Oil Portrait Homework

I decided to block in the light side of the face at home. I hope I didn’t mess things up too badly by ‘rushing’ things, but I did refer to my notes from last semester. I had some notes in my notebook but also it was nice having the blog to refer to! Keep a blog! My two worries are that I corrected a bunch of stuff at this stage last semester, and this time I’m just working off the drawing; and also I’m hoping my technique is correct, as I’ve only done this once and my first time was rough… Anyway, here’s the initial blocking:

Then I smooth over the transitions to remove any hard edges. I took a pic partway through this step so you can see how it softens the edges.

And the completed blocking of dark and light masses for the head.

I like it overall. I did shift the center slightly to leave some more space to the right, where he’s looking off into the distance. Not sure if that’s good composition, but I like it 🙂 So Wednesday I’ll be ready to start putting in local color! This weekend’s homework moved me from one week behind to one week ahead! Next big challenge is remembering how to mix flesh tones from primaries…

Oil Portrait Homework

After work I hit my temporary basement studio and worked on the portrait. I had painted on a classic ground of burnt umber and burnt sienna previously. Tonight I transferred the drawing over by rubbing the back with charcoal and using a point to transfer the lines to the canvas.

Then I began painting the lines in with a thinned raw umber. One some lines are down, I go back and soften them to try to remove any hard edges that may interfere with later layers. This is still a tough thing for my to pull off, so it gets messy! I left some freshly painted hard lines so you could see the difference.

Once I had all the outlines in and softened, I block in the shadow masses. Another softening pass, and then a smoothing pass, removing any texture from the shadow masses.


It was difficult getting a pic of that last step without glare, so I stepped outside the room and took another, but it ended up smaller. But you can get the idea. Just adding that one value in makes a dramatic difference!

Wednesday Night Oils

So here we go again! I’ve skipped last week’s stuff. The drawing class for the first couple weeks is super rudimentary, important for me but boring to look at 🙂 For the painting class, we have two models and mine didn’t show last week, so I just practiced on the other one. However, this week he was present and I got in a decent session.


Once again have to reiterate how great the instructor is, and how effective her method of doing a measured geometric drawing is! During a break I snapped a quick WIP pic so you could see something of the process. It starts out very slowly, just building the outer form and getting a feel for the proportions. Slowly building up the measurements and angles until the rough form is in. Then going in and refining things, adding the tiniest bit of detail, mostly to better check the measurements and placement.

Then blocking in the shadow forms and done. Since I was a week behind, I kind of skipped around a bit, but in an informed way, adding a little detail and shadow to help me see some negative spaces (building on some of the still life work I’m doing).

The drawing could use another hour or so of refinement, but I think I’ll go ahead and transfer it to canvas over the weekend and fix anything (the lips for sure) in paint. That way I’ll be ahead of the game a bit, by a half a class over last semester!

Thursday Night Oils

Last class, but what an experience it was! The ending of the beginning, I’ll be taking another portraiture class with this instructor in the summer.

Tonight I tightened up the shadows and the model wore his turquoise t-shirt. He wore it a couple weeks back and a few people had painted it in. We all liked how it looked so asked him to wear it one more time.


Sorry for the dark picture, tough with the glare from the awful lighting in the studio. I’ll get something better for a final update. Now it’s a mad scramble to find a frame tomorrow so I can hang it in the exhibit!

Thursday Night Oils

Fairly productive class, everyone rushing to get close to the finish line. My plan had been to focus on the flesh shadows, but it turns out we got a dispensation to submit work late for the show, as we won’t “finish” until next week (submissions are due Wednesday)…so I had to work the background and clothes to be able to have it dry enough to mount. And it will hang wet, heh.

Had a warm black/brown on the palette for shadows in the clothes, so I went ahead and did the hair as well. A couple shaping issues on the forehead and left ear that I’ll hopefully be able to fix next week in the shadow pass. Probably won’t have time for glazing.


