How to Paint a Portrait in Oil – Part 1 of 5

portrait painting techniques

How to paint a black & white portrait in Oils

Have you been practising your portrait drawing for years yet making the jump to oil portrait painting always seems to end in an underwhelming finish?

Or do you walk around portrait galleries in awe with the question, ‘How do they do that?’

Maybe you’re frustrated by your process and don’t know how to change it.

Portraits can seem like the toughest subject to crack and you can easily be disheartened by your efforts. One wrong brushstroke can cause a subject to suddenly look ‘wrong’, panic sets in – your pencils get sharpened, charcoal out and you don’t come back to painting for a while.

But you don’t want to draw anymore, you want to paint.

So where do you begin?

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A Beginners Guide to Colour Strings (and How to Paint Quicker)

colour strings oil painting

When you first start painting, the vision is of squeezing out bright vivid paint colours, a handful of paintbrushes, maybe a beret?

But often this approach is an illusion, an artist myth.

To get professional results you need a professional approach.

If you want freedom and expression on the canvas, a bit of premixing can help you achieve more pleasing results, especially if you are trying to achieve a more realistic effect.

If you spend a little extra time in preparation, your actual time at the easel will be more efficient, quicker and rewarding.

Let’s enter the world of colour strings…

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The 3 Steps to Becoming a Better Painter, by Painting Less

acrylic still life painting courseEver wonder where you’re supposed to find the time to paint?

If you’re trying to paint in your spare time, it can seem impossible.

You’re already struggling just to find a clear space and get your paints set out and sometimes you can’t even manage that.

You want to work on your colour mixing, try a new paint colour, and definitely do some more sketchbook work, but you also have a job, family, friends — responsibilities that are just more important.

And so you wonder: should you just keep going, doing the best you can?

Or is there a strategy you can use that doesn’t require so much time and achieves better results?

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How to Choose a Basic Portrait Painting Palette for Oils

Will Kemp Artist head study

Head Study – After Collins, Oil on Linen, Will Kemp

“Every time I paint a portrait I lose a friend”
John Singer Sargent

How not to paint a portrait, a personal tale

Let me take you back several years to the beginning of my experiments with portraiture.

It was a bright sunny morning after a long arduous night painting and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, I had finally cracked my self-portrait…. enter my wife Vanessa

Vanessa: “Why do you look like Tom Jones?”
Me: “I don’t look like Tom Jones”
Vanessa: “You do, what have you done? The portrait was looking great last night!”
Me: “I don’t look like Tom Jones”
Vanessa: “You do! Look how orange it is, you look like the freakin’ Tango man”
Me: “Shit….. I look like Tom Jones”

Skin tone, it isn’t easy….

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The Importance of Contrast in Painting

contrast in painting

Contrast is really important when you’re starting to learn how to paint.

A good knowledge of contrast in drawing helps significantly because you will have learned the value of light and dark.

If you are coming from a non-drawing background, you will have to be more aware that to make a dramatic painting “contrast is king”, rather than trying to add a bright colour to lift the painting…

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