Thursday, 13 November 2014

New Oil Painting Instruction Book for Beginners: No Need for an Easel or a Mahl Stick by Rachel Shirley

You have just received a set of oil colours, brushes and canvas boards as a present. This might be because you have a reputation for being a bit arty and might have dabbled with oils or acrylics in the past. You might be a complete beginner in oil painting. But what do you do with the art materials? 

Overcome Artist Block 

Click to buy from Amazon
Taking up a new hobby is always exciting. New and untouched oil tubes and brushes look enticing. The idea of embarking upon a painting project might fulfill an old dream of perhaps learning a new skill, holding an exhibition or earning a little money painting portraits or pets. Time goes by and you still have not picked up that brush. A blank canvas may reflect an artist block that solidifies with time. The oil paints end up collecting dust in the garage.

A Beginner’s Book on Oil Painting 

This is where this art instruction book comes in. Find tips on how to break out into painting using the simplest art materials and painting exercises. Bulky costly easels and stretched canvases are not needed. In fact, oil painting can be made clean and compact. I use a resting board with bulldog clips rather than an easel. Primed art boards save space and money as opposed to stretched canvases. Dozens of pigments and numerous art brushes of every size would also be superfluous to requirement.

Preview of Art Instruction Book on Oil Painting
How to Begin Oil Painting 

No need for a mahl stick means that only several colours, a few brush shapes, two art mediums and primed art boards form the essentials for oil painting. Find projects that begin from the very beginning – by trying out each pigment. Knowing your colours is like learning the alphabet before reading words, as pigments form the basics of colour mixing.

Basic Oil Painting Techniques 

Really, this book’s aim is to get that brush moving even if this means trying out each colour and comparing how one looks against another. Breaking artist block often entails simply squeezing the colours onto a palette and applying them. The artist confidence may build into colour mixing, shading technique, darkening colours, practicing colour theory, mark making and finally completing a first painting via high instruction within this book.

No Need for an Easel or a Mahl Stick Book Preview
Oil Painting Tips for the Beginner 

Find demos that progress to painting your first landscape, still life and animal painting via highly instructional step by step images and text. Build confidence through practice and glean tips along the way. Future projects would seem more possible after getting to know your art materials first.

What can I Paint? 

This invaluable art book is available on Kindle as well as paperback. The paperback version is 100 pages long and 8x10in in size. Each chapter summarizes with a bullet point list reinforcing what has been learned so far. Also find glossary and a recommended shopping list for the beginner, as well as tips on making oil painting cheap. This book is bursting with colour images with invaluable advice on simply getting started in oil painting. A must for the beginner in oil painting!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Oil Pigments Color Temperature, Paint Transparency and Hue Saturation

The artists’ first encounter with oil painting will be presented with a vast array of oil pigments in art shops. Many blues, browns and reds could cause confusion on which oil pigment to choose for painting. The cost of art materials will also influence the number of oil tubes to purchase. Which are the best oil colors to buy and how does each oil color differ regarding color temperature, coverage and intensity?

Different Blues in Oil Colors

Types of Pigments in Oil
A walk into the art shop will educate the artist on the number of art pigments available in the art shop. For instance, in regards to blue, the following can be found: French ultramarine, cerulean, Prussian blue, Monestrial blue, Pthalo blue, cobalt blue and more. The same applies to reds, greens, yellows and browns. I avoid packaged sets of oil colors, which do not work out cheap in the long run, as unnecessary hues are often included (and often the omission of an essential color). I will purchase the tubes separately, creating an essential collection of oil colors that will be used.

Pigment Temperature
Which Oil Pigments to Use

Most artists will use just a dozen or so oil paints (as do I) which includes a warm and cool version of the primary colors (red, yellow and blue) as well as earth colors, a few extras and white. I find the following oil pigments will mix just about any color needed for painting: Titanium white, French ultramarine, Pthalo blue, permanent rose, cadmium red, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow (pale), burnt sienna and burnt umber. The following are also useful extras: cerulean blue, viridian and alizarin crimson (an old favorite).

