View Full Version : Portrait demonstration in oils

08-03-2007, 08:12 AM
I found this girl busking outside ”La cite “ Carcassonne , France .

Stage 1

On a 22 “ x 16 “ stretched linen canvas I had applied two coats of oil primer , as
I found these prepared canvasses too absorbent for oil paint . Making the colours dry too matt .

My palette was Titanium White , Cadmium Yellow , Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Red
Alizarin Crimson, Transparent Red Oxide , Ultramarine Blue and Ivory Black.

I first washed Transparent Red Oxide and a Ivory Black distilled with Turpentine
over the canvas . After ˝ hour I sketched in with a brush the main shapes. I measured my drawing in head lengths.

I wasn’t happy with the placement of my head, so I tried to wipe off and start again
only to find that the turpentine wash started to dissolve some of the oil primer underneath.. I turned the canvas upside down and started again.

Stage 2

Standing a few feet back from the canvas and squinting so that I see only the basic shapes , I move back and forth trying to block in the main masses, no detail. The darkest part of the hair is put in as a marker for the darkest dark.

For the skin tones I am using White ,Yellow ochre , Transparent red oxide , Ivory black and a little Alizarin Crimson in that order of volume . She has an olive complexion that I need toreplicate.

Starting to feel a little annoyed my values are out . It is difficult as the face is softly lit , nothing with a lot of contrast here to gauge the tones easily .

08-03-2007, 08:17 AM
Stage 3

Concentration has returned thankfully . It is not in direct sunlight so the shadows are warmer than the highlights. I am using quite large brushes, filberts No.8 and 10.
I make sure each edge corresponds with what I am seeing . There are no hard edges
in the face, the hardest being the neck hair border and where the fringe nearly meets the eyebrow.

Stage 4

I am at the four hour mark, I am trying to hold back my natural tendency to rush things and repaint errors later.

I have added the highlights in the nose, the clours are the same as my flesh tones
with a lot more white and a little more Ivory Black (which has a bluish tone)
I blend in the hair with the background with a my filbert, a sable and my finger.

I am conscious of touching the canvas as few times as necessary.I want to retain the vitality of the brushwork.


08-03-2007, 11:51 AM

I started blocking in the hands, again no details just the tonal structure.Apart
from the first wash in stage 1, I am not using any medium.

Looking at the accordion which is blue / black I start scrubbing a mix
of Trans. Red Oxide,Cad Yellow, Ivory black with a touch of Ultramarine.
It is a greyed down version of the complimentary colour, that I wanted to show through in parts.

I have realised the hand is a little on the big side that will remind me to double check my measurements!http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/03-Aug-2007/111872-stage_5_copy.jpg

08-03-2007, 12:07 PM
Am impressed how well you draw and see shapes...once again thankyou for showing...looks great!

08-03-2007, 12:24 PM
Stage 6
Was it a mistake to paint the accordion !? All those buttons ! I want to paint them in more loosely than the face, which is my centre of focus.

I block in again the bigger shapes of the accordian leaving some patches of the underpainting to show through, with the other end of the brush I start to scratch in lightly where the buttons will go.

Working everything in to the background while wet so I can vary the edges.


08-03-2007, 01:41 PM
Hi again Aldo: I'll peek in at this when I get back, as it looks amazing!
If Portraiture is where you did want this, then no probs. If you meant to put this in Oils, you can easily put a thread with just a note and the link so they can jump over here via that link.
Otherwise, if all is settled then no probs.
I can't wait to see more of this next week.
All the best and thanks so much for participating here Aldo; Jocelyn

08-03-2007, 04:42 PM
wow. incredible.....this painting reminds me of some of richard schmid's works.

08-03-2007, 05:49 PM

Thankyou that is a compliment.I think it is just the case of the loose background.

I will post the last stages soon.

08-03-2007, 05:52 PM

Thankyou that is indeed a compliment.Probably due to the looser background.

I will post the last two stages soon.

