Painting is something that I have loved ever since I was given a paintbrush & canvas at school. I had years of studying art and always looked forward to getting over to my art lessons to sit down and paint. Roll on a few years and I’ve had a bit of a break from the thing I love to do. When I left school, I also left behind the amazing studio spaces and so I laid down my paintbrush for a little while. Until now…
I finally decided at the end of last year that it was time to bring my artwork out of retirement and get painting again, and honestly, I have been absolutely loving it. When I have had a bit of a lull at work, or a bit of free time on a weekend I have been painting on and off – just for the sheer joy of it. And it is so nice to fall back in love with one of my favourite old hobbies.
Today I thought I’d talk you through the process that I go through when I paint, or at least show you in pictures and I hope you really enjoy this behind the scenes look at my processes. Thanks to my lovely friend James for allowing me to paint him, you can learn more about him and our view on creativity in this interview I did with him.
Since my mum introduced me to them, I have been absolutely loving painting on canvas boards. I buy these ones from the Works and not only are they super cheap, they are so easy to store and they come in every size under the sun. I see no downside, and they are actually already primed so you can go straight onto them with your paint. I chose to use acrylic for ease.
Despite the primed nature of the canvas, I decided that I wanted a block colour background for this piece. Of course, it had to be pink. I worked out vaguely where my subject would be on the canvas, and primed more lightly in these areas to save paint and heavily on the areas that would be visible background.
When the prime was dry, I moved on to drawing up the piece in pencil. Anyone who knows me will know that I am not a fan of gridding (dividing up the picture & canvas into scalable segments to help with proportions), but actually the angles of this piece made it quite tricky, so I just went for it. Normally I just like to go freehand, but that isn’t always the best option! What do I draw out? Well I like to draw the outlines and then mark out a few of the lighter/ darker areas, especially on the face. Every painter will do this differently, some will have very few or no lines, whilst others will have lots – it’s personal preference.
Now, onto the main event – the actual painting. I always like to start with the main subject, which is slightly unconventional, but was how we were taught a school. It meant that if we ran out of time in an exam, at least the main feature was done and I have just stayed with the same process.
I started with the neck to allow me a bit of space to get the right colours for the overall skin tone. I always think there are two rules with this shade of skintone. 1. It will be mostly made up of white, 2. For shadows, always use burnt umber – never black. With that said I was ready to get going and you can see exactly how I did so in the (slightly fuzzy) video below…
As you can see, I like to build up the layers of paint and not every stroke is always perfect. I mean I started with some quite peculiar colours, but it is all about patience. When I had finished the neck, I moved onto the face, as this is a similar sort of area to the neck. I then moved onto the eyes, and after this point is the time when the piece always looks the most odd. It is funny how strange people who you are used to seeing with lips, hair and eyebrows can look without them!
Luckily the next stage is to add these exact things, which for eyebrows and moustaches is best done with a fairly small brush. However, for a head of hair I like to block in the main colours with a larger brush and then add texture over the top – that way you don’t end up with bits of the canvas showing through.
Now all that was left to do was block in the shirt and beret, with a few lighter and darker areas to show creases and the movement of the fabric. And voila!
I loved doing this painting, as it was such a nice size and had great variation. This was just an overview of the processes that I go through when I’m painting. If you want any more in-depth tips or tricks do let me know and I will try and do a more detailed post focussing on a few areas of portrait painting.
Do you like to paint?