Using Oil Paints for the First Time

A good way of learning about the nature of each pigment is to apply each alone on a primed piece of card. The video clip informs on how each oil color differs in translucency and color temperature (how warm or cool it appears). Nothing quite equals trying out each color for yourself as opposed to reading about them, but basically, each color will have its own intensity, opacity, temperature and translucency. Find a YouTube clip on how I applied each oil pigment neat onto white card.

Translucent Blues and Reds

Color Temperature of Blue and Red
French ultramarine is quite a translucent color, not having the opacity of cerulean or cobalt. Pthalo blue is also quite translucent. Both require a little titanium to add coverage, but the addition of white will change the nature of the blue a little, killing its sparkle. The close up image shows translucent and opaque blues and reds. See how the translucent paint allows a little of the white gesso to show through, leaving a patchy feel to the paint layer.

This can be seen with viridian, which is also a transparent color. I applied it neat, and then with a little titanium white.

Opaque Pigments in Oil Colors

Color Temperature of Yellow Brown
Again, we can see here that lemon yellow and burnt sienna are rather translucent, where as cadmium yellow and burnt umber has more coverage. Translucent colors when applied over a white surface will appear vibrant. Opaque colors has good coverage but lacks this vibrancy.

Colour Temperature of Pigments

How warm or cool does the color appear? This is known as colour temperature. A warm color will be bias towards red, a cool colour will be bias towards blue. French ultramarine has a violet cast, meaning it has a warm colour temperature. Cerulean blue and Pthalo blue appears cooler. Cerulean has a slightly greenish tinge. Again, cadmium red has an orange-glow, giving it a warm cast. Permanent rose and alizarin crimson are cooler reds, having a violet cast. Similarly, burnt sienna is a warm, toasty brown; burnt umber is cooler. 

Guide to Oil Pigments Transparency and Colour Temperature

Adding White
To summarize, find a guide to the nature of each oil pigment below:

French Ultramarine: a warm, violet blue, tends to be translucent
Pthalo blue: a cool, deep blue, tends to be translucent
Cerulean blue: a cool, greenish blue, tends to be opaque
Viridian green: A sharp green, tends to be translucent
Permanent rose: a cool, violet red, tends to be translucent
Cadmium red: (deep to pale can be found) but tends to be orange-red, rather opaque
Alizarin crimson: a deep, violet brownish red, tends to be translucent
Lemon yellow: a pale, acidic yellow tends to be translucent
Cadmium yellow: (deep to pale can be found) but tends to be warm, orangey, rather opaque
Burnt sienna: a warm toasty brown, tends to be translucent
Burnt umber: a cool, coffee brown, tends to be opaque
Titanium white: a brilliant, opaque white. Will add opacity to any pigment it is mixed with.

More Articles about Art Pigments

My Science of Color site
Recommended Oil pigments for painting
How to make oil painting cheaper

Saturday, 27 September 2014

My Town Painting Looks a Mess: Help for Painting Houses and Harbors

Painting a town scene featuring lots of buildings and architectural features may cause frustration if the detail looks splodgy and lines wonky. How can the artist paint a town or harbour without the detail looking messy and amateurish?

Mistakes in Painting Towns in Detail

Painting a Torquay Scene
An artist presented with an intricate landscape scene for painting may be disappointed with the final result. The following oil painting practices may have contributed to an unsatisfactory town painting:

Completing the painting in one go, causing the artist to rush the end through tiredness. The result may be brush marks that appear carelessly rendered in the form of smudgy lines or paint that bleeds into neighbouring colours.

Not planning the underdrawing, causing mistakes to be inherited in the upper paint layer. No amount of artist precision will make up for an inaccurate drawing.

Poor art materials, particularly cheap brushes with no shape or springiness. This will rob the artist of paint control, causing the pigment to go into unwanted areas.

Applying the oil paint straight onto the white surface. Unless the artist is supremely confident, a degree of guesswork will result in a scene that is not centred upon the art surface properly or an imbalance in tones.

