View Full Version : Demostration Portraits: how I do them!

03-22-2007, 03:54 PM
This is a demonstration thread, the whole, original thread can be found here. (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=410159)

My Way for Portraits.

Hello Weeders, :wave:

Maureen has asked me to do something about portraits for the “HOW TO...” series, but this is a "HOW I do", it’s my way. It is not the right way, only one way. I am happy to do this as I have had so much encouragement from people in this forum, it has kept me going knowing that there are people out there who like what I do.

Where to start? When I start a portrait there are a lot of thoughts running through my head so I will try and share them with you; first of all medium, sometimes a ref picture will shout it out to you 'pastels', or ‘watercolour’.
If and when you choose a subject to draw and paint there must be something that attracts you to it, the eyes, a prominent feature, maybe the nose; even if you close your eyes you can still see the face in your mind. Look for interesting shapes in the face, contrast, shadow, and light; I think it also helps if it is a family member or someone you know well,

There is also a wealth of information in WetCanvas, there are ‘how to’ tutorials to draw eyes, noses, ears and mouths, so you can look, read and practice drawing them.
AlfredArt has some terrific tutorials; I am in awe of Al's talent for drawing, look read and learn from his work. Look also at Dee’s (Deepat) work, you have seen and admired her portraits in the WDE's, as I have; again look and learn. Deano's brush strokes, his colours and underpaintings are well worth studying and when you think of Connie (Connievanwinssen) you think of her beautiful monster red and blue cows, but her wonderful painting of her daughter Dagmar is painted from the heart.
When you look at other people’s paintings and their techniques, don’t copy them but try and implement what you see and incorporate them in your own style. After all you don’t want to be the 2nd Al or Dee.
Li’s silks and acrylics, Maureen’s inks, Kordelia’s cp’s (plus her humour, she never fails to make me smile), and Valri........Then there are those in the pastel and watercolour forums, ..... so many artists in this website that I aspire to, too numerous to mention, but hopefully I have looked at what they have done and learnt some things and tried to do it my way.

First I like to sketch. I have a sketchbook where I do graphite sketches all the time, some I use some I don’t, but it is good practice all the same.
This is a sketch of the painting I want to do here, you can see my reference guide lines drawn for the eyes nose and mouth, I think Al has what’s called a ‘good eye‘, but I don’t’ I have to look and measure, look and measure again and sometimes I draw the face more than once so I more familiar with the face when I finally come to draw it. I normally draw on ordinary A3 printing paper, it's cheap, you can use both sides, bin what you don’t want.

The initial sketch,


03-22-2007, 03:58 PM
Well the next step was to choose a medium, and I have gone for watercolour. My palette will be the same as always, a limited palette of red, blue and yellow, primary colours. It has taken me a while to do this but my watercolour teacher put the idea into my head and she gave us exercises to do with just these 3 colours. You can mix any colour with various tones after a while: it seemed the best thing to do.
When you think about it, it makes sense and it is cheaper in the long run, because if you buy a watercolour set of tube paints you always end up with colours you don’t want!
However, you can use your dark reds and dark blue plus a tad of yellow to give a colourful black, and dark red, dark blue and burnt sienna, which will give you nearly, blacks. You know blues and yellows will give you greens, blues and reds will give you purple and reds and yellow will give you orange.
There are many shades of blue are there from light to dark, e.g. cerulean, cobalt and ultramarine, and many shades of red, like rose madder, brilliant red and crimson.
For yellows there are lemon, medium and yellow ochre, to name but three.
The various mixes and tones from these are endless.
In addition, I also like to have some burnt sienna and burnt umber, and quinacridone gold, which is an exciting colour to use and mix.
For-painting portraits I think these are enough!

