Friday, 21 September 2012

I Wish I Could Paint Portraits but Mixing Skin Colors Seems Complicated

Is portrait painting a realm you dare not venture because it seems difficult? My book Why do My Skin Tones Look Lifeless? Plus 25 Solutions to Other Portrait Painting Peeves might be the answer for the beginner in portraiture. Now available in large edition.

Tips on Improving Portrait Painting in Oil Colors

When it comes to learning portraiture in art, I have noticed the same issues crop up with fellow students and pupils in my class. Often the developing artist may shirk away from painting portraits as it is deemed less forgiving than landscape art or still life. A less than satisfactory first attempt may deter the artist for good. Noses look skewed, skin tones look washed out or muddy, eyes look like marbles or facial hair looks stuck-on.

An Art Book on Painting Faces

Seeing such commonplace afflictions in portraiture inspired me to write a troubleshooting guide offering help and advice for artists wishing to learn portraiture. As can be seen from my art book, portrait painting is not what it appears. Really, only 5% of it is line and 95% is color shapes. This is why I feel portrait painting should not be about each feature in isolation, but about how each relate with one another.
See Youtube clip to see a slideshow of images within this invaluable book.


How to Paint Great Portraits in Oils

As can be seen from this book on portrait painting, the portraitist does not need an array of art pigments, sables, huge canvases or mahl sticks to produce good portraiture. The basis for my skin colors comprises a mere seven oil colors. I will banish pigments with ‘flesh’ on the label, preferring to mix my skin colors from scratch. The book begins with a preparatory section on portrait painting such as selecting the most suitable art surfaces, the underdrawing, the resource material and the underglaze. Such considerations will increase the artist’s chances of success.

More images in my book Why do My Skin Tones Look Lifeless? (Rachel Shirley)
The latter part of my book offers solutions for painting the facial features such as eyes, noses, mouths and hair. Learn also the vital pigments needed for mixing the skin colors of subjects from different ethnic groups, ages and sexes. Eye color from blue to brown, and hair color from blond and ginger to black are also explored. See screenshot of the interior of this large edition book to get an idea of how it looks.

Ideal Art Pigments for Skin Colours

Essential Tips on Portraiture Book
Rachel Shirley
Darkening the colour of skin to express shadows are possible without the portrait appearing grubby; wrinkles and other facial textures can be expressed without them looking like lines painted on. Explore the tonality of skin as well as its color. As can be seen, treating the skin colors as the true focal point of the portrait rather than the features forms the basis for great portraits.

Tips on Painting the Model

Also learn how to produce the ideal images to work from, including portrait photography, as a portrait is only as good as its resource material. Learn also how to make the most of the life model if opting to paint form life. Effective use of light will help create a portrait that appears more 3D rather than flat. Looking for colours within shadows in the form of reflected light is the key. Art techniques for portraiture from impasto to glazing to scumbling are also explained.

Art Kindle Book on Portrait Painting

This invaluable art book on portrait painting is available on Kindle as well as paperback. Large edition measures 10x8in and 83 pages long, bursting with colour images.

The proportion of the pocket-sized edition is 8.5x5.5in and is 142 pages long – a size that easily fits into a bag. Also available on Kindle.

Some of the images within this book can also be found in my other guidebook on portraiture, Portrait Painting in Oil: 10 Step by Step Guides from Old Masters. Each project is laid out with prescriptive instructions and accompanying step by step images, ideal for any artist wishing to paint portraits from old masters such as Botticelli, Delacroix or Vermeer.

Incidentally, Why does My Skin Tones Look Lifeless? has been included in a book amalgam entitled: the Ultimate Oil Painting Solution for Landscape Art, Portraiture and Still Life. This book is 3-in-one, a tome some 233 pages long, covering all 3 areas of oil painting. Also available on Kindle.

Briefly, I have a BA hons degree from Kingston, London and a PCET teaching qualification from Warwick.

