Page content Techniques Click here to see long tutorial videos. There are many ways to paint a portrait. Everyone has their own method, and different painting techniques for kids are valid.
There has always been discussion about whether a portrait has to be made from real life or from photography. I encourage observational study as much as possible. In my opinion, good drawing skills and knowledge of anatomy, are of the utmost importance. Here I will explain how I work when I work from photography. Painting a portrait from photography has advantages and disadvantages. One of the major pitfalls is the danger of paying to much attention to the details. Likeness does not depend on the details but on large volumes.
You know perfectly well who is who, although the faces are no bigger than a quarter of an inch. Often too much detail has a devastating effect on a portrait. Keep it simple and be bold with what you say. The first image shows several copies of the face around my canvas on my easel. The two large photos are the same size as the portrait on the canvas. The left is slightly unfocused to avoid distraction from details.
Using this photo I see the simple shapes more clearly. I have printed the smaller pictures in a lighter and a darker version. On the easel is the stretched canvas. I’ve transferred the image by using a grid distribution on the photo as well as on the canvas. The black graphite of a normal pencil will always shows through all layers of oil paint.
Here I fixed the drawing with a very thin layer of shellac. Sometimes I apply a thin coating of an alkyd medium. On top, in acrylic I paint an underpainting in raw sienna. The actual painting of the portrait is about to begin. I start the day early by setting up my palette, which is done with great care.