Another problem is that often, complex landscape scenes will feature darks and pales against one another. The result could be unwanted colour contamination within a small space. A messy painting may result.

How to Prepare for a Town Painting in Oil

This demonstration features Torquay Harbour on the Devon Coast in the UK. To make the painting easier I had prepared two acrylic underglazes prior to the oil painting: one to kill the white gesso, the other to reinforce detail so that the drawing will show beneath the glaze prior to oil painting. Prior to these, an accurate drawing is essential.

My art instruction YouTube clip shows how I prepared the underglaze for painting Torquay in Devon. Scroll to the bottom to see the second clip: the actual oil painting.

Tips for Intricate Town Painting in Oil

When faced with painting an intricate coastal town, the following are essential: a, clear photograph, fine quality sables for detail: no’s 1, 3 or 6 will suffice. A smooth art surface (fine canvas is OK, but the grain can make drawing smooth lines tricky). I used primed MDF. Don’t use old oil paints that have thickened with time.

Art Tutorial on Painting a Detailed Coastal Scene

The Under Drawing of Torquay
Torquay Harbour posed challenges in that it presents lots of tight detail in the form of houses, windows, roofs and boat masts. Rather than complete the painting in one go, I did so in stages and on separate days. Each painting session lasted only an hour or so with breaks.

Firstly, I conducted the underdrawing. Time is needed to get this right, but don’t go overboard with detail, as this will be covered with the oil paint anyway. I simply ensured the houses were drawn with reasonable accuracy and the composition centred upon the art surface in the way desired. A sharp HB pencil and eraser was used.

Underpainting with Acrylic Paint

Underdrawing and Glazing a Painting of Torquay
So that the drawing will show through the glaze (to be applied next), I reinforced the drawing by overlaying the lines with dark brown acrylic paint from a fine sable. Illustrating dark areas serves another purpose in that it supports the oil paint layer. Don’t use dark lines on areas that feature no lines or pale areas, such as the foreground reflections and the clouds, as the dark acrylic will show through the oil paint.

Art Lesson on How to Paint Torquay Harbor

Leave Lose Brushwork Till Last
Once the brown acrylic paint was dry, I overlaid the drawing with three coats of diluted blue acrylic paint. The application of one wash often results in unwanted streaks and brush marks. Three coats will create a more uniform appearance to the underglaze. This means that the overlying oil paint (which comprised mostly of pales around the houses) will be easier to key in to the surrounding.

Harbour Painting in Oils

Once the acrylic underglaze had dried, I began the oil painting, which was on a separate day. As can be seen, this preparatory technique means the artist is not faced with the prospect of laying colour straight onto a white surface or of guessing where to lay the paint. Fine sables are essential for detail such as windows and guttering. I used rounds no’s 3 and 6. Wider sables were used for the foreground reflections and the clouds.

Painting Detail Tips Art Instruction

Always begin with the most exacting area whilst feeling up to it. In this case, I began with painting the pale house frontages with varying amounts of white, burnt sienna and cadmium yellow. Painting pale prior to dark means the dark cannot contaminate the pales. As can be seen here, the houses vary slightly in their cream tones. It doesn’t matter if the pale colour goes over the windows, as the dark brown acrylic paint shows through. Reinforcement in the form of dark oil paint can be applied later.

This second YouTube clip shows the oil painting stage. Again, I began with the trickiest areas. I left the looser brushwork until last. This consisted of the sky and reflections.

Tips for Painting Towns and Cities

As can be seen, the huge challenge of painting towns with lots of buildings can be broken down into manageable tasks on separate days. In this case, the stages consisted of: the drawing (take time to get this right), overlaying the lines with acrylic paint, overlaying the composition with a series of acrylic glazes. Finally, the oil paint can be applied on a separate day via fine sables. Often, a touching up session is required once the oil paint is dry. This might be to sharpen detail around windows or straighten lines. A little linseed oil will help the paint flow.