You can always add to your blues with indanthrene, prussian and phthalo blue; and to the reds with vermilion, quinacridone, (which I like a lot) and carmine, magenta, rose dore and indian red.
Additional yellows are naples, raw sienna and deep yellow.
With these your number of tones has doubled if not tripled! You don’t need anything else, for your whites you can make use of your paper and add clean water to lighten tones or lift colour to make them even lighter.
A good watercolourist will know exactly how much and which type of blue to use and how much and which type of yellow to use to get the green they are looking for; they have been mixing these colours for years and it is like second nature to them, unfortunately I am not good and haven't reached that stage yet [smile], so for me it is trial and error and practice ... I always have a scrap piece of watercolour paper to the side so I can test my colour then I can see if I have to adjust. It’s a good idea to make colour charts of all the various combinations and colour mixes to see what can be achieved.
If you do a lot of landscapes, by all means buy all the various greens you want it will save mixing!
The same thing applies to my oil and soft pastels, I simply buy all the different shades of red, blue and yellow I can, and of course white. There is one green I love it is called a lizard green and when you look at it you think it is a white until you lay it down on paper! Rather than use black pastel sticks I often use charcoal sticks to draw into the pastel and even darken a shade if need be.

Well back to my painting, this is the first whisper wash. (More explanation of this and further washes can be found ... here, in Aqaurelle's class) (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=356684), her tutorial in the Watercolour forum.


03-22-2007, 07:12 PM
I have drawn this again very lightly on watercolour paper and put down the first wash. I had no use for the sketch I had done previously, but waste not want not, just for fun I went into it with my oil pastels, just to give me an idea of what it might look like. OK, the colour isn't true as I went over the graphite and of course the surface is not the best, it would be better on a canvas board...maybe I will later anyway this is ready for the bin!

03-22-2007, 07:15 PM
I do love using pastels, but I haven't used them for some time as I have been doing watercolour most of the time. I don’t think you will have seen these next 2 pictures - both were done in 04 and are now living with their new owners.


I met Dan at a watercolour WetCanvas meet, he wasn't a painter but his wife was, and I had the opportunity to sketch him several times during coffee breaks in the garden where we were staying. This painting is a result of those sketches and a ref photo, which was taken at the time. When I posted, Dan's wife pm’d me “Please Guilli! I would like this, please let me buy it!”


This one also came about during the same meet, and the same thing happened when I posted it.

Sometimes I think I am not making any progress. I look at an oil pastel I did in 06 and I think to myself this is no better than these two I did in 04 are! As artists I think we are our own worst critic and are never 100% satisfied with what we do, but I think RL interferes here when we are on a roll as they say. I think all is well in your world, you are happy, no worries but as you know RL isn't like that all the time, you don’t feel well, a family member is ill or other problems crop up and you worry about this or that and it is always in the back of your mind. All I can say is just keep painting.

I approach my oil pastels the same way, I sketch and then paint. I try to follow the contours of the face every time with my pastel strokes. I am not a teacher and I find it hard to explain the way I work, but it is easier when you are with someone; I am lucky that I have our Marita (Maritajill) as a neighbour. Last year we found out we were only 10 miles apart and had a couple of paint out days and I am looking forward to many more this year once the summer arrives.
I hope these illustrations may help some of you!

Well Weeders this is the finished portrait; one area on the right on the forehead above the eye needs repair and doing so might only make it worse, so I am going to leave it. My fault, I should have left it 15 minutes earlier!

I hope this has been of interest to you. In your initial drawing look for the interesting planes and angles in your face. Have you ever used your hands to feel your face and the bones in your skull, cheekbones, and jawbone, at the end of each eye? Feel the bones in your forehead going up into you head, where does the skin feel tight against the bone? This will also help you get everything in the right position along with your measurements. It is like a blind person will feel your face with their hands to give them some idea of what you look like.
When you start to paint, whatever medium, use your strokes in the directions of the contours of the face. As you know I still struggle to get a really good likeness, it's frustrating sometimes but I persevere, it will come eventually. At least, that is what I keep telling myself! But it is as you see them - have you got their smile or some emotion? Do they look sad or happy, or have you got the tilt of their head or their eyes? That’s the fun and the satisfaction to keep going, I guess. It‘s trial and error; never give up; measure, measure again, and draw shapes. Try to think “it's not a face, it’s a collection of shapes” and don’t worry overmuch about likeness.