Portrait Painting Tips
"Here is some detail from the portrait of "Troooper Parkinson of
the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment, Queensland Mounted Infantry".
Accurate portraiture requires a great deal of patience, practice
and patience... and practice.
Here's some of the things I've been trying to do in my effort to
increase my abilities:
1. Get some good books on anatomy and READ them! Then practice
drawing the items described. For example, did you know the 'white'
of a person's eyes is called the Sclera? And that it is seldom
white, but has a yellow hue with pink highlights.
2. Practice mixing paints to get the skin tones right. Here's a
couple of invaluable colours for you:
a. Naples Yellow;
b. Cadmium Yellow Deep;
c. Winsor Red/Crimson Red;
d. Titanium White;
e. Burnt Umber.
3. Have a closer look at skin tones. This subject actually had a
real pinkish hue. Others have a more of a yellow/orange hue.
I cannot recommend underpainting enough when painting on canvas.
What is underpainting?
Well it's a useful tool for a couple of purposes which are listed
1. It takes away the psychological barrier of the blank canvas.
Many artists see a stark white canvas and are afraid of starting.
It's as though the whiteness causes the fear. SO GET RID OF THE
WHITENESS! Use an underpaint to get rid of the white. Once it's
gone, it's so much easer to get stuck into the painting!
2. It gives a good prime to the support. An acrylic underpainting
with some gesso helps to fill in the valleys between the ridges of
the tooth of the canvas. Have a look at the picture at left. Can you
see the roughness of the canvas; the little nodules of stitching?
Well imagine each raised nodule is a ridge and the space between the
ridges are valleys. This roughness is called the 'tooth'. It helps
in holding the paint and is one reason why painting on canvas is so
popular. By coating the support (the thing that you are about to
paint on) with an acrylic gesso, you help to prime the canvas and
get it ready to accept oil paint. If you also mix some acrylic paint
with the gesso and make it coloured, thus creating the underpaint
colour... sort of like an undercoat. By using gesso, you also reduce
the roughness. The gesso fills the valleys if you don't want that
'canvas' look to the painting which many like. Have a look at the
pictures at left and you'll see what I mean.
3. An underpainting helps make colours appear different on the
canvas. This is due to optical mixing. If your paint layers are
thin, then the paint only holds onto the ridges of the tooth and the
valleys (and the colour of the underpaint) will shine through. If
you have a look at any book on colour theory, you'll see what this
can mean to your painting.
Independent Productions and Aviation Services
is the website of Conway Bown, Australian Army Official War Artist and Aviation
Consultant. Services include portrait painting and other portraiture, aviation
services such as CRM - Crew Resource Management - and Helicopter Underwater
Escape Training - HUET - which may include Emergency Breathing Systems - EBS -
training using Helicopter Aircrew Breathing Devices - HABD - or Helicopter
Emergency Egress Device - HEEDs.
During 2006, Conway Bown deployed to the
Middle East as the Australian Army's Official War Artist, what the US Armed
Forces call Combat Artist. This website features the artwork created during this
project as part of the Australian Army's Official Art Scheme.
For more information on War Art, Combat
Artists, Helicopter Underwater Escape Training (HUET), Emergency Breathing
Systems (EBS) or Crew Resource Management (CRM), please visit the relevant
HUET - RHO Aviation
CRM - RHO Aviation
EBS - RHO Aviation
Official War Artist - IPAS.