Last week I taught a three day portrait painting workshop here in my studio. We all really enjoyed painting the wonderful model, Ella Rose. Here's the demo that I did during it:)
Block in with Burnt Umber
Using oily, viscous paint, thinned with linseed oil, I marked in the basic proportions first. Measuring the proportions to get the drawing accurate, I compared the width to the height of the head, and marked in thirds from the chin to the bottom of the nose, bottom of the nose to eyebrows, and eyebrows to forehead, noting that on her, the forehead measured a bit smaller then the first two. Then, I blocked in the big forms and shadows in Burnt Umber. By “drawing with the shadows” I was able to judge the placement of the features quickly and accurately just by judging the shapes and distances of the shadow patterns on her face.
Shadow Colour and Form Block In
First I put down a large area of skin colour in the light area of the face, covering over the drawing lines entirely that were in the light side of the face (but they still show through a bit, and I can wipe it with a rag to see them more if I want to). Then I blocked in the shadow side, and started to describe the larger, overall forms, like the egg shape of the head.
I blocked in a loose background, in a very direct fashion, with my 1” Langnickel brush, and tried not to mess with it. I wasn’t sure if I would leave it like this or work with it more later. I also started to block in the placement of the shirt. I really wanted to keep the painting of the shirt loose and direct, so I didn’t take it too far at this stage. I also blocked in the hair with my Langnickel brushes, mostly just establishing the overall shape of the hair, and making sure that it is not too bright on the right side (the shadow side) or at the edges (so that the hair will turn around the form).
Initially, her face felt too wide to me, but it kept measuring correctly. When I started to darken the edges of both the light and shadow sides, making the sides of the jaw wrap around the form, her face started to feel like it was the right proportions. I continued to define the the face and hair, leaving the background and shirt alone for a while. I worked on the features some more, and the overall form of the face. I described the planes of the forehead, and softened the hairline. This day was focused on making things look like the actual textures, so making the hair, skin and cloth all feel like the textures that they are. At this stage I was thinning my paint a with a bit more linseed oil. I loosely blocked in the shirt, trying to keep in loose and direct, with some thick, impasto whites, to help it stand out from the background. I decided not to change the background much from here, since I liked the way it was working with her shirt. I only painted into it where it was necessary as I was painting the figure next to it, like in areas of the hair and shoulders.