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‘Spring In Fall’ Instruction by master portrait painter

By October 2, 2009June 1st, 2016Portrait Painting Instruction, Portraits

Very Early Stages

The subtle changes that I am working on are difficult to detect in the images that I post because of varying photoshop exposure, color and contrast settings.

I usually try and work the painting up at the same rate but I like to keep the face a little bit ahead, because without a good face the painting will fail. When I begin a session, coffee in hand, music playing soft and low, I say a little prayer, squint down, look carefully at the painting directly and  in the mirror, then ask myself, what bothers me the most?  This is what I usually begin working on. I must  first fix the large problems before I can see the subtle changes that will need to be made later in the work.

Below, the first thing I noticed that needed the most work was the ear. The value was much too light compared with the rest of the face. I decided to start on this area of the face.  Before I touched the ear I began adjusting the values of the area around the ear….the foliage above and to the left, the slate that she rests on, the light behind her head. I worked on the hair, and lightened the cheek….the eye shadow, the nose, and above the lip. I worked on her back, the shoulder, knee and arm, and the top of the dress. At this stage, the work needs more paint, and since I keep my layers thin, I need more layers. Even if Im not changing a value or temperature, I still need to add more paint to the surface.



I have been having thoughts about composition know thing that these decisions need to be made early before a huge time investment is made and it’s too late to turn back. There is a slight tilt to the slate floor that she sits upon, and to the wall on the left. I will almost always make a horizon line straight in the background, and even though this tilt is there in the original image, I question whether it will detract from the finished painting. I decided that it is real and to leave it in. I later had second thoughts. After thinking about it again this morning, I have decided to leave it as it is. It is real and true, and if I decide it must be changed later, I will leave the ballerina alone and only alter the floor and wall line slightly. I dont think this will be too big of a deal to change later if needed (as long as I dont have to rotate the ballerina), and I dont believe I will want to make this change either. I believe it will work the best as it is now,  so I will continue as is.