Portraits - Part 1: Underpainting
Portraits are one of the most enjoyable forms of painting when done right. It is perhaps the discipline of painting that requires the most care, patience, and above all, a keen eye for details; and that is true, whether the painting is done in the classical or modern style.
Because the likeness of the subject is so important, we have to start with a
sharp, accurate drawing. The correct position of the various elements such
as eyes, nose, mouth, ears, etc. become one of the most important things to keep
in mind when starting a portrait. When a painting is started from an
incorrect drawing, it makes the likeness a much more difficult thing to achieve.
Some artists like to start with a detail drawing, while others use a simple—but
accurate—sketch. You have to find out what makes you feel more
comfortable. So, choose a color scheme, and start painting with
indications of color to create volume, and form to create likeness. For our
example we chose the complementary scheme represented below:
So far we have created an underpainting, that is, a general idea of what the painting is going to look like. Please remember what Underpainting is, and what is not. If you need to refresh your mind about this, visit Underpainting before continuing.
Here are a few points to keep in mind when executing the underpainting:
Use lean paint (that is, use a solvent such as turpentine,) while at the same time use more paint on light colors, and less on dark ones.
Work areas that are similar in color and value at the same time. In other words, if you are painting the darkest area of the eye, paint next all the areas throughout the canvas that have similar color. This not only saves time, but affords the artist the ability to finish the underpainting in one session, which is dome while all the paint is wet, thus obtaining a uniform look.
Lean to mix flesh colors that are warm and cold. From previous lessons you know that warm color bring the object closer to the viewer, while cold ones push that area away from the viewer. That is how you create volume with colors that have similar value (darkness or lightness) but are in different planes relative to the viewer (distance.)
Keep your strokes lively and in the adequate direction. Learn from the experts which brushstrokes go in which direction, depending on where they are located on the face. For example, most brushstrokes on a persons forehead are horizontal. Under the corner of the mouth, they generally follow the contour of the lower lip (and by the way, these strokes are colder that the ones on the nose.)
The likeness comes later when the painting is finish. Don't get discouraged if the likeness is not all there yet.
COMING SOON: PART TWO - CONCLUSION
GO TO PORTRAITS PART 2
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