This portrait painting of my daughter Juanita is really one of my older ones I did when I first tried to learn how to paint.
It’s not done in my traditional way of painting. It was done in a more intuitive way with molding fat layers of paint on the canvas. It’s a technique that I find hard to master now a days. But when I succeed like with the portrait of my daughter above it’s really satisfying.
Those fat layers of impasto paint really makes the portrait stand out and become alive.
This post will not be as long and thorough as the previous ones, as this portrait was done in another way.
I used a very simple palette for this portrait consisting of Burnt Umber, Cadmium Red,Yellow Ochre, Titanium White and Viridian
With this very simple palette I was able to mix the colors I needed. I used plenty of paint and was not stingy with the amount on my brushes
The drawing was a very simple sketch that I did’nt use much time on. One could see that it was my daughter but it was first after the layers of color that you could really see that is indeed was my daughter. Which leaves me to say, that a sketch does not need to be so thorough. It needs to explain the most important flag points.
The shadows made with Burnt Umber and Cadmium red. The darkest areas on this portrait consists also only with those 2 colors. I used no black color on this portrait.
Midle tones mixed with skin color and a little Viridian or Burnt Umber. Just a very small corn of paint changes the original pool of paint. Soft shadows in the eye sockets and in the forehead along the hair line made with Viridian.
Skin tone made with Titanium White, Yellow Ochre and Cadmium Red. This mix took me a long time to get right and as I remember I did it all over at least once. Today I have a way more easy way to mix a nice skin tone, compared to what I knew back then. There is no easy way to explain other than I altered the mix back and forth until I was satisfied. One thing is sure though, be careful with the Cadmium Red, as it is extremely powerful
I used a primed tree board which I put a thick layer of Gesso on.
I used Bristle Brushes from Rosemary and Gamlin Colors for this one.
What could I have done better
Theres no doubt that I would have done things in other ways had I been painting this one today. But it still stands out as one of my beds paintings to date. It’s very dificult for me to achieve the technique and the level of painting this way when I try it today. One thing I knew was that I used thick layers of paint and formed it and molded it over 2-3 days as it dried.
A very limited palette was used for this portrait painting of my daughter Juanita. I could have achieved better colors had I used the palette that I use today. I think my middle tones are to cold due to the use of BurntUmber and Viridian only.
When that said I am so very satisfied with the impasto look this painting has. Stained with fat colors which I like. I didn’t even dilute the shadows with Gamsol. I just smeared them one. It was so simple and yet I can’t copy it this day.
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”.
I met this guy randomly on the street sittin in front of a tattoo shop playing his guitar. He looked like a type and had his hair and beard grown to an impressive length. I sat down and talked with him and found out he was quite a traveler, he’d been to India and various parts of the world. He was Argentinian just like my wife. I imideately got the idea to make a portrait pencil sketch of him. After some time he led me take some photos of him in the light of the street bulbs.
The following is an in depth description of my painting process for this portrait.
Started putting down my colors for this oil portrait painting which consists 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.
Mixing my darks for the shadows was the next step. The darks consists of the colors 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 shadows I made consisted of the previous pile mixed with Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre. My model was argentinian and his skin tone had a brown/reddish nature. Because of that I was not careful with the Burnt Sienna, which I knew made it reddish. It made me put less Manganese Blue Hue in the mix, since I didn’t want to neutralize the reddish hue to much. Shadows were made as an average value of all the shadows that persisted on the model.
Darkest light mix
Then I mixed the Burnt Sienna and the Cobalt Blue. The pool consted of 60 percent Burnt Sienna / 40 percent Cobalt Blue. This made a 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.
This color mix is my neutralizer because it calms down the redness in the later mixing of the 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. The mix was made approximately with 70 percent Manganese Blue and Titanium White. It was a little more blue and darker in value this time than my previous portraits. Reason for this was that I didn’t wan’t to much light in the mix which would lighten my skin tone pool later on.