Related Links and Matter to Portrait Painting

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Essential Art Instruction Book on Portrait Painting in Oils

Portrait painting in oil may appear a challenging mission. This is why I have written a book on how to paint portraits for artists looking for a step by step guidebook on art. Inside you will find 10 demonstrations on portraiture plus a section on how to get started in portrait painting.

How to Paint Flesh Tones in Oils

Now available as large edition, Portrait Painting in Oil: 10 Step by Step Guides from Old Masters is bursting with guidance and tips on effective portrait painting. To serve portraitists who wish to explore different skin types, I have selected old master oil paintings that feature a diversity of subjects: dark skin, pale skin, blonde hair, dark hair, facial hair, children and older subjects. An extra demo on a modern-day portrait has been included. The image below shows a preview of how the images in progress look. Notice how they are clearly numbered. In depth corresponding instructions accompany each image within the book.

Ideal Art Techniques for Portraiture

I have also selected the paintings with a particular art technique in mind. The use of the palette knife might complement a subject under dramatic lighting; the employment of fine washes for a subject possessing delicate skin tones. Other techniques have been explored such as ‘scumbling’ (broken, vigorous brushwork), glazing, impasto and alla prima.

Portrait Painting Made Easier

Having practiced portrait painting for many years, I have learned a lot about painting faces. This includes how shadows can create visual distortions regarding how features relate to one another, and how convincing skin tones can be achieved with just a few oil colours. Really, skin tones are all about how one colour relates to another rather than having to mix lots of earth colours to achieve a specific skin colour.

See slide show below to get an idea of how the demos are set out.


Art Materials for Portraiture

Interior of Portrait Painting in Oil by
Rachel Shirley
This essential guide for portrait painting includes introductory chapters on all the art materials you will need to complete the paintings, including help and advice on what to buy. The screenshot on the right gives an idea of how the interior of this new large edition looks.

As can be seen, just several oil colours are needed to produce just about every skin colour you will need. I used just six brush-types, a palette knife and self-prepared art surfaces, which is cheap and easy to do. Instructions on self-preparation are included. You don’t need a studio, large easel or a mahl stick to produce portraiture in oils. This book shows how space and hassle can be dispensed with when painting portraits.

Creating Mood in Portraiture

Learn about how preparation is vital for a successful portrait painting, including the underglaze. This comprises a thin wash of diluted acrylic paint that not only kills the off-putting whiteness of the art surface, but injects mood into the painting. ‘Negative shapes’ of the portrait whilst in progress is also easier to decipher. Learn the various methods of underdrawing and which colours to apply first on the painting.

Common Problems with Portraits

I have included chapters outlining remedial techniques for portraiture. If something goes wrong, how it can be put right, such as ‘tonking’, blotting and wiping. An extra chapter offers troubleshooting advice for common problems to assist the developing portraitist.

The image below shows the paintings completed within this book. The artists sourced from are:
Jacques-Louis David: Oath of the Horati; Botticelli: Venus and Mars; Velazquez: The Waterseller of Seville and the Rokeby Venus; Rossetti: Helen of Troy and the Beloved; Vermeer: The Pearl Earring; Wright of Derby: Experiment with a Bird in the Airpump; Gauguin: Tahitian Woman and Delacroix: Self Portrait. The final image, Olivia’s Look is a Contemporary Portrait.


Book on Painting Portraits

Portrait Paint in Oil is an essential guide for portraitists. Available in hardback in 2 sizes. The large edition measures 10x8in and is 96 pages long. The pocket sized edition is 8.5x5.5in and 150 pages, both bursting with colour images. Kindle edition is also available.

I have since written Skin Tones in Oil: 10 Step by Step Guides from Old Masters which sets out demos on how to paint masterpieces from the great artists Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio  Rubens, Courbet, Gauguin  Botticelli Ingres, Cezanne and Titian.

Briefly, I have BA Hons. Degree in Fine Art from Kingston University and have a PCET teaching qualification from Warwick.

Articles on Oil Painting

My guide book on portraiture Why do My Skin Tones Look Lifeless?
How to paint sfumato in detail
My step by step demonstrations site
All about oil painting brushes
Essential art materials for oils
How to overcome childish look painting