What I wanted to do with this portrait painting of my son was to copy my technique from the painting of my daughter.
I feel like I succeeded somehow although in retrospect I could have used more and thicker layers of paint.
First I put down my colors which consisted of Cadmium Green, Burnt Sienna, Scarlet Lake, Yellow Ochre, Indian Yellow,Titanium White, Manganese Blue Hue, Cobalt Blue, Dioxazine Purple, Alizarin Crimson, Olive Green, Ultramarine Blue. I put down the colors in the order as described above from left to right. Different from my painting of Juanita is that I now used my everyday palette that I have gotten comfortable with.
The drawing was a very simple sketch that I did’nt use much time on. I did the sketch with a brush and paint. I have no preferences anymore between doing my sketches with brushes or pencils. My wife could see that I was my son but was not convinced at that point. But experience leaves me to say, that a sketch does not need to be so thorough. It needs to explain the most important flag points. And you correct the rest when the real layers of color gets on the canvas.
Shadows made with Raw Umber and Cadmium red. The darkest areas on this portrait consists of Ivory Black mixed with Cadmium red.
I mixed the middletones with my skin tone and and a mix of Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. I left it fairly warm and reddish. The mix was used on the left side of the face as there were no real shadows on the area of the jar and cheek. When you have a portrait with almost no contrasts in dark and light you can built up the oval shapes from your middle tones to your lightest skin tones. That was what I did here.
My sons skin tone is fairly light. First mixed Burnt Sienna with Titatium White. I then added tinted Manganese Blue to the pool which made it much lighter and more grayish. I hit the skin color extremely well this time. When I painted my daughter https://portraitpaintingblog.com/portrait-painting-of-my-daughter-juanita/ I did’nt have the knowledge of color mixing that I have now. So her skin color was a little of from reality.
I used a primed tree board which I put a thick layer of Gesso on.
I used Bristle Brushes from Rosemary and W&N Colors for this one.
What could I have done better
As stated earlier I could have used thicker layers of paint on the portrait painting of my son. Especially around the lighter areas. This painting was a test for me. I had a 2 month break and needed to get the feeling back. I had’nt expected the portrait to end this well. So I framed it and put it next to the portrait of my daughter. I’m overall satisfied with the portrait.
As usual this portrait painting of Sienna is on top of a pencil drawing. I have chosen not to make a post of the pencil drawing this time and go straight to the oil portrait. One thing I can say though was that my pencil drawing was very solid and resembled the model very accurate. This gave me the foundation and confidence to make this portrait which I personally think got pretty solid. Below is a photo of the drawing.
First I put down my colors which consisted of Cadmium Green, Burnt Sienna, Scarlet Lake, Yellow Ochre, Indian Yellow,Titanium White, Manganese Blue Hue, Cobalt Blue, Dioxazine Purple, Alizarin Crimson, Olive Green, Ultramarine Blue. I put down the colors in the order as described above from left to right. The following is a very thorough description of my color mixing for the portrait painting of Sienna, since I think it’s very important element. For more information see my page of color mixing. Links will be in the bottom of this post.
Mixing my darks for shadows was the next step for the portrait painting of Sienna. They consisted of Olive Green, Alizarin Crimzon and Ultramarine Blue. This pool of darks had 60 percent Olive green / 20 percent Alizarin Crimson / 20 percent Ultramarine Blue. The purpose is solely to put down paint the most very dark places on the drawing. In this case I used it along Scarlet Red where the right ear is covered in shadow. The nostrils as well. Last place was the right side of the neck which was almost completely black as no light hit this area on the model.
The shadows I made for the portrait painting of Sienna consisted of the previous pile mixed with Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre. Since my portrait was fairly light in the skin tone I mixed a little more Yellow Ochre in the mix to lighting it up. The shadows need to be a middle value of all the shadows that persists in the portrait. I added Scarlet Red in the mix of shadows as my models had this rosa skin tone. I wanted that to be visible in the shadows. As you can see there’s a long almost red shadow line running down the cheek and jaw of the model. In this line I added particularly much Scarlet Red into the mix. I always analyze the exact area. This means that one area of shadows might have more red into them than others. This gives the portrait variety, character and dimension.
