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HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

Portrait Painting Techniques from Artist Daily

HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

Watercolor Portraiture CAPTURE THE MODEL’S GESTURE WITH VIGOROUS STROKES AND LET IT BE THE GUIDE FOR YOUR PAINTING

HERE’S HOW

lorida artist Janet Rogers makes the process of painting figures in watercolor seem almost effortless in that she captures the likeness and personality of her subjects without laboring over all the details

She incorporates gestured strokes of transparent color,

natural blends of warm and cool pigments,

and just enough detail to capture a person’s individual appearance

Her floral paintings seem just as approachable with their combinations of wet-in-wet blends of bright colors,

well-focused accents of white paper,

and judicious use of hard edges

Although Rogers’ techniques are not so easy to master,

her demonstrations make it clear she can teach almost anyone to improve their skills in watercolor paintings

She emphasizes the need to practice,

to start over when things fail,

and to develop strong drawing skills

She connects with students by confessing that she shares the same need to constantly remind herself about the important steps that must be taken when painting

Moreover,

she debates the various options available to her and acknowledges when she may have made the wrong choice

Students watching her live or filmed demonstrations recognize that

Model From Buffalo 2007,

30 x 22

Collection the artist

HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

Study for Cassandra With Hat 2007,

Collection the artist

HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

although Rogers has developed advanced skills,

she still understands what the rest of us are trying to learn and how much we need encouragement

Most of Rogers’ paintings start out with the creation of loose graphite drawings and progress toward to the application of transparent watercolor

The artist uses large golden taklon synthetic hair brushes on sheets of Arches watercolor paper or on Daler-Rowney’s new Langton Prestige paper

She recommends that students undertake several separate kinds of exercises before actually beginning their studio paintings: drawing,

sketching in watercolor from life or photographs,

and using three warm–up painting exercises

Here’s a detailed description of those recommended steps

Getting Ready: 1

Try theses warm-up exercises:

Develop a sketch with only one tube color and water

It will help you develop an instinctive sense of how much water is needed to achieve various degrees of transparency and opacity

This exercise should be done without drawing first

Another goal is to connect shadow shapes

• Paint color shapes without drawing them first

Although

drawing is important to watercolor painting,

you don’t want painting to become a process of filling in carefully-drawn shapes

On the contrary,

you want the painted shapes to have their own beauty and harmony

Young Girl in White 2008,

30 x 22

Collection the artist

Make blind-contour and quick-gesture drawings to loosen up

To make a blind contour

keep your eyes focused on the subject,

Never lift the pencil from the paper,

and don’t look at the drawing until it is complete

The resulting drawing may look very bizarre and completely disjointed,

but you’ll recognize that you learned a lot

HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT by keeping your attention on the movement of lines across the body of the person you are drawing

Gesture drawings are made quickly and are intended to capture the sense of weight distribution,

They may wind up looking like a bunch of overlapping scribbles to someone else,

but you’ll find they will help you become more responsive to the action of the figure

One of the best books on this subject is The Natural Way to Draw by Kimon Nicolaides (Houghton Mifflin Company,

Boston),

which explains how to make both types of drawings

The classic drawing book also explains how the recommended exercises can help you loosen up and become more sensitive to subtle shifts in lines,

The Red Dress 2007,

30 x 22

Collection Amy McKay

Make quick watercolor sketches from life or photographs,

the development of your final painting

Watch your paper,

and don’t rely on copying your photo or subject

This process will help you avoid becoming too tight and concerned about small details

Do a minimum amount of drawing,

and get right to the painting process

Another way of using drawing as a means,

is to do a minimal amount of drawing to place the subject within the rectangular space of the paper and guide your brush through the initial stages of painting

Try a few exercises in which you make the briefest graphite lines possible and then jump right into the painting process

The Painting Process:

Arrange color mixtures in separate palettes with the cool combinations separated from the warm ones

You’ll want to have

thick puddles of pigment on the palette that are similar to those an oil painter would mix

Make sure those “pigment puddles,” as I call them,

don’t flow together and create dull,

Just keep families of colors together and you won’t have to worry about what pigment combinations wind up on your brush

Starting with dry paper,

load a large round or flat brush with pigment and water,

Always use the biggest brush you can

Model in South Dakota 2008,

30 x 22

Private collection

HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

Victoria

Brittany

21 x 15

Collection the artist

30 x 22

Collection the artist

handle to avoid tightening up and making lots of short strokes on the paper

Don’t hold the paint brush as you would a pencil

Grip it so that you have to move your entire arm in order to control the flow of paint

Control values with the amount of water you mix with the paint

One of the exercises (mak-

ing color swatches) is designed to help you develop an instinctive sense of how much water to mix with the pigment

If you don’t yet have that subconscious knowledge,

test out your mixtures on the same kind of paper on which you are developing the painting

With this exercise you will also discover how not to overwhelm one color and how to discover others

Clean your brushes before reloading them with completely different color combinations

You want to develop the habit of washing out your brush and drying it with a paper towel after you finish painting an area

