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Commission Portrait Oil Painting – Building On Foundation

Im working with about four shades of red on the dress. I’m using Alizarin Crimson, Crimson Lake, Red Violet by Mussini, Cadmium Red Scarlet by Old Holland and Dioxazine Purple by Gamblin, with a little titanium white in the highlights. The scarf is getting some Camium orange and white mixed with my favorite brown…..Rembrandt transparent oxide brown.


I lightened up the arm lit by the window with a bit of white, yellow ochre and umber. I darkened the arm in shadow with terra rosa and umber.

There is no special formula for mixing flesh tones. It all depends on the light and the colors surrounding the flesh. I dont use primary colors when mixing flesh tones, but I do use alot of greyed colors ….red, brown, green, yellow, violet, umber, white etc… Getting the right flesh tone can only be done by feel. Look closely, mix, apply to canvas, adjusting the mix, standing back, squint down. If it’s appears too warm…cool it, as I did in this painting. Just keep adjusting until it looks correct in the context of the work.


After laying in some paint foundation on the face to get the basic skin values, I beging laying in some facial features directly into the wet paint. It’s scary because it doesnt look much like Adriana yet. Can I do it?

As I stand back and gaze at the painting in this early stage, it takes alot of faith to believe that I can take the work to the level that it needs to be taken. I desire a near perfect likeness of Adriana, and I would like her to appear very relaxed and at ease…unposed if you will. I would like the figure to appear so real that it looks like a living, breathing person standing in front of me. I also wish the painting to be very beautiful and fresh in the application of paint.

In order to reach this goal, everything has to work out. The composition needs to be excellent. I think the unequal  negative space and the angles and lines in her pose will work to that end. The cool greyed green background compliments her red dress and scarf well. Her direct gaze will be a challenge but if I succeed, I believe it will be a very intimate compelling portrait.

For the painting to be live up to my expectations, and read right, the values, color temperatures, proportions and edges must be correct; the paint must be applied in a beautiful way, and the painting must maintain a loose and fresh quality until the end.

We have a lot of work to do so let’s keep the faith, keep the focus, and move on.