue. You're there to learn. You will teach yourself plenty in any case. Their job should be about clairity and to teach you something specific upon which you can build or explore.

Good luck.

02-09-2007, 01:20 AM
Thanks D Akey. Trying to paint this portrait in colour to my satisfaction proved problematical! I did precisely what you suggested I shouldn't do :x - ie put the paint on too thick and lost the underpainting! Now I understand what you mean :) I am going to leave my original as it is, at least for the moment and have a go again with thinner paint at a later date.
Thanks again for your invaluable advice.

D Akey
02-09-2007, 06:16 AM
Hi vii,

This is a method to make underpainting work.

This is a professional portrait painter technique. It's useful for working professionals who repeatedly paint similar, realistically painted things. The principle could be applied to other subjects, though it's most useful for portraits. This describes an opaque oil paint style.

You mix flesh tones in a scale from dark to light in ten steps. In between sessions, you can put each of the paint steps into 35 mm plastic film cans that you can seal the cap to slow their drying out.

You want to have the flesh spectrum pretty linear (i.e. not go off toward purple in one step in the spectrum, then green in the next step.) That's your basic spine you'll pivot around.

(In ArtRage you can see the palette in the lower right hand corner has not only a color picker but a value picker. The value picker is quite useful for this technique.)

So imagine you have ten piles of flesh colored paint in ascending value (and perhaps take the curse off your tube white at the lightest point of your spectrum and give it a faint tint of buff or whatever makes sense).

You can now put a daub from a pile of paint onto the end of your palette knife and hold it up to your underpainting and see where that mixture belongs.

You can go ahead and get opaque with it. But keep that color in the corresponding value areas. This is a controlled technique, not like Van Gogh or like Alla Prima artists.

Concurrently, at the paint mixing stage, you have a couple or three step spectrums pre-mixed. Something in the umbers, a bit of a bluish color, another in the warms. These are for tinting your basic flesh tones, to move the cheek value to warm it up, and umber and cool to hit shadows, accents and reflected light.

Details like eyes, where you need purer color you can mix on the fly because there is so little needed usually.

For the rest of the picture, you can also mix colors in shortened scales. Hair is important. And backgrounds, if it's like a no-seam spotlight on a wall card simple backdrop, you can have that all pre-mixed as well.

You can get splashy with the brush strokes in the background, but try to keep controlled on the face. And the hair is controlled too, but the degree of control is something you need to decide as you're painting it. But like with the face, think in terms of planes giving you lights and darks. Wavy stair-steppy hair is a good example of where matching the values would pay off really well. Or top of the head vs. the side.

And oils are good to come back and soften and blend out certain edges, if you want to introduce a certain painterliness.

And of course, after all the areas of the painting are covered, then you can come back in with paint that's a little thicker for a few well placed highlights to add some panache and guide the eye.

Now that's the general idea for going the underpaint route. It will give you a particular look that is consistent with realism.

If you want to go all expressive and wild with your color, or even impressionistic, then an underpainting is unnecessary. In another thread someone gave an example of how little information is needed to begin.

But having fewer rules means you have to make up for the lack of structure in other ways, and unless you paint a lot, it's sometimes hard to evolve that into something usable. The learning curve is individual in those cases. You have to develop your technique as you go. And linking your evolution from painting to painting may be difficult because if you're intuiting everything based on a feeling, you may not have that feeling next painting.

Nothing could be easier than to copy a later Matisse for example, but that's only because it's already been explored for us and to look at it, it's six colors slapped onto a canvas with no technical skill to speak of. He was by that time working on other levels. But try to get anybody to appreciate that if you're anyone other than Matisse. . . except mom.

Art can be an open ended affair.

I found a foundation of structure from which I could deviate very useful, even if I were to play around with all the other styles in search of my own.

But, if one is painting exclusively for fun, then that's something else, and all one needs concern themselves with is having fun. That's legit. But it'll likely be harder to make any money off your art that way, except in the odd paintings where everything just happened to come together and work really well.

Good luck and have fun.

:D :D :D

02-10-2007, 06:06 AM
Hi D Akey,

Your generosity knows no bounds - thank you for sharing your knowledge so willingly. I have saved and printed out your advice. Playing around with ArtRage and the knowledge and encouragement I am gaining via this forum is boosting my confidence! I Googled "portrait painting for beginners" and the book result gave me a link to download (free) an 1851 publication The Art of Portrait Painting in Oil Colours by Henry Murray. Now I am off to digest it!
Thanks again.

D Akey
02-10-2007, 07:00 AM
Wow. Very good.

I'll have to go look that guy's book up.

Your openness will take you high up in your artist expression, I've no doubt.

:D :D :D