Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Painting a Portrait - Step by Step

Recently one of my friends asked me to paint a portrait of her children (who are now grown) and she wondered it I would chronicle the steps of the painting in pictures.  I have really enjoyed this little exercise because it forced me to think about the steps I use.  I first "live" with the photo for several days or weeks...I take the subject with me on trips and I study them while I am sitting on the couch reading or watching TV.  I create a plan in my head and try to remember that I am not a realistic portrait artist but I strive for a "likeness" and "personality".  Then I decide how I want to start the background and what underpainting I might use.  (You can see from the photo I was outside on the deck so that the color was correct.  Natural light is my friend.)   Because the photo had some pinkish areas in the background I toned my canvas with a color close to what I wanted to peak through.  Then I drew the image on the canvas trying to establish where the darks would be versus lights.  Next I started laying in the darks and stepping back and trying to establish a pattern that appealed to me.  

I then started on their faces and personalities.

  By the time I finish, I feel like I have a connection to the subjects.  I feel like I know them.  Below you can see the photo and my finished painting.


  1. What a great post. I enjoyed your process and hope I pick up some of your patience. Lovely painting for sure.

  2. Perfect likeness, very well done !