Monday, July 23, 2012

Seven Steps to Paint the Perfect Portrait

After a dozen classes regarding painting portraits, I've come to some conclusions.

If you've looked at some of my paintings from those classes, you've probably drawn some conclusions, as well.

Not to be dissuaded by any of those thoughts, know that I will not be stopped.

In fact, I am more determined than ever to conquer this topic and herein present my list of seven steps that will bring one success in the art of painting a picture so that it looks like the person whose painting you are trying to do, even if I'm tempted to poke out my eyes with my paint brush handle.

Here you see, from top to bottom, class #1, #2 and #3, as you study my guidelines.  One more class to go with this one!

1.  Determine whose picture you want to paint.  (It will help if they have just one eye,  a very small nose and can keep their mouth shut the whole time you're working on the painting so that you don't have to worry about all of those teeth!)  Being bald solves a lot of issues, too, or at least a band of cloth of some sort to wrap around their head that covers most of the hair, eyebrows, forehead and ears is a blessing!

2.  Determine just to paint their face.  The more you can stay away from clothing and arms and hands and feet, the less you have to fret about.  Also, if they can comb their hair over their ears, you won't have to spend a lot of time trying to figure out all of the ins and outs of ear canals and lobes and, heaven help us, those ornate earrings that belonged to a Victorian great-aunt or great-grandmother.

3.  Let the person who is sitting for their portrait know that they have to sit completely still for eight to ten hours.  Some studios and class settings allow for breaks for the sitter every twenty minutes or so, but I find that about the time the break is called is when I've just decided to finish a freckle or add an eyebrow.  Better they bulk up ahead of time and just sit for the whole thing.  I may take a break, but I don't want them to move from the preassigned spot...once they move, some tend to come back and face a completely different way.  Too confusing.

4.  Remember, you're not painting a face.  You're not painting a nose.  You're not painting and eye.  You're painting shapes and shadows and highlights and tone and value and color and texture, and you're capturing mood and expression and probably twisting your back and your arm and your neck into contortions that will lead to sore muscles and a headache, and an overwhelming thought that having taken a photo would have been less trouble and more satisfying!

5.  You are going to want to pose them in that antique chair, the one with all of the animal carvings and intricate shapes and designs.  Do yourself a favor...put a white sheet over the whole thing. If you have any thoughts of painting any part of it, don't.  Draping is so much more effective and you can cover that area in one or two brush strokes that way, rather than spending the remaining years of your life trying to get that darned antler armrest to look like what it should be instead of a piece of deer scat.

6.  Let the instructor, or other class member who paints better than you, take over your brush at any time they are available.  Just nod your head up and down a lot as they guide you through the finish.  If they look like they are going to stop and give you back the brush, ask questions quickly.  "What would you do with that eye?" Or, "Do you see any problem with the forehead?"  About twenty questions should do the trick.  The last question could be, "Do you know of a good place to buy a frame for this?"  They might have one in the trunk of their car!

7.  Once done, hide the painting for about seven years.  It'll give it time to dry and the sitter will appreciate the fact that, once they do see it, they look younger.

In the meantime, go back to landscapes and know, where trees and waves and rocks and weeds all look the same.              

1 comment:

  1. Love this...I'm feeding your fish while I think of a clever, amusing comment...nope, nothing....