More Tips for Oil Painting

Build confidence in oil painting
Torquay Harbour worked from a photo taken by Joseph Busby

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

The Four States of Color: How Color Looks Different in Different Art Techniques

The pigment of oil paint can look different depending upon how it is applied. Various oil painting techniques will give the painting a different look and feel. Paint applied thickly will look different to paint applied thinly. The color label on a tube of paint is only part of the story, as can be seen here.

Different Blues from One Blue

Ultramarine & alizarin crimson
When applied as a translucent glaze on white gesso, French ultramarine will possess great luminescence, because of the white gesso shining through the paint layer. The blue will almost appear to glow, like sapphire. If a little titanium white is added to the blue, the ultramarine will not only appear lighter, but this translucency will vanish. This is because adding white adds opacity and therefore reduces luminescence. The close up image shows this treatment of ultramarine and alizarin crimson. The upper row shows a thin coat of pigment. The lower row shows the pigment with white added. Notice the nature of the color changes as well as its tone.

Oil Painting Art Techniques Shifting Color 

Different applications of paint
There are other ways of applying a color. In this image, the upper pigment has been applied thickly. Notice little imperfections and unevenness in the layer. A single paint layer is difficult to perfect because of the white showing through in places beneath.

The solution to this is to allow this paint to dry and then apply another coat on top. This can be seen in the bottom paint layer. Here, two thin glazes have been applied one on top of the other. Notice the evenness of the paint layer and how one evens out the other.

See my Youtube clip that demonstrates how I applied the paint in these four different ways.

Four Simple Oil Painting Techniques

Glazing an Oil Painting for Translucent Paint over Gesso 

Glazing with oil paint
Applying the pigment of any oil color will appear different depending on the technique. A thin glaze applied straight onto white gesso will given it a transparent and luminescent feel. An example of this can be seen in the image of a garden arbor, that looks rather like watercolor washes. The oil paint can be thinned down further with a little linseed oil or artist spirits.

Opaque Oil Paint for Flat Colors 

The opposite of a thin paint glaze is an opaque paint layer. None of the underlying gesso will show through. The paint is dense because a little white might be added to it, or it will be applied thickly. Opaque paint is necessary for flat, bright colors.

Alla Prima in a Broken Paint Layer 

Castlerigg Stone Circle alla prima
This image of Castlerigg Stone Circle in Cumbria shows the application of broken paint layer. The paint is opaque and fairly thick but applied in a rough single layer. This is known as alla prima. Alla prima is difficult to smooth out. The only way round this is to allow the first paint layer to dry before applying another layer on top. This will even out imperfections in the paint layer.

Two Paint Glazes for Smooth Effects 
Smooth glazing with oils
This image of radiation fog over mountains exhibits smooth glazes, as the painting was completed in two sessions. The first paint layer was applied fairly thinly, allowed to dry and then a second glaze applied on top. Often a little linseed oil is needed for the upper paint layer to add flexibility.

Different Colors with Various Techniques in Oil Color 

As can be seen here, a given color can appear different depending on how it is applied. A translucent layer will appear different to a thick layer. Add a little white to increase opacity and the luminescence from the underlying white gesso will disappear. Applying one paint layer over another will create a smooth, almost perfect paint layer. These four states of color can be used to create a desired effect in oil painting.

More Articles about Oil Painting Art Techniques and Color

What are the main oil painting techniques?
My science of color site
Glazing with oils for beginners
The nature of blue pigment
Why is my painting cracking?
What are different alkyd mediums for?
Paint a landscape in 100 strokes

My Terrible Drawings are Ruining my Paintings. How do I See Like an Artist?

Drawing underpins painting, and oils are no different. An inaccurate drawing will continue to niggle regardless of how good the painting technique is. This is why it is important to get the drawing right before laying paint to canvas. But it goes further than this. Drawing begins before even pencil even contacts paper. Here, find a test into how visually aware you are.

