Portrait Study – Paint

Last week I posted about how I transfer a drawing to canvas. This week, paint!

I'm using oils and decided to use a limited palette. Initially I was going to use Ivory Black for the cools but the flesh was looking dead so I added French Ultramarine Blue. Basically I'm using versions of the primaries Red, Yellow, Blue (which can be mixed in many ways) plus White and Black. FYI - Yellow Ochre and Ivory Black mix to make a lovely dull green.

- Titanium White
- Yellow Ochre
- Cadmium Red Light
- Ivory Black
- French Ultramarine Blue

oil painting portrait study lay in by christine mitzuk
Oil painting lay-in.

Here's the lay in. At this stage I use a good amount of odorless mineral spirits. The paint is thinned down to about melted ice cream consistency, maybe milk consistency in some areas.

I try to block in the big shapes, thinking about value first and then color. Going for unity first (the variety will come later). I try to keep in mind where the light source is, and how it hits the planes of the face. If I think about the vertical corridors of value groupings, I'm better able to keep the planes and shapes in their families of value.

But that variety of color is oh so tempting. I keep having to remind myself, "No no. I must stick to value and local color."


Portrait head study by Christine Mitzuk done in oil paint
Day 2 of painting the portrait in oils. More paint, less solvent.

Here's the next day. Still kind of at lay in stage. I use less solvent (odorless mineral spirits) and more paint. Still thinking about shape, value, color. Still trying to go for unity and building up a body of paint. I try to keep in mind the answers to "where is my lightest light, my darkest dark?" and "where are my most intense red, blue, yellow and how intense are they, really?"

It's like I'm taking notes, marking where I see certain values or colors. Still pretty rough looking.

As I move through the process with this study, there are some things I'm going to change. The ear is too big and isn't sitting back visually with the rest of that side of the head. So either the ear value needs to go darker, or the cheek value needs to lighten up. Plus I still have some value wrangling to do elsewhere (the corridors of value aren't unified). There are 8 weeks left to the class so I'm not short on time.

I think next class I'll just dive in and try to paint more from gut reaction. We'll see how that goes.