Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Portrait Painting in Oil

Portrait Painting in Oil
Part 2 – Painting
Painted by Brian MacNeil

This post is part 2 of a 2-part demonstration. For the drawing segment of this demonstration please see the previous blog. We begin this demonstration with the completed drawing “cartoon” from the previous post.

Transfer the Drawing - A canvas is covered with an imprimatura or “first coat” of thin paint. This can be done in various colors and values depending on the painting that will go on top of it. Here Brian has chosen a raw umber imprimatura that will be a good“beginning stage” generalization of his mid-value lights (halftones). On top of this imprimatura he has transferred the contour lines of his cartoon in paint. Here we can see an added benefit of preparing our drawing in straight-line segments. They are easily transferred to another surface and retain the most essential information we are trying to keep.

Dry Brush Drawing/Impasto in the Lights
– The shadow shape is generally indicated using just a smidge of paint and a limited number of shifts in value. These value shifts are used to draw in some of the shadow forms. The background is darker than the shadow and thus put in more thickly. The lightest portions of the head are put in with varying thicknesses of white paint giving a sense of volume. Thick paint is placed in the lightest/brightest areas and thinner paint is dragged where the lights darken as they turn away. This leaves us with a generally stated value structure for the painting.

Ebauche/Dead Coloring – In this stage the color notes are put in thinly. The shadows generally are warm and the halftones cool. Once the pinkish/red notes are added Brian will have a general color statement for the painting.

First Painting – This is the mosaic-like stage of the painting process. All the essential color and value notes are in, each of the major planes of the head have been broken down with patches that are used to roughly model the small forms.

Second Painting – In this stage Brian refines his portrait. This may be done using varying degrees of blending depending on the esthetic he is going for.  He has put the fabric in with a kind of  smooth transitional feel. In the flesh he has unified the modeling of the small forms but left them rough and flesh-like.


  1. Oil Paintings

    This is really an amazing art, superb painting; great theme.Thank you sharing...