Learn to Draw Better with this Test 

As drawing is vital to painting, have posted my Youtube clip here that delves into how visually aware you are. My video includes a test into visual judgment. This means looking at things and making visual estimates on their shapes, angles and coordinates. Judging how things look includes the following by the use of the naked eye (no visual aids such as rulers, protractors, spirit levels, etc.)

The angle of a line, which might be on paper, or the inclination of an object. See how close you were to the mark only afterwards with a protractor. Bear in mind a right angle will exhibit 90 degrees; a straight line, 180 degrees. Is the angle acute? (Less than 90 degrees)? Is it obtuse? (More than 90 degrees). The trueness of a shape.

Is a circle truly a circle, or is it subtly oval? Is the square slightly asymmetrical? Is the triangle equilateral, or is one side slightly longer?

Drawing Tips by Measuring
Judge the position of one object in relation to another. Is it higher? Lower? How far away is it? Use an object as a frame of reference. (Is it half the width of this object? Double the width?) The image shows an example of making visual estimates of size relation. The height of the strut is roughly the same as the space between two. Again, the chair is roughly in the center of the two struts in a symmetrical formation.

Find other measurements that fit simple ratios and fractions within a scene. This is the key to making objects fit in a drawing, rather like a jigsaw.

Do your Eyes Deceive You?
Judge how symmetrical a shape is. Does it skew at one side? Is it lower on one side than the other? Such visual acumen is vital in portraiture and other objects of nature such as butterflies and markings on fur. Awareness of symmetry may hold to key to creating balanced compositions, which includes the arrangement of a bunch of flowers or to design a motif.

Take note of tonal variations of any aspect. What is the darkest area? Where is the mid-tone? Can the scene be divided into basic tones? How many tones would there be? Color can often interfere with tonal judgment. Half-closing the eyes will cut out most bright colors and make tones easier to see.

Learn to See Like an Artist 

How level is a line? Does it tilt a little? Which way? Look also at vertical lines. Is it truly vertical or does it tilt? Difficulty in judging the trueness of lines may explain why some people find hanging a painting difficult or to hang shelves. This might also explain why some drawings appear to lean to one side on paper. Often, over-familiarity with a drawing will cause its errors to become invisible.

When Drawing Begins

Judging if Something is Straight
As explained in the clip, drawing starts before the pencil touches paper. A line can only be drawn once a good visual estimate is made. This might be the center point of the scene or how curved a line is.

Beware of distorted perceptions in drawing. Examples of these can be found in the clip. These can sneak into the drawing in the most subtle ways, causing errors and unwanted focal points. The angle of a door might appear twisted or the struts of a chair too thin.

Common mistakes are often due to the brain’s insistence that something is there when it isn't. Our so-called left brain, where the speech center is located, will assign labels to things. A chair has four legs and a seat at the top. But from certain angles, a chair will appear to have three legs and no seat at all.

Do Your Eyes Fool Your Brain in Drawing? 

The key is to dispel all assumptions about how objects ‘should’ look and simply copy lines and shapes, but this begins before pencil contacts paper. Doing so requires high visual awareness.

The test within the clip will establish how good you are at making visual estimates before putting lines on paper. In others words, whether your eyes fool you into poor drawing.

Take This Test for Drawing Ability 

Good Drawing Underpins
Good Painting
Within this test, you will find ten questions that look at angles, sizes, coordinates and tones. Don’t use visual aids, and resist pausing the video. Answers are given at the end.

Eight or more out of ten and good visual awareness is demonstrated. Five to seven is not too bad, but distorted perception may sneak into your drawing. Four or below out of ten and your visual awareness needs fine-tuning. Don’t worry if a low score is the result, all that is needed is practice. Good drawing is all about making accurate visual judgments before putting down what you see onto paper. This is essential to oil painting.

In many ways, applying the oil paint forms the second part of the project. The first: drawing requires equal consideration. Good visual awareness is the key to good drawing.

Articles Related to Oil Painting

My oil paintings look childish and lack realism
How to shade a sphere
Improve visual memory in drawing
My science of colour website

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Oil Painting Critique of an Idealized Alpine Landscape with Lake

This oil painting features a romanticized mountain landscape with fir trees and a lake. Ayesha Mirza has used another landscape painting as reference material. Creating an interpretation of another’s work is challenging enough, but the artist is also a beginner in oil painting.

