Process Part One – Painting the Portrait by K.L. Britton Los Angeles Artist

These past two days I’ve been working on a more detailed portrait, so I thought it would be fun to document the process to some extent.  I know I’ve previously written about the drawing I did to prepare for this, and watch as all of my predictions come true (the same problems I had with the drawing, I have with the painting!)

How to Paint Skintones by K.L. Britton Los Angeles artist and teacher

I do an under-drawing first.  You can find several examples of under-drawings farther back in my blog. Then in this case, I wanted to start with huge areas of wet paint to work into.  In this picture, I’ve blocked in only my light areas.

How to Paint Skintones by K.L. Britton Los Angeles artist and teacher

With the shadows blocked in.  Notice that in the first picture, my model looks like he has quite a warm skin tone, but as I add the warm shadows, you can see that the skin is actually on the gray side.

How to Paint Skintones by K.L. Britton Los Angeles artist and teacher

Adding more depth here.  One trouble I run into is that when I do the cool lighting, the shadows should be generally “warm.”  However, often my warmer tones don’t get quite dark enough to really show my form.  Here I’ve utilized mixing my favorite warm shadow colour, burnt sienna, with ivory black, which is a cool black often used to mix blues.  The burnt sienna disappears into the black, however the eye can tell that it’s there and it’s correct.

How to Paint Skintones by K.L. Britton Los Angeles artist and teacher

Last night I started working more closely on the features, starting in with a smaller paintbrush than one I used for my large block ins.  Buy some large paintbrushes for your big areas and use them as long as you can – this helps you get that initial paint on the canvas that you can then paint the details into, and it also helps you break each shape down into the largest, most simple form you can.  Take a look at the eyes I blocked in at the top – those are most definitely not detailed!  However, as I work on this tonight and tomorrow, you will see the progress quite easily and you will see where I add details later.

In this final picture you can see that I moved the neck in a bit too far – this was a problem I also had with the drawing!  Most of the other parts of this painting are correct more or less, because the width of the face was addressed in my drawing and I went out of my way to make sure it was correct on my canvas before putting it down – but apparently I got carried away around the neck.  Take the time to put in your shapes correctly – it’s worth it!

Part two coming soon!

 

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The Lake – Daily Art Tips by K.L. Britton Los Angeles Artist

This weekend was a busy one.  I wanted to get some good outdoor painting in, that’s somewhere you can really learn about the properties of light.  When the sun is rising and setting, it gives a warm, yellow glow.  When this happens, the shadows become much, much cooler.  Think of the way the sunset is – you can see the clouds closest to the setting sun are still lit by it, a bright yellow, and that contrast with the greys, purples, and blues of the shadows of the cloud (as well as any pink turns and highlights) are what give that striking feeling to the sun.

As the day goes on, the sun gets a little less bright yellow/orange.  It’s still a warm light, all sunlight is, but it changes hue during the day.  This is a very great time to work outdoors, during the day when the light is more steady, to get practice painting cool shadows.  Objects and items are almost perfectly their local colour at these times.  All you have to do is cool down the shadows by adding some ultramarine. 😀

If you’ve ever tried to capture a photo of the sunset, you know it’s not the same.  It’s always too light, too dark, too over or undersaturated.  Only when you’re painting outdoors can you really capture those light patterns and the patterns of other natural lighting.

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You can see here how warm the sun is in the beautiful gardens.

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But here you can see, the local colour of the fixture was “grey.”  Instead of making a “warm” grey, I made a cool shadow colour, giving the indication of a warm light by being a relatively cool shadow colour.

In painting relativity is everything.  It’s ok to use a cool colour in a warm light, but make sure your shadow areas are even cooler than that, so the eye will perceive the light areas as “warmer.”  If you think about this in the case of mixing skin tones – you can start with almost any tone that’s the same value as your subject – because your relative and surrounding colours can make it loook relatively cooler, warmer, brighter, etc.  I have done skin tones with white and a touch of cadmium red or alizarin crimson.  I’ve also done just white with orange – as long as the shadows were warmer or cooler based on the light, it came out like skin.

Thank you for reading!

What I do in my Spare Time – Daily Portrait Art Tips by K.L. Britton Los Angeles

Every now and then I get an idea that I want to do a painting that challenges me.  Sometimes it’s a still life, sometimes a figure, sometimes a portrait, and I know it’s going to take a bit longer to get everything in the right place than usual.  One such is this portrait.

When we paint someone or something we know, we tend to fill in the blanks or make guesses based on what we “know” about that person or thing.  For example, I could say I know that this portrait’s eyebrows go at an upward angle with little curve, however when we’re painting or drawing, it’s really essential to let go of all of those pre-conceived notions.  While you may think oranges are round, they’re a series of angles that form a not-perfectly-circular form.

For these kinds of challenges, where I know in advance I will be possibly messing up – I do a sketch.  This isn’t really a “drawing” drawing, it’s more of a quick idea with only as much detail as I need to figure out what challenges I will face when I actually paint.  In this case, I had started the face too wide, the shadows too far from the center of the face.  It’s these kinds of mistakes I would run into when painting, but at that time I may not be able to put my finger on what’s wrong.  Since drawing is the foundation of painting, it’s always best to start with a sketch to check your idea.  Figure out what bothers you before you’ve invested a day into an under-sketch.  Then fix it, and remember to keep an eye on it when painting.  It makes the process much faster!

How to Draw Portraits art tips by contemporary artist K.L. Britton

Here you can see my lay in.  I already corrected the eye on the left that went out too far.

How to Draw Portraits art tips by contemporary artist K.L. Britton

You can see some of the issues have been corrected here – the right (our right, his left!) part of the face has been moved in, the eyes have been corrected, even the nose’s bottom has moved up quite a bit.  All of these are things I’ll look for when I paint.

How to Draw Portraits art tips by contemporary artist K.L. Britton

Here I’ve made several more adjustments.  I’ll probably keep working on this sketch just for fun, but for now, it’s shown me what I need to look out for in the future.

Thank you for reading!