Hello... and pointers please!

So this is my first ever oil painting. I love Mark‘s videos, and I purchased the portrait course. I’m somewhat happy with how it’s coming out, and I haven’t gotten to the detail phase yet. But I just feel it’s kind of, I don’t know, sloppy? How can I improve? I mean I’ve seen some of the posts here from others and wow, many of you are super talented.

I know Mark advises to avoid blending, but I felt I needed some. But I’m not happy with how the blending came out. And again overall the whole thing just feels a little bit sloppy. Suggestions? How can I get it over the finish line? 

Another question. I have purchased other courses, although I like marks the best. But in the others they demonstrate a great deal fine detail. Really getting hyper realistic. Andrew Tischler if you’re curious. I would love to get into that fine detail work but I don’t understand how that works. Maybe I’ve put my paint on too thick, or maybe I need to let it dry a bit but I certainly can’t seem to get through the existing paint to add find detail. Maybe it needs to dry first? I don’t remember that in Marks course.

Still a great course though I and I absolutely love the Geneva paints.

I am an absolute beginner or so be as clear as you can if possible. I would really appreciate feedback.


  • Hi, @emaz. Welcome to the forum.

    For an absolute beginner this is really very good. The eyes are great. Mark recommends leaving blending (if you have to do any) right until the end. That means you need to use his paint or a paint with slow dry medium so you get a long open time. 

     I look forward to seeing this again when you finish it.  :)
  • I am using his paint, and it’s fantastic. I had a hard time avoiding blending even though he recommended not to. I wonder if it’s because I didn’t do enough steps. Maybe I need smaller steps. Nevertheless the course doesn’t go over blending too much. And that’s where I’m having a little trouble.
  • emaz

    Welcome to the Forum.

    Looking good.

    As a WIP you will probably have these points in mind.

    Paint some dark values in small patches in the light hair.

    Eyebrows need some texture and tonal variation.

    Edges of hair, cheek, neck and lips need softening.

    Facial high tone could be slightly warmer.

    Nostrils are asymmetrical.

    Lips are asymmetrical.

    Eyes need tear ducts.



  • Yeah the detail and variation in eyebrows and hair is one place I’m having trouble. I think I’ve put on the paint a little too thick and so I’m having a hard time getting detail on top of the existing paint. Any suggestions for that? There are a number of places I would like to fine-tune it but it’s difficult with wet paint.

    The slight asymmetry in the lips and nostrils are kind of from the reference photo. Although she’s a beautiful actress so she can’t be that asymmetrical so I’ve probably missed by a little bit. It’s amazing how a tiny amount can make a difference. I thought I had it measured out perfectly. I suppose that’s part of the process? That tiny fine-tuning?

    Thanks for the pointers! Now if I could just figure out how to get some detail onto the wet paint LOL
  • emaz

    Paint wet on wet with increasingly thinner and oilier paint.
    Lightly oil and towel off your brush before picking up paint.


  • A few suggestions:

    Watch the mix/paint part of the video end to end every week (or more often even). I believe you paint with your brain and Mark is very repetitive which helps with brain washing. (Kidding.. kind of)

    Use only a #2 hog filbert. Don’t do any details smaller than what you can do with that one brush. At least for you first few paintings. 

    Paint slightly “fat” meaning paint a touch beyond where a color passage ends. Then paint the adjacent passage into it to create a small wet overlap. The stiffness of the hog bristles will create a enough blend to soften the edge slightly. 

    Only evaluate the painting from a distance. When you’re at working distance, keep a technical - not aesthetic - mindset. You’ll find that blending and fine detail do not improve the realism. I found that surprising myself. 

    Last, try your very hardest to paint around details — don’t try to put details on top of wet paint. Don’t let it dry either. If a detail or step is missing, swab off the paint with a q-tip, apply the detail to the clean dry canvas and then paint around it. The goal is to touch the canvas once.  Up close it should look slap dash. 

    Very nice start to your painting. 
  • One last comment... beautiful faces are much more difficult than faces that are not classically beautiful. Your brain will resist making all the ugly marks that are required to make a beautiful painting. 

    Paint an old ugly guy (like me) next. You’ll feel liberated. 
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