Romanticized Oil Painting’s Strengths 

Alpine Landscape by Ayesha Mirza
The artist has evidenced great technique in mark-making to suggest textures. This can be seen in the smooth blending of the lake; the stippling of brush to suggest the fronds of the fir trees and what appears to be the scraping on of paint via a palette knife (or similar) to suggest icy mountain peaks. These repeating textures create pleasing echoes throughout the painting. Conflicting methods of paint application is a great way of suggesting water, ice, foliage and clouds in a landscape painting.

The artist has also created ever muting hues into the distance, to reinforce that sense of depth within the valley. The harsh outlines of the bare tree in the foreground appear stark against the mist in the valley. This contrast between soft and harsh is often used in dramatic landscape paintings to create a sense of distance and grandeur.

 Idealized Landscape Painting 

Michael Thompson Painting source
The landscape painting worked from is by Michael Thompson, a style similar to a Bob Ross painting. The original image shows signs of idealization, which suggests a work from memory or a formula, rather than an actual landscape scene. The mountains are conical, the fir trees are regular in formation with uniform greens, and the sky, a patchy ultramarine-type blue with white.

Bizarre Rules of Natural Landscapes 

An actual landscape has somewhat a different feel to a romanticized landscape as can be seen in the photos below. Unexpected surprises can often be found, such as mountains like tissue paper, orange in fir trees, clouds like herring bones and pristine reflections. These elements are not always found within a formulaic landscape painting.

Painting of the Alps 

It is often true a painting can only be as good as the photograph or painting worked from. If the artist is interested in copying another’s work, I would suggest snow paintings of the great artists, such as the Impressionists or breathtaking photos such as these. Plenty more can be found copyright free in the Net. Copying from a photo gives the artist more free reign than copying a formulaic landscape painting, such as one by Thompson.

Breathtaking Mountain Pictures for Painting
Great Images to Paint from 

Ayesha's great ability to suggest textures in landscape lends itself to working from dramatic photos. A convincing landscape painting with atmosphere is certain to result. The artist can explore dazzling blues that can be found in snow (achieved by the mixture of cerulean and ultramarine with a little white). Or pristine creams in sunlit snow (achieved with white with a little cadmium yellow or burnt sienna). Shadows in mountains will often possess opposing colors to the sunlit side (such as pink against violet, or orange against blue. Soft violets and creams in snow can be seen in the four paintings below.

Dramatic Snowy Landscapes by Great Artists
Development in Landscape Painting 

Ayesha’s oil painting appears to be worked from a stylized image of an Alpine scene. I feel that such reference material can be quite limiting for anyone who wishes to explore the truth in nature. A photograph of an actual landscape scene I feel is the way forward. The artist can then explore the bizarre nature of a grand landscape without limitations and create a personal interpretation of what is seen.

Oil colors I would recommend for copying any of these images are: titanium white, cerulean blue, ultramarine, burnt sienna, burnt umber, cadmium red, cadmium yellow (pale) and viridian. These colors will enable the artist to broaden the palette and achieve high contrasts in light and dark. Ayesha’s lovely textural techniques will complement compelling landscape paintings.

Art Materials for Landscape Painting 

Further, using glazing technique (the application of thin paint) for water and skies will contrast against impasto (thick paint) for trees and snow. Fine sables will be needed for sharp detail in mountains, and harsh bristles will come in useful for scudding clouds. A palette knife is great for scraping on the paint to suggest icy peaks (as already evidenced). Above all, a good photo to work from is more likely to create a compelling landscape, including an Alpine scene. In-depth tips on painting mountains, water and trees can be found on the links below.