Light tone / Skin tone
The light tone consisted of Burnt Sienna and Titanium White – in the following order. Since my portrait was fairly dark and warm I make an average with mire Burnt Sienna. It came out a little dark in value so this time i split the pool up in 2. One of the pools I lightened more with Titanium White. This gave me 2 pools for the skin tones which lay somewhere around an average. After this I mixed my Neutralizer into it, to grey it more and neutralize the red Hue. The skin tone came out exactlt as I wanted it. Maybe because I had 2 pools to play with.
Added my light skin tone mix to the darkest lights mix. 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. Halft tones tends to grey around the oval shapes on the face. But they still had 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. In the hollow spots in the eyes near the eyebrows I used more Yellow Ochre on the left eye and more Cadmium Green on the right. I don’t know why but my reference had 2 different temperatures in each eye and I was loyal to that. Was aware not to make it to yellow and therefore added more Scarlet Lake along the way regarding the left eye. The darker ares of the hair I simply laid down a thicker pile from my Darks. 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 to paint.
The half tones were added in the sockets of the eyes near the eyebrows, around the nose, and around the eyes where there was oval shapes. The left eye near the corner/tear kanal had more half tones to make it look like an oval shape due to the round shape of the eye itself laying underneath the skin. The right eye was covered in pure shadow but also had half tones. I needed half tones here to “get out” of the shadow properly. I couldn’t just go from pure dark to a highligt. The contrast would be to big, in this case I used half tones to properly “crawl” out of the shadows. It also dadded to the illusion of an oval shape from the swollen part underneath the models right eye. Half tones were added around the left side of the nose and cheek area.
Skin tones were first added to the area of the forehead since I knew these were the most red areas and had some of the most “darkest” areas regarding value. I then laid down paint around the skull and in the forehead near the hair line. I started on the left side of the face. This was the darkest area. I then worked my way towards to light. I paid attention to the left cheek and correctly lightened it to make the illusion of a round shape. It was done by adding more Titanium White and Scarlet Lake into the mix. By doing so I lightened the area and added more red which is quite often shown in the cheeks. In genereal I just added Titanium White to my mix to go lighter.
Highlights on the reference was quite powerful. I wanted to show that best possible on this oil portrait painting. Because of that my highlights needed to have big contrast to the other areas. Highlights on the nose laid right next to the shadows in the right eye. I used mainly Titanium White mixed with a little bit of skin tone to keep it coherent. I then added my neutral mix as it. This gave my highlights a little blueish hue. It had the effect of givin the impression of cold and strong light from the street lamps. It may be dificult to see on the photo though.
As always I paid a lot of attention to the eyes regarding my oil portrait painting. The right eye was all covered in shadow but the shape of she shadow was still very important for me to keep. I paid attention to put more Scarlet lake in the corners of the eyes. The eyes were a little of on the sketch and I tried to correct it a little with the paint. The eyes were a little to close to each other, and I had to push them further away from each other without destroying the overall shape and form.
The nose had the majority of highlights. It required of me to repaint the form a couple of times. Especialy the tip of the nose I lost a couple of times. The nostrils were simple and I made them from my dark pool and the shadow pool.
The beard around the mouth saved me. Shadows covered the lips. The mouth area was made from the shadow pool with a few highlights. It’s my most succesful mouth so far on a portrait. Maybe because of it’s simplicity.
Restating the day after on your oil portrait painting. As the darkest layers had dried up a little they had at the same time lightened a little. I had to add some extra dark in the beard to make the illusion of more depth. I corrected a couple of highlights in the forehead that had simply gone to white and made it look flat. Added more warmth to the cheeks with Scarlet Lake. Softened both lines near the eyelid fold on both eyes. Very hard lines looks bad in portraits.
In overall I’m very happy with this oil portrait painting. It is one of my best portraits. I’m satisfied with my color mixing which landed exactly how I wanted it. I’m getting more firm with the mixing of the skin tone. Shadows and middle tones landed very good to. My drawing slipped a little regarding the eyes and I feel thats visible in the portrait. On the other hand you can still se the alikeness from the reference. My conclusion is that, that is the price I pay when I draw without hardcore measuring. I have come to a stage where it’s okay to accept this. It’s part of the painting process. And I feel it makes it more interesting and more fun to paint.
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.