That habit will help you avoid making the mistake of picking up an unwanted color or a mixture that is much too intense

Try to get the values close to your final version right away instead of building up layers

You can always return to darken your shapes further after they dry

Keep the painting simple

Don’t try to say too much

You don’t have to explain everything about the subject to viewers

Let them use their imagination

Close one eye when you look at the painting so that you

and don’t forget to squint to see the values more easily

Test background colors on the painting and not on separate sheets

Colors and

values have a relative influence on a painting,

and the only way to gauge whether or not you have the right mixture is to put it down on the painting

You can always adjust while the paper is wet by lifting paint off or adding different pigments

Look for the personal connections you have with the image—something that grabs you— such as the glance in a person’s eyes

HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

Cassandra With an Attitude 2005,

30 x 22

Collection the artist

or the pattern of colors in clothing

Let the medium of watercolor connect with the subject in an expressive way

That is,

or tight applications of paint where they are most indicative of the way you feel about the subject

Let the color flow onto the paper,

changing the pigment combinations until you recognize the effect you want

That is,

start with one dominant color,

and then immediately load other colors on your brush or drop them into the wet areas of the paper

The variety will help create a sense of dimension,

and richness that will enhance the painting

Don’t be afraid to throw the paint onto the paper to make other random,

Avoid painting into wet areas because that might turn the color muddy

Work intuitively and respond to what is happening rather than

HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

Lady in White—Profile 2004,

27 x 22

Collection Gregory Valentine

just executing a preplanned process

Look for special shapes and unusual colors that appear

Remember,

a painting has a life of its own and isn’t just a rendering of what appears in the photograph or the live model

The shapes you paint should be beautiful,

As you work,

make sure to connect the painted shapes 8

to one another as well as to the white shapes of unpainted paper

This is one of those “rules” of good composition because it is a way of directing the viewer’s attention from one part of a painting to another

Resolve problems immediately by looking for natural paths,

but don’t lose your sense of the entire painting

This is a tough balancing act for every

You want to resolve problems,

but you don’t want to overwork an area

Finish your paintings by marking the darkest darks—the corners of the mouth,

Make painting an exciting,

and you’ll never be disappointed with the results

HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

United States Attorney General John D

Ashcroft 2005,

52 x 40

Collection Department of Justice,

Washington,

Oil Painting Lessons on

How to Paint a Portrait 15 PORTRAIT PAINTING TECHNIQUES FROM ARTIST DAILY

HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

when John Howard Sanden and Elizabeth R

Sanden began to write their first book,

Painting the Head in Oil (Watson-Guptill Publications,

New York,

New York),

their editor urged them to describe the painting process in 29 steps

“Don Holden told us to break the process down into 29 stages of development,” Sanden remembers

“I don’t know how he came up with that number,

but we’ve used it as a guide in subsequent books,

I guess it worked for me because I find that students gain a better understanding of portrait painting if I explain the process in specific,

sequential steps they can remember and repeat

” Thousands of artists have obviously agreed with the Sandens and their editor because that first book and three additional books—Successful Portrait Painting (Watson-Guptill Publications,

New York,

New York),

Portraits From Life in 29 Steps (North Light Books,

Cincinnati,

and The Portraits of John Howard Sanden: A Thirtieth Anniversary Collection (Madison Square Press,

New York,

New York)—successfully launched the careers of generations of painters who read the advice about setting up a professional studio,

posing and lighting a subject,

and painting an accurate and satisfying portrait

So too did the artists who purchased Sanden’s filmed program as well as the line of Pro Mix Color System oil paints he formulated with the Martin/F

Weber company

The latter two books are available through The Portrait Institute’s website (www

A fifth Sanden book,

Face to Face With Greatness: The Adventure of Portrait Painting was published in 2007

But with all due respect to Holden,

the value of Sanden’s instruction is

Mother Angelica 2004,

58 x 42

Collection Eternal World Television Network,

Birmingham,

Alabama

not in the number of stages but in the way he systematically guides artists through the entire painting process

He recommends ways of placing an accurate drawing of a subject’s head on a canvas,

whether the artist works from life or photographs,

and then he presents a logical method of using

specific mixtures of flesh colors,

starting with shadows and proceeding to the halftones in transitional,

The light values are then developed in the same sequence,

with reflected light and details added after restating previously painted sections

“I believe you will find that this logical procedure will give you the discipline and focus that the difficult art of portraiture demands,” Sanden wrote in Portraits From Life in

This content written by M

Stephen Doherty

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HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

29 Steps

“There is plenty of room for intuition and creativity

Following a definite procedure builds assurance and competence

” To help explain this logical procedure,

Sanden recently painted a portrait of his daughter,

Pamela McMahon,

filmed the process for his Painting the Head in One Sitting III: Pam DVD (also available through The Portrait Institute’s website [www

and photographed it at the end of each stage of the painting’s development for this article

As always,

Untitled 2006,

66 x 46

Private collection

he worked with the same dependable palette of tube colors and a range of neutral,

and light color mixtures (see sidebar)