Tips for Painting Landscapes

Tips on painting mountains
Tips on painting water
Giving landscapes depth
How do I darken the color of snow?
Painting dramatic skies

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Oil Painting Critique of Mary and Jesus Oil on Canvas

These paintings of Mary and Jesus were intended to be a pair, but the artist has expressed dissatisfaction that they do not look like they go together. Both paintings are oil on canvas. Jesus has received a coat of Dammar varnish; Mary has yet to do so. The artist Anna Strawbridge Ziegler has faced the challenge not only of completing a double portrait, but of making them appear a pair.

An Oil Painting Set of Religious Art

Painting of Mary and Jesus by Anna Strawbridge Ziegler
In order to make oil paintings belong together, it is a good idea to think about the light. Does the light hit the object from the same angle? Is the light of the same intensity? If one differs to the other, the pair is unlikely to appear unified. As can be seen from the two images, the quality of the light differs, and I feel this might be the reason for the artist’s dissatisfaction in making them appear to belong.

Quality of Light of Religious Paintings

The face of Jesus has a subdued light, suggesting half-light. The tones are low key and the features almost shrouded in shadow. The portrait of Mary has a higher contrast in tone. We can see her features more clearly, as though light had sought out her features. This contrast in portraits is particularly clear in the eyes – the focal point of any portrait. The artist tells me these are her third and fourth paintings ever completed. From this, it can be seen that the artist has overcome great obstacles, as portraiture is not easy. The result is quite accomplished.

Tips on Painting Religious Portraits 

Jesus with high contrast and low contrast
To make the portraits appear to belong, the issue of the light needs to be looked into. This can be tackled in two ways: either reduce the contrast and tonal value of Mary’s face, or increase the contrast and tonal values of Jesus. I feel the former will simply result in two subdued portraits, which I feel is not the intention. The 2 images on the right shows Jesus' face of differing tonal keys. the one on the right is the original image; the one on the left has been altered by increasing tonal contrast.

How to Alter Contrast in Images

Altering Contrast on My Pictures
Altering the tonal key of an image is easy if you know how. The screenshot shows how to do this on Microsoft MyPictures. Simply increase contrast to heighten the tonal key of Jesus. This will bring out the highlights on the face. Don’t overdo it, or detail will be lost within highlights and shadows. Always save the original image. The altered image can then be printed and used as art reference.

Tones of Portraiture in a Painting of Jesus and Mary

Jesus and Mary have a better Match in Tonal Contrast
The altered image of Jesus has been placed next to Mary, creating a better match regarding light than the original. The artist could add a little warmth to the highlights of Jesus' face by adding a little burnt sienna to the mix. The dark backgrounds will really bring out the tones on the features.

Highlights and Shadows on Christ’s Face

Mary's Hands
used in Painting
With the tonal values of the photo heightened, the artist can move forward in one of two ways: either begin the Jesus portrait afresh or work over the original one in an upper glaze. Working in an upper glaze means using thinned oil paint (usually with a little linseed oil) over select areas of the portrait. In this case, a paler color can be worked around the brow, cheeks, nose and chin of Jesus’ face. Using the altered image can be used as a guide. Blend out the edges of the highlight areas with a fine sable to create smooth gradations into shadow.

Correct Use of Dammar Varnish

It must be noted that Jesus has already received a coat of Dammar varnish. Never apply oil paint on top of varnish. It is better to remove the varnish with special varnish remover (not turps or industrial thinners) before proceeding. Follow manufacturer's instructions. I use cotton buds and work over the painting little at a time. Look out for any oil paint that lifts with the varnish. If this happens, the painting has not dried properly before the varnish has been applied. It might be best to start a new painting in this instance.

Tips on Painting Religious Portraits

In order to make two paintings appear as a set, ensure the lighting conditions and the background colors are similar to one another. In this case, we can see the light has different qualities in these portraits of Jesus and Mary. Jesus’ face appears shrouded in shadow and lower key by contrast to Mary’s. This can be put right by increasing the contrast of Jesus’ face. MyPictures, Microsoft’s standard program can be used to do this. The photo can then be printed and used as reference for the painting. The highlights can then be worked over select areas in a light glaze or begun afresh.