08-03-2007, 08:31 PM
Hi Aldo, I try not to get tied up in too many overlapping forums, but your 'work in progress' sequences, the direct way you paint and the usefulness of the threads are too irresistible to pass by without giving the :thumbsup: ... I'm looking forward to the end result here... keep them going!


08-03-2007, 09:39 PM
Very impressive as always Aldo. Thanks so much for sharing these. I'm looking forward to the finished product.


08-03-2007, 10:17 PM
Looking great Aldo. Did you ask her to sit for the main painting or have you got an oil sketch/preliminary drawings and can you show us them? Are you working from sketches and photos? Thanks for sharing, Matthew

08-04-2007, 05:45 AM
Stage 7

The buttons are taking me ages, I make them a little less contrasty than originally as they will be too dominant.I will put a mid tone on the other side for the buttons and just pick out vaguely the highlights.

The hand is still a little out as is the shoulder and arm.

Where I was going to put in more of a stone wall background but
decided to abandon any more work there as each stroke seems to take something away.

Stage 8

More work on the buttons keys or whatever they are called ! I am putting them on with a small sable brush in places . Careful not to leave hard edges .I have had to add a small part of Turpentine/ linseed oil to make the paint more workable . The same with the
lettering there on the accordion.

There are a few small things to rework that I have noticed on these
Jpegs . I can post them later.


08-04-2007, 10:23 AM
Beautiful, Aldo, you really are a great professional, and thanks for sharing with all of us.

Dana Design
08-04-2007, 12:35 PM
omygod, the hands, the hands! Beautiful work! This will go into the Portrait Classroom when finished so it doesn't get lost forever!

Thank you, Aldo!

08-04-2007, 01:22 PM
Oh my goodness! I think I hear music coming out of that accordion!

08-04-2007, 01:34 PM
Looking great Aldo. Did you ask her to sit for the main painting or have you got an oil sketch/preliminary drawings and can you show us them? Are you working from sketches and photos? Thanks for sharing, Matthew

This was from some photos that I took,it was one of those chance moments.
I tried to treat it the same as I would have from life.

08-04-2007, 03:54 PM
Not easy working from a photo ref with its flatness of colors. The loose strokes and simple background make this figure look lively. Wonderful piece of work!

08-05-2007, 11:44 PM
I am saving this one to my favourites!!! It really has impressed me . I love your style very much, excellent!!!!


Sally C
08-06-2007, 10:52 AM
Aldo, thankyou for posting this, it is so helpful to see your progression. Wonderful spiritful work. I could never see any problem with the hands that you were mentioning...to me they are perfect, perhaps your trained eye is just that bit more critical...You have a lovely fresh portrait here, I am especially paying close attention to how you give such attention to edges...very key.

08-06-2007, 11:37 AM
I'm very impressed by the spontaniety. One day I hope I can grow to this level of confidence.
One thing I have noticed and I'm sure others will agree-errors are more noticable to the artist (who's doing the painting), once they're posted here on the website. For some reason something I have missed on canvas, stares at you in the face on a webpage. This is despite turning it upside down, looking at it in a mirro and all the other checks and artist can do-Thank God for WETCANVAS!
Many thanks for the generous contribution you have given here. Keep up the great work. A+

08-06-2007, 01:05 PM
Thankyou for your comments,Cirrus0007 and SallyC.

I don't think the hand was so obvious on the image posted, although it was about a cm too wide at one stage.But I had corrected it at stage 6.

Sometimes it is not easy to see errors in a painting straight away,I use the mirror trick,even then I can spot something a week later after not having noticed before.
I believe your eye definitely improves with practice.

As for Edges they are underestimated in importance and one of the last things I took on board. It is one of the techniques that make hair look soft,
particularly with hair lying on or near the face.

Edges are quite easy to attain in oils and pastels,a little harder in watercolour and acrylic because of the drying time.

08-06-2007, 03:03 PM
Thanks for showing us your steps Aldo. Your painting are wonderful. I bet a lot of your new fans will be getting out their books on how to draw (and paint?) hands. I love how hands can add to the character of a person.

