Australian Fine Artist

Portrait Painting-4

Fourth of Five All Day Workshops with Artist David Chen

Painting from Live Model Alla Prima Today’s model a young female sitter. She had brown hair with blond tips and a fair complexion. We were therefore, calling on our recipes for lighter toned skin and brown to blonde hair. David gives us ideas for various skin colourings that may or may not have to do with the person we are painting on the day. He relies on us to keep notes and to practice during the month so that we come to each session with a good idea of what to do and where to go to get information we may need for colour mixing. We do have a new session learning about techniques at the beginning of each workshop, and these notes are invaluable for other paintings we may do in our own studios. Whilst we were thinking about starting work on our initial drawing, we also talked about capturing the personality of each sitter. Everyone has their own expressions and the details of the eyes, mouth, nose and ears are very important when attempting to get a true likeness.

Portraits unlike most other subjects require a certain degree of accuracy, even if the artist is painting in a more creative manner for an artwork more than a photographic reproduction. Initial measuring as your draw up and block in your work is the foundation that the painting will either win or lose on. Taking time during this process is very important. You need to get the gaps between eyes, the gap under the nose and the space under the eyebrow right. After that you can play around a bit with skin colouring to reflect the general lighting in the room and the shadows that may be cast across the face and on the side of the head, putting the hair in shadow.

You don’t need to paint in every hair or much detailing it at all either, put stronger detail near your focal point and a few lost and found edges to create rhythm and flow in the painting. Remember to relate your sitter to the background, pulling the colour in and out of edges to marry everything together. Also you don’t have to paint everything as you see it. If the clothing is too busy, simplify it. If the colours are not working, cool them off or warm them up to work with the other colours in your palette. You may be paintings a portrait, but the operative word here is PAINTING. Whatever style you use, from realist to impressionist to cubist or whatever, in the end it is your painting and your interpretation of what you see. Unless you are doing a commission and the client has the say, you can do what you want. So relax and have fun with your portraits, and see how your interpretations can bring out the personality in your sitters.

The finished work is something I am fairly happy with and David only had to make a couple of marks on it to show where I could improve. I thought my last work was better though, but will leave that judgement to readers. 1. He added a light blue stroke to the back of the head in the background 2. He broke the line of the hair on the left hand side near the bottom 3. He softened the line of the hair where it met the face 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 (again), he thinks I can go even further!
  • Don’t be afraid to create new colours where they may not exist in real life (again)

Below is the finished painting from this workshop. It has a few little marks from David on it, but is 99% mine. IMG_2360 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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