Tips for painting portraits

If you want a perfect likeness place the subject in strong cross lighting, set the mood and then take a few photographs.

The camera is our most  useful tool. It doesn’t need to be an expensive camera. Select the one you want then put it on your computer.

A sheet of A4 takes a little more than a full portrait face. Print it out. Place a piece of transfer  paper (from the art shop)on the canvas or make your own by crushing willow stick and rubbing it on the back of the photo. Then trace the image with a ballpoint pen pressing firmly. (Make sure the photo doesn’t move, you can’t get it back properly)

Only trace the outline of the features.  Make sure you haven’t missed anything.

Next mix titanium white and a little burnt sienna with a tiny bit of cad red and cad yellow. Mix with medium No. 4 Adjust the mix and check against the photo lots of times until it’s right.

Put the canvas on the easel or prop it against a chair up on the table.

Put some of the mixed paint on your palette  (can be a plastic plate) put a little burnt sienna on the pallet for light shadows, a little burnt umber for deeper shadows and some white for light flesh.

Mix and match the hair colour.

Now select your brushes. You will need medium and small round hogs hair brushes to apply the paint, one for each colour, and a flat soft brush (synthetic or camel hair) to smooth out the paint.(for the face only)

The hair should be painted so as to leave brush marks. Except for children the whites of the eyes are off white. The pupils should be bigger than the photograph. Don’t forget to put a light in the eyes.

Next the background. Should be darker than the face so the face stands out. Can be smoothly painted or chunky to give it character but remember it should not compete with the face. Start darker at the top becoming lighter near the shoulders. You could also paint the background lighter on the dark side of the face and darker on the other to provide a sense of perspective.

Varnish the painting six weeks after you finish it in the tropics and twice as long in a colder climate.

The varnish contains a solvent so make sure the paint is dry and apply it softly with a camel hair brush.