Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Oil Painting Process: Portrait Commission

I began portrait making in 2008, before I studied Fine Art. I photographed all my family members looking straight at me and drew from the photos. I read a lot of books on portraits to learn techniques and over the years I felt much more confident in creating them the more I painted. So last month I received a request to paint a portrait in oils. I was super excited, but also scared because I only had a month to complete it because was a birthday present. The biggest problem is that oils take a very long time to dry, so I would have to work smart with this one.


For this painting, I began with a wash of orange acrylic paint. It worked as the base of the skin tones and in fact it affects everything that is painted over it, or not painted.

I sketched the face with red and blue acrylic. I photographed the sketch and then put it in photoshop over the reference image that the client sent. I adjusted the opacity of my sketch photo over the client's photo to see if the sketch aligned. Then I painted the adjustments with purple. I repeated this process a few times until I felt it looked like the client's photo. I did not want to use a projector to draw the subject. I wanted a flowing and natural feel to the painting but I would have used one if it was a much larger canvas. The canvas was A2 which is 42 x 59.4 cm and it was quite manageable.

I blocked in colour next with acrylic and only once the whole canvas was covered with acrylic and dried I began to paint with oil paint. I used almost half a bottle of Liquin because I needed it to dry quickly. I painted in oil mixed with Liquin on one day then gave it a whole day to rest/dry.

What I love the most about painted portraits is that paint does something different to what a photograph does. A part of me really wanted the subject to look exact and another part of me was happy to let the paint do what it does.

You can see how the orange base comes out in her skin and it contrasts with the blue (opposite colours on the colour wheel). I signed the back of the canvas because I find the artist signature on the  front to be too distracting as it breaks away from the illusion. I had a great time painting, even though there was pressure, in the end I just had to trust myself.

xo. QBD