Tuesday 1 September 2015

Portraits : One Two Three

 Can you see a face yet?

 I have no idea why I started painting portraits the way that I do . I just did. I was attending art classes in Dubai studying portraiture  in oils. The tutor was a master at his skill and I loved the classes. But the paintings always seemed lifeless to me. Perfect but lifeless.

Hours were spent sketching which has taught me in good stead for observational skills. But once the portraits were sketched onto canvas what followed was a basic form of filling in colour to build up the painting. Perfectly. And yes, there were incredible paintings created with superb likenesses. I spent ages in that class. Taking months to complete each piece. All of which were sadly stolen so I have no portraits to cherish from that time in my art life.

But as I moved to watercolour from oil I wanted something more from my work. And I developed my own way of painting portraits. Now each time I hold workshops I often close a session by painting a face. At first the class watch as a "blob of colour" appears on paper in front of them. Next I look for the light hitting the face. And at this stage my first wash looks a little bit of a mess. 

Like this!


 First wash of a portrait. 
Working without a sketch and just adding colour where I feel it should be.

 This portrait is of an elderly French gentleman that I met on my travels in France. He was sat in a French market watching the world go by and who could blame him on a Summers day with so much colour to enjoy and terrific people passing by.

Next I add just a touch of detail. Not much but enough so that I can recognise the face has features.

This takes it away from being just a colour blob and turns the wash into something more recognisable.


 Now my subject is looking directly at me!

 I now have to be so careful. I don't want to lose the freshness in the piece but I do need to define a few more sections. With my rigger brush I now add the fine lines needed to complete the painting.



I tend to paint these portraits at the end of my working day. Not to sell. But to improve my skills. I set time limits to improve my accuracy and speed at capturing the subject.

This is an enjoyable exercise and fun.

Portraits as easy as one, two  ,three?

Not really as I have been doing this for some time now. But practise does help.

I painted a memorable portrait in front of the workshop class in Tasmania . The organiser watched spellbound and said. " Thats' it.. I'm now convinced you are a witch. No one can produce faces just like that"

Which made me laugh!

Sharing what we know and how we paint is a wonderful gift to possess as an artist.  I am often asked why I do give so much away when I write my blog posts or share online. I can't  fit everything I want to share in my books and I know by the time I have worked through the one I am working on now I may have forgotten to share this demonstration.

So please enjoy it and have fun painting faces. Like me you could become addicted!


There is more on painting portraits in my latest book " Jean Haines World of Watercolour" which includes lots of tips on how to paint them.

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