Australian Fine Artist

Portrait Painting-3

Third of Five All Day Workshops with Artist David Chen

Painting from Live Model Alla Prima

Today’s model was a familiar face from my time at Chisholm during the past three years. Craig has modelling for life drawing classes and I have also drawn his portrait in the past. The task today was to work on his curly ginger hair, fair complexion and more mature facial features.

The age 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.

Craig is an older sitter to the model we had at the last workshop so his features are more defined in some ways due to the muscles being different to a younger person in parts of the face and the area around the eyes in particular showing the eye socket more prominently.

Whilst we were thinking about starting work on our initial drawing, we also talked about drawing and painting much younger sitters. Children have a different structure to the head than adults which is why you just can’t paint someone smaller and have them look like a child. They will just look like a smaller adult. children have their eyes in general in the centre of the head with a larger area above in the brow and top of head. They are also different in body proportions. Unlike adults who on average are eight head heights in height, children are about five head heights. This makes their head to body proportions look much different. The eyes for children also usually look quite big, this is also different to adults, where the growth has finished.

Getting on with the painting of Craig, which was great fun I might add. One thing I have discovered is that when I draw or paint someone who I have drawn a lot, everything comes together much faster. That understanding of proportions and characteristics that are unique to that person are nearly in your muscle memory. So it was great to paint Craig, add to my knowledge of his features and come up with the best painting I have done of him, or anyone I feel, so far. Craig has curly hair and my first task was not to get bogged down with too much detail there. As David has said to us, look at the whole picture as one shape. I painted in and measured as I went, getting all Craig’s features in the right place, or as closes I could. I had room to make changes as I went on things that weren’t shaping his whole face too much. I then went in with all the darks, to get my tonal ranges working. From here I built up my mid tones making sure that I keep placing cools and lights against each other for drama and also following David’s method of having more yellowish tones on the forehead, reds on the cheeks and nose and greenish blues on the chin area. These by the way are tints in the skin tones, not bright reds and blues making Craig look like a clown! Something else to keep in mind is that I am dong a painting not a photo so as I like painting more loosely and impressionistic not tightening up with brush strokes was also on my mind. I was using a panted over canvas, so there was a lot of texture already there for me to use, I also had little colour to add to the background to frame Craig’s face.

The finished work is something I am very happy with and David only had to make a couple of marks on it to show where I could improve.

1. He added a light pink stroke to the top of the cheek

2. He added a mix of Cad. Green and Cad. Red to the jaw line and into the neck to soften it

3. He pulled the neck colour down over the collar to break the lines

Always good when you don’t have major surgery done to your painting at the end of a session! A final tip about painting portraits: Enjoy the process! If you relax, 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.

David ‘s Tips:

  • To push my colours even more, he thinks I can go even further!
  • Don’t be afraid to create new colours where they may not exist in real life

Below is the finished painting from this workshop. It has a few little marks from David on it, but is 99% mine.

Portrait Workshop  Oil on Canvas

Portrait Workshop Oil on Canvas

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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