Darkest light mix
Then I mixed the Burnt Sienna and the Cobalt Blue. The pool consisted of 60 percent Burnt Sienna / 40 percent Cobalt Blue. This made a warm grey that could be altered in a warm and cold spectre. This mix was later used to make the half tones which is a mix of this pool and the skin tone pool. Half tones are used everywhere there’s oval shapes – “explained further down”. I tend to keep the half tones more reddish or warm as that looks more like flesh or skin. When that said all half tones has a greyish look to them.
This color mix is my neutralizer because it calms down the redness in the later mixing of the exact skin color. The mix is a must to neutralize the red hue of the Scarlet Lake that effects the skin tone color mix. This mix consists of Manganese Blue Hue tinted with Titanium White. This mix was made approximately with half of each color. I chose to keep it fairly light as my overall skin tone was light.
Light tone / Skin tone
The light tone consisted of Burnt Sienna and Titanium White – in the following order. Since my portrait was very light and almost pinkish in her skin tone I lightninged it more with Titanium White. After this I mixed my Neutralizer into it, to grey it more and neutralize the red Hue. It was an overall light skin tone. I even put a very small amount of Scarlet Red into the mix as my model had this almost pinkish skin tone. But I’m always very careful with the red as it is very powerful and can ruin the mix very fast.
Added my light skin tone mix to the darkest lights mix for the portrait painting of Sienna. This made my half tones. This mix is very important as it is used everywhere there is oval shapes. This makes an even more light grey in which you can alter in temperature according to your models features. Half tones tends to grey around the oval shapes on the face. But they still has temperature to them that can vary from warm and cold. In general my half tones were warm on this portrait.
Laying down the paint
I always lay down my shadows from the darkest areas to the lightest on my oil portrait paintings. No expection this time either. Used my darkest pool of darks to the corners of the eyes and the nostrils and the darkest areas of the ears. In the hollow spots in the eyes near the eyebrows I used more Yellow Ochre into to the mix to lighten the area. Was aware not to make it to yellow and therefore added more Scarlet Lake. The darker ares of the hair I simply laid down a thicker pile from my Darks added with more Olive Green and Yellow Ochre. As the dark pool is transparent it’s fairly easy to make the illusion of less or more hair. It’s simply about putting down more paint or removing the paint. The two above mentioned colors mixed together were very close to the models real hair.
The right side of the face had extra of Burnt Sienna and Scarlet Red to make it have that pinkish look that my model had. With this area I was not stingy with the reds. I needed it to be very red. You can very clear see the red long line down the cheek and jaw line.
The half tones
The half tones was added where the cheek turned, around the nose area, around the chin and around the eyebrows. Always do that. Was aware to make the half tones reddish with the Scarlet Lake so it looked coherent with the shadows – but lighter. I think I managed pretty well to make the illusion of a turning cheek etc. Everywhere i analyze the areas if they are warm or cold and alter my mix accordingly with either warm or cold colors.
Skin tones were first added next to the cheek area and chin area since I knew these were the most red areas and had some of the most “darkest” areas regarding value.
Later I put down the skin tone paint at the side of the skull near the hair line, as these areas seems to fade from the light. Around the skull in general and in the forehead near the hair line I put down the first layers of skin tone paint with the darkest value and again I added a little bit of Scarlet Lake to the mix. After this I added paint to the nose area and in the lower part of the forehead in the middle of the eyes. Now with the darkest areas in the skin tone area set I could work my way towards the light by adding Titanium White to my skin tone mix.
In general I kept the skin tone very light on the portrait painting of Sienna. But doing so you have to be careful that it doesn’t go to cold. Because adding Titanium White to the mix cools it. And you don’t want a cold skin tone. So it’s a balance between Titanium White and adding Scarlet Lake.
Added highlights around the forehead, nose area, the tip of the chin and small dots around the eyes. Never use Titanium White on it’s own for highlights. So I added a tiny bit of Scarlet Lake to my highlights to give it a reddish feel. It’s barely visible. In the hair I tinted some Indian Yellow and put this mix in has highlights in the hair. It was very equal to the sister of the model Indid some weeks before. In general I felt comfortable with the color mixing.
The eyes in general can be tricky. It’s such a small area to work at and I don’t want to make it to detailed. But this time with the portrait painting of Sienna I felt that I managed to keep it balanced and it didn’t prove to be to tricky for me. It’s a fine balance that you personally have to find. Sometimes I just mix a darker value for the eyes and don’t care much about mixing the exact same color as the model. I personally don’t feel that it does much to the portrait to have the exact eye color as the model.