Sanden began by establishing the size and placement of the figure’s head on a stretched canvas,

and then he drew the elements of the woman’s face with a size 4 bristle brush and some of his neutral mixture

Once he was confident about his drawing,

in the warm shadows in the hair,

following the procedures recommended in his books and videos,

Sanden painted the halftones in the lower third of the face,

pulled a lighter mixture across the woman’s cheekbone,

and used an even lighter mixture to block in her forehead

Throughout this preliminary stage he worked on large shapes rather than details so he could concentrate on the relative value and color temperature appropriate for each area of the face

Before restating any of these painted areas,

the artist massed in a warm background color so he could better judge the manner in which he would develop the woman’s hair and facial features

He also blocked in a cool blue color to suggest a blouse,

keeping the paint relatively thin so he could create a smooth,

soft transition between the hair and the clothing

“Now we begin the serious work of restating everything we’ve recorded,” Sanden wrote in Portraits From Life in 29 Steps

at this stage in the development of the portrait of his daughter he followed his own good advice

“I went over all the dark areas in the painting,

making careful new judgments since other tones were now in place

Restating the halftones is the longest and most difficult step

It’s crucial to draw with your brush the many small halftone forms that create the character and personality of your sitter

Restating the lights is another very important step,

but not quite so difficult as the previous one because there are far fewer light tones to record and correct

it’s difficult to give precise directions as the physical and spiritual likeness of the subject becomes more particular

Two points to always remember: (1) Observe carefully and (2) Every stroke is a drawing stroke

!” In order to paint the critical areas around his subject’s eyes,

Sanden switched from using

HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

His Highness the Emir of Kano 2005,

78 x 54

Collection The Royal Palace,

Nigeria

HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

Arlene Gibson 2006,

36 x 30

Collection The Spence School,

New York,

New York

and a second halftone for painting the transition between light and shadow areas made by mixing Permalba white,

Lights Sanden recommends working with three light values,

the first a clear color for the lightest lights made from a combination of Permalba white,

Sanden’s Palette

basic flesh tone developed with Permalba white,

and a third pinkish flesh color for ruddy areas in light mixed from Permalba white,

Sanden emphasizes that the Pro Mix Color System colors are almost never used straight from the tube but are adjusted with additions from the standard colors or another Pro Mix color based on observation of the subject

Each set includes a 20-page instructional booklet

You Can Achieve the Results of the Professional Artist

THE PRO MIX COLOR SYSTEM PALETTE

PALETTE ultramarine blue cerulean blue viridian chromium oxide green alizarin crimson burnt umber burnt sienna cadmium orange Venetian red cadmium red light yellow ochre cadmium yellow light ivory black Permalba white

Sanden uses three values of neutral mixtures made from combinations of Permalba white,

Darks Two dark values made from combinations of burnt sienna,

Halftones One cool halftone used for painting receding planes achieved by mixing Permalba white,

Robin Lee Makowski

Neutrals

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American Artist has been the trusted and well-respected source for everything related to fine art

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HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

a bristle brush to a sable because the softer hairs would give him more control over the paint

When the artist turned his attention back to the areas of the painting outside the face,

he returned to using bristle brushes so his strokes would be broad and the transitions between colors and values would be subtler

One of the hallmarks of a Sanden portrait is the management of hard and soft edges

He has an exceptional ability to capture the likeness of a person’s facial structure and features with hard edges that bring attention to the most important areas of the painting

and he balances those clear definitions with softer transitions between the figure and the background in peripheral areas

In most of his portraits there is a point at which the person’s hair seems to melt into the background and thereby unify the entire painting

He also allows some of the brushmarks in the peripheral areas to remain obvious and sketchy so there is a balance between the illusion of a person and the reality of the paint

Sanden’s career as a portraitist has spanned three decades

He is widely regarded as one of the foremost teachers of professional portrait methods,

he is the founder of The Portrait Institute,

and he has toured the nation teaching his ideas and techniques to thousands of artists

He has been commissioned to paint more than 500 public officials,

and he is represented by several major portrait brokers

In 1994,

The American Society of Portrait Artists presented Sanden with their first John Singer Sargent Medal for Lifetime Achievement

For more information on Sanden,

Isaac Stern at Carnegie Hall 2006,

84 x 46

Collection the artist

HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

Demonstration

the artist massed in the hair and shadows along the side of the face and under the neck

PORTRAIT OF PAM MCMAHON

Sanden then painted the shadows in the lower third of the face

then he used an even lighter color to block in the forehead

Before refining the painting of the face,

Sanden blocked in the background and blouse so he would have references with which to judge the relative value and color temperature of the flesh tones

HOW TO PAINT A PORTRAIT

The completed painting Portrait of Pam McMahon 2005,

24 x 20

Collection the artist

Sanden painted the details of the woman’s facial features and blended the description of her hair with the background colors

Robin Lee Makowski

You Can Achieve the Results of the Professional Artist

For over 70 years,

American Artist has been the trusted and well-respected source for everything related to fine art

It’s the perfect source for artists of any skill level using any medium

Subscribe today and get a FREE TRIAL ISSUE

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