08-06-2007, 04:21 PM
I am very flattered by the response,if it helps anyone it would be great.I had very little help myself, there was a lack of workshops in London, unlike the U.S. where they have some very talented artists passing on their knowledge.
It would have been an enormous help back then.

08-06-2007, 10:59 PM
I realy like this style, I kinda liked it better at stage 8 when all the detail of the buttons and hands were more lacking detail. now with all the buttons and such so sharp my eyes are wandering all over the place. not to discount the very good rendering but am more of a fan pulling the viewer to an area and let more of the rest bleed off detail as you move away, I think with the background you made, personaly liked it more at stage 8.5 ... but agree the hands and fingers in thier flexions are realy good...

again realy cool style I like very much

08-07-2007, 09:57 AM
Beautiful, beautiful piece of work, thank you for sharing!


08-07-2007, 10:06 PM
when painting the face or the hand, did u finish it in just one sitting while the paints were still wet or wait till the part of it was dry then add more details. because i find the paints becoming muddy and the colors become mixed with other paints on canvas when i try to paint in one sitting.......

08-07-2007, 10:49 PM
Goodness, I've read this link several times and looked at the painting. I think I hear accordian music! -wonderful work

08-08-2007, 01:42 AM
Thank you Aldo, Your work is priceless, you are a magician
Brian Winters

08-08-2007, 03:44 AM
Thanks for doing this! It looks marvellous.
I thought it amusing when you wrote you were not sure how to keep the focus on the face when you had to paint all those darn buttons. I thought 'quite!!, how are you going to solve this one!' I recognize the dilemma very much. But you pulled if off brilliantly. I imagine it is because of the muted colours on the buttons and the lack of strong contrast. Hat off to you, sir!
Love the finish - the red skirt pulls the thing together brilliantly.

Great to see it happening here. Thanks for posting this - am learning loads.

08-08-2007, 06:26 AM
when painting the face or the hand, did u finish it in just one sitting while the paints were still wet or wait till the part of it was dry then add more details. because i find the paints becoming muddy and the colors become mixed with other paints on canvas when i try to paint in one sitting.......

I painted wet in wet with the face in one sitting,the same with the hands.
I added a correction to the mouth after it had had dried.With the accordion it was dry in places.I don't think I handled the buttons well enough there but I think I know how to do it better now!

With direct painting,you can paint over wet paint as long as you don't
fiddle too much with it afterwards.If you apply the correct colour over the wet layer underneath, no problem,if you work the brush over it too much after, it will pick up the underlying colour and become the wrong colour (muddy).It is very important to get the basic tones and colours right first
and paint them into each other where the planes meet.That way you will avoid too much correcting and muddying.( I am guessing this may be the problem you had)

If the colour is muddy you can take it off with a wrag and put the right one on.

Lauren F-M
08-09-2007, 01:21 PM
Thank you so much, Aldo! :clap:

While this makes me realize how much I have to learn (it's endless!), you are a great inspiration!

This is a lovely painting, and I hope you will do another demo on here again soon.

Bravo!! :thumbsup: :clap: :D

Lauren :wave:

08-09-2007, 04:10 PM
I'm guessing that you don't usually use an oil primer..I was wondering how you would compare painting on Acryllic verses an Oil primed canvas?? thks

..and what brand paint and brushes do you use? thanks again

08-09-2007, 08:05 PM
A special thank you and a well deserved :clap:

08-10-2007, 04:15 AM
Thanks for sharing! :thumbsup:I love to see your vision emerging so beautifully as if straight from your hand. The notes you write make it even clearer,

08-10-2007, 06:14 AM
Thankyou for your comments, everyone.

Lauren, I have another demo. http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=433035

Mario, I have been using prestretched canvas , it is very difficult to get
it primed with an oil primer.They come universally primed with an acrylic
primer.It is like painting with a canvas stretched over an extractor fan.
All the thinner colours dry quickly and take on a matt appearance.

I bought a tub of oil primer from England over,that I put two coats on it has just ran out ,the paint stays on the surface a little longer and you can wipe it off completely or scrape it back if you need.I just prefer the feel and workability.

