Portraits of Older Children: Week 3

June 30, 2022

Last week’s demonstration started in conte crayon and finished in pastel
Five minute sketches from Week 2

This week’s challenge is to start a portrait painting in colour. The notes below suggest ways of starting a portrait study in pastel and also in acrylic.

1. Pastel

If your chosen medium is pastel you may like to start by drawing in the main shapes quite loosely with charcoal or a pastel stick. Remember to draw the axis of symmetry of the face if working a front view and also a line through the eyes from which you can measure the positions of the other features.

When seen in three quarter view the axis of symmetry through the face will be on a curve. If looking at a profile view look carefully at the position of the ear and take note of the shape of the whole head. Then look at the forehead in relation to the nose and the jawline and chin in relation to the nose. Ask yourself questions like does the chin recede slightly?

As a general principle work the large shapes first before homing in on the smaller ones.

When you are happy with the main shapes start to work in colour. Block in the main areas of shadow with a light touch using the stick on its side for these larger areas. You will define these as the work progresses so don’t apply the pastel too densely at first. Then draw in the mid tones and finally the palest tones and details.

I have talked about tone but your work will be in colour and working out flesh tones in pastel can be challenging. One reason I used conte crayon in white, black and sanguine on toned paper last week is that it is a half way house between working totally in tone and working in colour. With small additions of blue, red and ochre these drawings can depict flesh tones quite convincingly. Experiment with the colours in your box, cross hatching, overlaying (layering) and blending to find suitable colours for your portrait.

You may like to fix the work after the main areas have been drawn and again when the mid-tone colours have been established. When working on the brightest and lightest colours as the portrait nears completion either fix very sparingly or not at all especially if working on a dark toned support.

2. Acrylic

There are several ways of starting to paint a portrait, three of which are outlined below..

1.Under drawing in charcoal developed with transparent and opaque paint.

This is described in a previous post; link below. The example is of a young woman rather than a child but a similar method and palette could be used. I like to work with a relatively limited palette and this will give your work unity.

The following palette makes a good starting point and some mixes made with the colours below is illustrated in the blog post referred to above..

White, Crimson Alizarin, Cadmium Yellow pale, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber. (or similar)

Other primary colours, plus white and a couple of earth colours will also work well. The Burnt Umber was included as it gives excellent darks when combined with ultramarine. With portraits of young people you will need to keep the colours fresh and make smooth transitions of tone and colour over the face.

2. Tone the background then use paint and a brush to draw the basic shape of the head and place the features. Then develop the painting with transparent and opaque paint working from light to dark and on the large shapes first before tackling the smaller areas and detail..

3. Make a detailed monochrome under painting making all the tones a little lighter than as seen. Develop the painting by adding colour as layers of transparent glazes. The palest and brightest areas should be left till last and if necessary executed in opaque paint. This can be knocked back a bit with further glazes where necessary.

For this session we will concentrate on the first way of working. So have at the ready, a board or canvas support, charcoal, some acrylic medium and of course paints, palette, brushes and water pots.

Your paintings;

Pastel by John
Acrylic by Vivienne
Pastel by Liz
Acrylic by Liz
Oil by Virginia

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