Thursday Night Oils

These classes keep getting shorter! I wanted to finish the nose and lit ear, and more or less accomplished that goal. It ain’t pretty, there was a LOT of color matching that had to happen. Didn’t go too badly, but I never dialed in my warm red mid-tone, so hopefully I can glaze some of that back in! Also had to restructure the brow over the nose, just too much to do in the time left. If I was better at drawing, a lot of the re-adjustment nonsense would go away.


Next week I have to dial in the shadows, that’s going to be a super hectic class. Then the final week I’ll have to mash in the hair, jacket and background. Blah.

Still, my goal was to dip my toe into oil painting and hopefully not completely screw it up. So I’ve got that going for me!

Thursday Night Oils

Tonight was another small focus night (like the previous session with the eyes). This time, it was all about the lips. Way tougher than I thought, and I’m fighting my original drawing a bit now. Apparently working wet into wet is my thing, it’s really quite fun to have five brushes loaded with paint and work an area (six if you count a clean ‘smoothing’ brush).


Next week I imagine I’ll finish up the nose. If I have time, I’ll have a good set of flesh tones on my palette to play with, so I’ll see what the instructor recommends. Speaking of my palette, here is a pic I took before cleaning up:


Mostly working from the right side of the palette.

Thursday Night Oils

Ok, so I love oils. Wet in wet blending is creamy and awesome. This class was difficult but I got a lot done! I made sure to be well-rested and formulated a game plan, that I would spend the last half hour setting up rougher work that I could blend out or refine after the model left. So I stayed a half hour late and did that, and it helped a lot.

Of course, I forgot my gameplan when I started mixing paints, hah. But I was able to whip out all my basic mixes and start painting within the first hour, so starting from scratch every time is building my mixing skills for sure. Then I remembered I wanted to focus on the eyes when the instructor told me to choose one area to focus on this evening. So I painted ze eyeballs up (h/t to Ben Komet’s shield maiden tutorial in the back of my mind!). Then I restructured the area around the eye to start finalizing the structure and get in some more accurate hues and tones. Lots of fiddling and back and forth, but the wet in wet blending was really quite zen-like. Also did a quick blend on the highlighted cheek, the unblended transition I left there last week was bothering me 🙂


Only 4 more sessions (skipping next week for school break). Ye gods, I’ll never finish!

Thursday Night Oils

Tonight was going to be working more highlights, but after a lot of time spent mixing I decided to work on the tonality and hue of the lower light sections. The chin is probably the best result, the left eye the worst (didn’t have time to blend it or the right cheek back in). Always a matter of readjusting constantly, and when the class ends…welp, that’s it for this week!

Still happy with the direction things are moving and surprised it’s not wretched, as usual.


So worth it just for the experience mixing paint and improving my ability to analyze color. It continually walks the line between frustrating and rewarding, which is a perfect place to be while learning.

Thursday Night Oils Class

Tonight I began first painting, just roughing some skin tones in both light and shadow. This is…extremely tough. Just mixing paint alone is tough, then matching it to the model, then getting the placement right…sheesh. And the whole time trying to keep improving the forms so I don’t lose the drawing. I must be a masochist.

Some great eye training, though. Finally starting (just starting!) to see some more advanced color, it’s pretty awesome the first time you can start to see where shadows cool off or mid-tones warm up. Though I hadn’t intended on focusing on color (or painting) until I had my drawing chops developed, this class is so rewarding (did I mention tough!?).


As usual, the end of the class comes too soon, while I’m in the middle of adjusting various things. The end of the nose, the lips, adjustments all over the place! The instructor was giving me a quick lesson in restructuring the right eye when class ended, so it’s pretty harsh right now. I had already adjusted the values to be a lot better than last week, but she showed me how to tighten it up even further and focus on setting the dimensions of the socket properly. Good stuff, could’ve been there for hours more.