I use Rembrandt,Van gogh and Lefranc and Bourgeois paints.I haven't
sorted out some of the differences between them yet.

I use Raphael Filberts at the moment,an occasional sable for some detail.

08-10-2007, 02:39 PM
Wow man, how you people do this, well I know, lot of work, congratulations, its a wonderfull piece

08-10-2007, 03:34 PM
This is such a wonderful, interesting, instructive, splendid demo for which I want to thank you very very much :thumbsup:

08-11-2007, 12:25 AM
Just beautiful, I love your painterly style and yearn to paint more like you.. thank you for sharing this...


08-11-2007, 04:03 AM
Fantastic! Reminds me also of Richard Schmids work.

Lauren F-M
08-11-2007, 11:44 AM
Aldo --
Thanks for posting that link to your other portrait demo!:thumbsup:
I did a quick peek, and plan on going back for a good, long study. :clap: :D
Cheers, Lauren :wave:

09-05-2007, 12:43 PM
I'm bookmarking this to show my students. This is very valuable! Thank you!

ArachosiA 78
09-22-2007, 03:01 AM
Holy Christ...I would literally saw off one of my legs to be able to paint like that...simply perfect.

10-06-2007, 04:07 AM
Hello Aldo
It was really nice of you to share such lovely work and in beutiful manner
Thank you so much

10-14-2007, 05:05 PM
:clap: Aldo...what a wonderful job you've done on this. It has made me want to paint again.

10-25-2007, 02:37 AM
Thank you so much Aldo for sharing this one with us all.
It's fascinating to see your process of painting. A very challenging subject; I just love the way you captured the accordion, even the buttons don't distract. The skin tones and her expression, the composition-brilliant!

10-25-2007, 10:52 AM
Really enjoyed viewing this WIP...beautiful work! Mike

10-26-2007, 05:18 AM
Thank you for this demo. You write as wonderfully as you paint -- no distractors, just clear, concise instructions. I'm also grateful for the way you answered everybody's questions so painstakingly. For a person like me, whose painting knowledge is so meagre that I don't even know what to ask, those questions and answers were very useful indeed. That was a truly complete learning experience. Thank you.

12-30-2007, 01:45 AM
im thinking about thinking about doing a portrate.... it would be my first they inspire me and 'your' work is inspireing i wish i could paint as well as you, your awesome.

03-06-2008, 01:42 AM
I really enjoyed this demo!!

03-16-2008, 05:39 PM
I'm a first time user Thank you so much for your demostration it's is so beautiful. I also paint portraitures your demostration really helps to see how great and how you mold the figure and background. Thank you again

03-17-2008, 11:21 AM
Thank you so much for sharing. I loved it!

03-21-2008, 10:39 PM

Anda G
03-26-2008, 12:39 AM
Thank you! Threads like these give me encouragement to keep trying.

I rated it. :thumbsup:

03-27-2008, 10:07 PM
What brand of oil primer did you use?

04-04-2008, 12:17 PM
What brand of oil primer did you use?


I used windsor and newton oil primer,I imagine any oil primer is suitable.

saltbush sally
05-03-2008, 09:12 PM
Terrific Aldo! Loved your excellent demo of accordianist. Loved your loose soft style. cheers, the next person who comes into my studio I will paint! I'm inspired.

cheers Yvonne

05-09-2008, 07:48 AM
Thank you for your excellent demos, they are so descriptive, inspiring and your work is stunning. I want to paint in oil again. :clap: :clap: :clap:

Gerri Mc
05-20-2008, 02:44 PM
It is facinating looking at the transition from one stage to the next. Beautiful work.

05-21-2008, 10:22 PM
Re: Portrait
I wish I could paint like you .Great work!

Thank you,

old thing
05-29-2008, 12:53 AM
This is really good work.

08-04-2008, 07:44 PM



08-26-2008, 10:20 PM

09-06-2008, 10:56 AM
amazing work! i have tried a few portraits myself mainly in pencil and pastels after seeing this i definately will try one in oil your demonstration will be very helpful, thanks

11-21-2008, 11:20 PM
I can't believe I never commented, well I am now! Beautiful work! Thank you for sharing.


