Australian Fine Artist

Portrait Painting-2

Second of Five All Day Workshops with Artist David Chen

Painting from Live Model Alla Prima For this workshop we looked at the method of measuring out the face with the “fifths method”. This method of dividing up the major areas of the human face is used widely by artists who work in law courts for quick rendering of those in the room, police artists for making an indenti-kit likeness as well as some in the medical field. The heritage of the person can make slight differences but most if not all of us have the same features on our heads – eyes, nose, mouth, ears, chin, cheeks, forehead with the muscles and bones underneath that define these. Whether they be European, Asian or African in racial background, or any mix of these. This will determine the shape of the skull, the brow, nose, cheek bones, shape of eyes, lips and skin colours but the  overall structure of the skull is the foundation of your painting and still the same. After these, of course, follows hair colour and type (EG: curly, straight etc). So measuring five eyes across the head and seven down is a basic and generic beginning. From these you can draw a circular or in my case today an oval shape and a smaller circle covering the bottom two spaces and then start drawing down lines for where the nose fits, edges of the mouth etc. This method gave me a quick start for our model, who was of Greek heritage today. She had a more oval shaped face with a very fine nose but big expressive eyes. Her light olive skin reflected the light differently from the model in the last session and her very dark eyes and great mouth were a bit of a challenge. I was positioned nearly in front of her, but as she was directing her eyes to one side, this gave a very interesting pose to paint. The Mechanics I built up my initial “drawing” with the brush by using the cross shape to show the middle both across and down the face in my oval and circle and worked out from there. As I built up the basic blocking in, I was constantly adjusting to make sure that all the elements of her face related to each other and were in proportion with each other. I also made two puddles of skin tone to dip into. My darkest dark and lights light, I then made puddles from there with cool and warm variations. My palette is slowly evolving as I do these workshops as well as my painting techniques, which is making the process easier. Again as with my still life studies, some colours were altered to help the composition work or cooled down or warmed up to help show light sources, shadows and structure. On the human face remember there are places where the blood vessels are closer to the surface. Parts of the face are cooler than others. Generally you can make the forehead warmer with yellowish tints, the cheeks, nose and lips warmer with more red and under the brow, around the eyes and the chin cooler with a blue or green tint. Remember to keep these subtle and the colours relating to each other. This applies no matter what nationality you are painting, just look at how it may slightly vary. As you build up your image, remember structure. The face, like any subject in still life, has planes (surfaces). Keep in mind where the bones are, where major muscles are so that you know where to soften and where a harder edge may fall. You can use one stroke to create form and keep the painting fresh in some areas, or place a few well thought out strokes in others to help build structure. Finally Enjoy the process. Relax and your model will also. If you are like me you will be on a learning curve with portraits, and there is always another day to try again and learn something new. My lessons from this session were:

  • To push my colours even more
  • Don’t be afraid to create some little shadows where they may not exist in real life to add depth

Below is the finished painting from this workshop. It has a few little marks from David on it, but is 99% mine. He told me it is the best work I have done so far this year and one of my best in his workshops. He said he is going to continue to push me to be brave with my colours! My Workshop Painting

Oil on Canvas. 16x20.

Oil on Canvas. 16×20.

If you would like to go on the waiting list for workshops with David Chen, you can contact him though his website at: Please mention you have been referred by Janice Mills.

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