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Painting Portraits 

by M Elliott 
30 years ago I started painting portraits capturing the subtle skin tones in the best way I could. There's more to painting skin than people think, it's not just an all over tone in the face, you have lots of reflective shadows of different coloured lights and shades in the skin pigments according to one's background environment. 
Quiet Thoughts (oil on canvas) 
Dance Lesson (oil on canvas) 
James (oil on canvas) 
The Tiger 
(pen and ink watercolour) 
Lady of the Night (oil on canvas) 
Sketch your design outline using the grid system 
The Completed Painting 
Painting your Portrait  
using quick drying oil paints on canvas 
Once you've decided on your subject, it's important before to start your portrait, in your minds eye, work out the composition, you don't always need to use the rule of thirds, similar to the Golden Ratio. The geometric perspective dimensional symmetry within your design is important so you lead the onlooker into your design, if you're good at drawing you can sketch your outline roughly in pencil on your canvas, however if you're not good at drawing, it might be helpful to use the grid system to line everything up so your composition looks pleasing to the eye, and if you are working from a photograph it's best to photocopy your chosen image so you don't spoil your original; then draw your grid-lines on your photocopy, this will give you an accurate way to copy your design onto your canvas where you've already drawn your grid lines, scaling it up from the smaller photocopy image. 
Once this process is completed, I prefer to use fast drying oil based paints, a good make to use is Winsor & Newton, Griffin ALKYD. They're fabulous to achieve smooth skin tones. They're also good in that you will have to build your design up in layers, starting off in monochrome. It's important to let each layer of this process to completely dry before painting your next layer, this is why fast drying paints are good to use, otherwise you could be waiting ages inbtween each different layer to dry when all you want to do is carry on painting your design. Don't worry if you make a mistake when painting, just wait for it to dry before painting over it to correct it. 
You do require a little artistic flair when you build up your painting in stages, be careful how you mix your colours, look precisely at the area in your photograph at the region of colours you are working on and mix these colours accordingly. Mainly you just require a keen eye for detail. This is not a free flowing artistic process, it's more about copying your design exactly how it is. It's good practice when you are learning, once you possess the ability to paint an object to look like a photograph then it's time to experiment with your natural artistic Impressionistic styles, sometimes you'll be surprised at the result, sometimes it may not work out but occasionally you'll find you create a master piece, they call it in the art world a happy accident. 
Daniella (oil on canvas) 
In memory of Harry (oil on canvas) 
Charlotte (oil on canvas) 
The Horse (oil on canvas) 
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