This is a WIP-post on a portrait I’ve been working on. I’d started this painting some time ago to steadily improve my painting skills. The Acryl painting features my lovely sister on a 50 by 70 canvas. In this post I’d like to compose a few thoughts on this and on a past and yet unpublished project. You can see my current status in the image below:
For this project I adopted a new approach to painting. I recently purchased a book on painting portraits by Felix Eckard (German language only). The book comes along with a helpful DVD. Felix is one of the most famous contemporary artists in Germany. He has a very unique approach to painting. These cookbook approaches make the process of painting less target-oriented and more process-oriented.
Using colorful paint containing high quality pigment was the key to push my paintings forward. In the past, I used pre-sorted acrylic painting assortments. For this project I decided to do differently. I tried to compose this painting from colors that are less saturated than the ones from a starter kit. Here are three more things, that I had to learn the hard way. I hope these tips are useful for you:
3 things I’ve learned so far:
Go beyond the scope when mixing flesh tones
In the past, I used pre-mixed flesh tones. I’ve ten nuanced the base colours. The final image wasn’t too satisfying. The colors were very dull; the whole image seemed to be flat. Here is how my current attempt compares to an older painting (left) using pre mixed flash tones:
First things first: the skin itself is a very complex organ build from different layers. In CG you call this complex setup of skin subsurface scattering. When setting up a painting I try to keep this in mind. I try to push myself towards colors that are more intense, but could also be in one’s skin. Starting with colors that contrast or complement each other and then rendering the image is a big thing. It’s best to mix a base color that could be your standard skin tone. Mix this standard color with blue, green or red and create 50 new shades.
Use a brush with a size, that’s your desired size +1
Ok, this tip may sound weird. Here is what I like to say: When I create a painting, I often have in mind what colors to use and what brushes to choose. In the past, I often had to stop myself from getting stuck with details. A biiig brush is perfectly fine for laying down a good base. You start painting more freely and your painting will get a certain drift.
Paint for fun only
At a usual 8 to 5 day I tend to paint in the evenings. I paint small bits on my parent’s porch or in our workshop. Sometimes I just sit in front of the picture with a small mirror to check the dimensions and plan my steps on what doing next, without touching a brush for a single session. When placing a stroke on the surface, it can help to mask others people’s expectations on your painting.
Changes to come
Next I’ll work on the eyes and the mouth. The eyes are going to be tricky. Whenever I paint a portrait I tend to paint the eyes on a small cardboard or on a separate canvas first. As all of my projects, this is a private one. What matters to most, is learning new techniques and becoming better. That’s why I give myself the chance of failing as many times as I need, but not on my primary painting surface. Do you’ve any tips you’d like to share with us?
EDIT: Continued my work on this during Christmas ’16. I’ve redrawn large parts of the portrait. There’s still a long way to go, as I’ll work have to work on areas like the eyes and the nose. I’d also like the face more depth. Stay tuned for the next update.