12-22-2008, 02:25 PM
Beautiful hands!! The gesture is outstanding and so realistic.

01-22-2009, 06:38 PM
A wonderful portrait demo.. amazing work ! I feel really inspired to have a go, even though I am not a portrait painter.

Is oil primer the same as gesso?

Thanks for sharing Aldo.

02-15-2009, 01:06 AM
This is a beautiful work all around. Makes me wish this demo was available on video.

05-19-2009, 02:33 PM
wooooow it is great one

06-06-2009, 11:01 AM
I just completed a portrait class and had a great deal of trouble with my materials. The teacher cme to my easel and made comment that she always had one person in the class with such problems. In my case we determined it was the Turponoid I had used with my underpainting. I can see that priming as you have would be much different. This thread has helped me understand why my paint was not handling properly. Thank you for the detailed description of how you prepared the canvas and what you did in each step. I love wetcanvas!


Sana Almimar
06-15-2009, 12:41 PM
Aldo ,this is more than great ,it is spectacular ,i like all your paintings:clap: :clap:

11-25-2009, 11:55 AM
Beautiful work, Aldo! Her hand on our left is fabulous- you are a patient man to tackle the accordion face. Thanks for posting the demo!

12-01-2009, 05:50 AM
Wow what a great lesson! Thanks for breaking it down... I think I have been a little too hard with my brush strokes:D and can't wait to try what I have learned here! And beautiful work!
Thank you!

12-02-2009, 11:46 PM
Amazing demonstration. Do you have anything you would consider a corporate portrait, head and shoulders. Thanks, Terry

12-09-2009, 12:51 PM
I don't have hardly any corporate work , I must say it doesn't excite me too
much and I have turned a couple down , they are often portraits about their position rather than who they are. I did a charcoal of a retiring professor at Oxford from life in March , however , that was fun .

12-17-2009, 05:33 PM
WOW!!! The hands are done so realistically and the detail work on the accordian is magnificent! Thank you for sharing this demo. I hope you will do more.

Jimmie Bartlett
Van Vleck, Texas

12-17-2009, 05:37 PM
Wow! Your mastery of portaits is so inspiring. The work on the hands and the accordian is superb. Thanks for sharing the demo. Hope to see more.

Jimmie Bartlett
Van Vleck, Texas

01-02-2010, 11:02 PM
Beautiful painting. I hope you do more demonstrations soon. MCT

01-11-2010, 12:35 AM
I'm so glad I found this demo thread while wandering through Wet Canvas. Aldo, your proficiency and insight are breathtaking. Absolutely gorgeous work. I am so envious!

Britt Vrhf
02-01-2010, 12:27 PM
Amazing to hear you talking to yourself. I'm reassured when I note someone as accomplised as you can get annoyed with the process or want to hurry it to completion. That in itself is loads of instruction for a beginning painter.

05-05-2010, 04:02 PM
Hello again Aldo. Lovely work again!! I think I would have used bubble wrap to make the buttons...lol!!
Look forward to more of your work!!

08-27-2011, 02:35 AM
oh my golly- cat beleive you tackled that accordian!! ha ha- thats cracked me up- i thought- no he'll keep it loose and just suggest it- then i scroll down and see you acually put the buttons in- you are nuts-lol total perfectionist...you really dont let anything slip away from you at all do you- yu just wont be beaten!
sorry im waffling......again.....i actually like yur palette- and notive yu start dark and then lighten it. Im going to post you my self portrait i did last night and see if yu can help me- but wont be able to do this till tomorrow til i get hold of my sons camera...i am pleased with my attempt- its reasonable- taken me about 15 years to get to just a "reasonable" effort, i find portraiture rediculously difficult- its really unfathomable how hard i found the process-
do yu find some faces harder than others? not being funny but i have quite fine little features.....its rediculously difficult. however ill send you a copy- and would be eternally grateful for yur input