I think that one of the best ways to learn portrait painting is to copy old master paintings. I do this once in a while and this time I put up a picture of John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Henry James on the computer screen next to my easel.
A portrait is a picture in which there is something not quite right about the mouth – John singer sargent
The colors that I used are: Burnt Umber, Ivory Black, Cadmium Red Light, Yellow Ochre and Titanium White.
I started with Burnt Umber to define the shadows and after adding the background I let the under-painting dry until the next day.
Then I mixed a basic skin color of Cadmium Red Light, Yellow Ochre and Titanium White. By making warming and colder variations of this color, I started working from the large shapes of the head to the smaller shapes.
Of course, when you copy a master painting the problems with composition, design, light/dark, hard/soft edges are already solved by the artist. I believe that this is the area where there’s most to learn. The preparation of the painting, before even starting to paint, is most important.
In one of the books by Andrew Loomis, he writes that “creativity lies in the conception and the rest is good carpenter work.” I’m starting to see that more and more. Mixing the colors and painting the final picture is the easy part!
I stopped the painting here, after two painting sessions, maybe I’ll continue refining it in the future. I’m pleased with the overall shape of the head, especially the light on the forehead, but -as always-, the mouth needs some more work!