Portrait painting in black&white oil – PART I

I’m a big fan of the art books by Andrew Loomis. Every time I read “Creative Illustration” I find something new and I often think: “Why didn’t anyone show me this before?”

On page 116 he writes about a painting technique he calls the soft approach. Large tones are painted in directly and edges are softened immediately. After that details are added while the paint is wet.

I have drawn quite a few portraits in pencil and charcoal that turned out well, but I find portraits in color still difficult to do. Taking one step back to black and white paint is a good exercise.

This is the first of three blog posts of the painting in progress.

I started with copying the charcoal underdrawing on Canson Figueras oil paper. This paper has a linen-like surface and can be painted on with oil or acrylic without further preparation.

I made the drawing fairly quick. Looking back I found that it is essential to take the time to make an accurate drawing first. My aim was not to get a perfect likeness, but next time I will be more careful to get the proportions right. I always seem to have problems with the jaw line and had to correct this later on while painting. Checking the drawing in a mirror is something I should do more often.

Another problem came up while fixing the drawing. The paper doesn’t absorb the fixative very well and  the charcoal started running. I quickly laid the drawing on the floor to let it dry. Lesson learned: It’s better to spray on three or more very light coatings than one.

Ready to start painting in the next part!

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