The nose did not give me much trouble with this portrait. It was probably because I had a very solid drawing underneath. Laid down the darkest lights next to the shadows and made them a little more red. And then I graduately moved towards the light accordingly to the oval shape of the nose. Sometimes the form of the nose slips as you put down layers of paint, but I was lucky this time to keep it true to the model. Actually it may be the best work on this portrait. I feel the form and shades has a balanced softness that I like. Even the cast shadow underneath the nose has the perfect value and varmth to it.
I always think of my master when I paint shadows. Because he would always comment on the temperature of my shadows and urge me to use more red as a reflection of the flesh and blood underneath the shadows.
It may sound like there’s no flaws in this portrait. But to be honest I really feel I nailed this one accordingly to my level. Even my big Achilles heel the “mouth” turned out good. Again I kept telling my self to keep it soft! And so I did. I also kept the color of the lips not that far away from the general skin color. It’s a little trick I’ve learned by myself. I find the lips to look to unnatural if the color and value goes to far away from the surrounding skin tone.
Restating the day after
I felt pretty comfortable with the portrait after the first sitting. So I knew already from laying down the brushes that late first evening that I had nailed it. I thoug the day after add darker shadows do areas that needed it. Furthermore I added a little extra highlights in the models hair.
I added the background the day after ass well. This is a flaw that I very often do. Paint the background to late. It really has do be done much earlier into the painting as it lets you know if your values are correct. And it allows you to blend edges from the perimeter of the models face into the background.
What could I have done better
What I learned from this portrait was really to trust what I learned from previous mistakes. I felt I took this portrait a level up in quality compared to the portrait of the sister “Sofia”.
Sofia is my cousins daughter. She was 9 years old when the drawing was made. I always take the drawing a little further than nessesary for the later painting stages. The reason for that is, that I simply enjoy the drawing process and find it hard to stop. In reality I could have stopped way before, since I only really need the placements of the eyes, nose, mouth and the overall shape of the head and hair.
My measurements for this portrait pencil sketch of Sofia was really thorough. I was very accurate placing marks in the center which you can see by the fat middle line that goes down trough the face from the nostril and up to the forhead and down to the cheek. Reason for this accuracy was that the painting was for my aunt. So I needed my drawing to be my solid foundation to rely on. As stated earlier I feel safe when my drawing is well done.
Eyes were done with no measuring. I sketched the eyes with my eyesight. Needed to correct it a couple of times because I felt the eyes was the reason why it did not look like the “real” Sofia. As I corrected them it helped. I had put a to hard line around the eyes and it made her look older. It’s really tricky with kids, when you draw them, to make them look as young as they are. Because the skin is so smooth, so there is not many little wrinkles et cetera that gives kids their specifik look or character.
As you see I have made a big shadow on the nose of the portrait pencil sketch of Sofia. I really like to “hide or mask” the nose behind a shadow. The more the better -And to only hint the nostrils. It does not destroy the alikeness, even though I was drawing a very young girl. I was in general satisfied with the nose on the drawing.
The mouth is my area of trouble in general. And also on this drawing. My master told me that the drawing and painting has to be lose around the mouth. It’s better that you really can’t se what goes on in that area, but that it still defines a mouth. And even though with this information I tend to draw the lines to hard. The more vague and soft the lines are around the mouth the better. The mouth area also made her look older than she was in reality. I kept it this way knowing that I had to put layers of paint on top of it anyway.
I’m happy with my shadows on this drawing. Feel like they hide a lot without destroying the alikeness of the portrait. I love shadows in portraits. It gives it depth and character. My shadows are defined my hatching with the pencil. Hathing means seperate line next to eachother. Few places like the eyebrows and the nostrils I pushed the pencil harder to make it look darker. But in reality it’s not good to make the shadows to dark when you’re working with a sketch in my opinion. The reason for this is because my darker paints for shadows are transparent. You can see trough them after they are laid on the canvas. That means that if you look through enough you can see the pencil. And I personally do not like that.
What could I have done better and reflection
To sum it all up i’m overall happy with this little portrait pencil sketch of Sofia. It took me around 2,5 hours which is not that bad. Prefereably I would have wanted her took to look a little younger, I’m still not overall happy with the mouth as stated earlier. I could have used more time to soften it more. Maybe that would have changed the appearence of her. It could be the fact that the lips looks very defined – almost like lipstick that makes her look older that she really is.