02 August 2011

Portrait Painting Progress

"How long have you been painting (or drawing)?"  It's a common question art students ask each other.  We want to know how long it will take to achieve basic proficiency.  The answer for most of us is...a very long time.   Lots of students might not start if they knew what they were in for.  If you want to be an artist, you better love the learning process.  Michelangelo's comment on the subject..."If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn't seem wonderful at all.”

Today’s post is a progression.  It’s proof to myself that I am gaining proficiency.  Since my focus is figurative, I take alla prima portrait or figure painting every term at Watts.  The oil portrait sketches below were painted in class a few months apart.  I got plenty of help on these from my teachers, Jeff Watts and Ben Young...but my work comes through, too.  Learning art is collaborative.

Painted July 2011 --- Zara, with help from Jeff Watts.

Painted May 2011 --- Rose, with help from Ben Young

Painted March 2011 --- Model with green rim light,
with help from Jeff Watts

And finally, here is my first portrait, painted back in June 2009.  I remember thinking at the time that it looked decent.  What did I know.

Painted June 2009 --- Micki, with help from Erik Gist

Current methods:
  • These were painted in 3 hours on 12x9" linen board, toned 2 days earlier with a mixture of ultramarine blue and transparent earth red, to a mid-tone gray.  I use Gamblin FastMatte, a line of fast drying oils, for toning.
  • Paint smaller heads (5-6"), they're easier to complete in 3 hours.  Seems obvious, but worth mentioning.  Also, leave room for the chest and shoulders...good for composition.
  • I like to use a viewfinder to study the model for a few minutes before starting the painting.  For me...a frame isolates the shapes and reveals the final painting.
  • For a good dvd on this subject, try "Alla Prima Portrait" by Robert Liberace.  I watched this dvd the night before I painted the July sketch below.  It was helpful.
  • I'm also thinking about Harold Speed's value approach every time I paint.  It's fundamental, but a good starting point if you need some guidance.