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Finding a portrait style - hi from England

So, at 75. I've been painting for about 5 years or so after watching Mark's videos. I've finished six portraits including this first image, however, the others I guess were 'tight' (see example below of my younger brother wearing the baseball hat) and, like so many folk I read about, I've wanted to develop a more expressive, looser style. I tried this with the burnt umber/burnt sienna 'sketch' below of my son which was done quickly and which I enjoyed. I love portraiture more than the other classic subjects so want to focus on them and I have some - very personal - 'projects' in mind. I've found that it's so tempting to tighten/blend when you are inexperienced but I just feel it would be a progressive step if I could move towards a looser style that involved making 'correct' marks and leaving them alone! The 'sketch' of my son was actually done as preparation for a larger painting that I've previously posted. Does anyone have any thoughts on this (I know it's a big subject!)? 


  • @Coach_T01
    Here is what I suggest:  
    if you focus on laying in your values,
    paint what you see (not what you “think” you see),
    don’t blend a stroke,
    and step back from the canvas often then you will see realism develop and the lose brush work will be present.
    Maybe give that a go and see if it improves your paintings. I hope that makes sense and helps. 😎
  • I like the monochrome study of your son and the portrait of the chap in the baseball cap. They both have soul.

    In terms of loosening up, I think you pointed out the best approach yourself, @Coach_T01. It's about "making 'correct' marks and leaving them alone" so that the brushwork plays a part in enlivening the painting. It means getting values right and placing marks of the right shape in just the right place. That's hard to do and takes a lot of practice. It's what distinguishes Sargents portrature, for example. No lines, just brush marks.  :) 
  • thanks jward and tassieguy - love "no lines just brush marks" tassieguy, brilliant. There's no doubt I'm a slave to line I think, because I'm always working from photos and want to be "accurate." I find myself wanting to do 'more' than just get proportions correct. Thank you also for your generous comments about my paintings especially as I've seen some of your fantastic work. And, jward, I must 'step back from the painting' more - currently if I'm an arm's length away making strokes I think I'm living my best artists' life !!!  =)My workspace is a converted garage so there's plenty of room to get away from the canvas. Thank you. 
  • Beautiful work! Some advice I have been given recently when working on portraits, is to try and stop focussing so much on the subject as a person and look more at reading it as just shapes and shadows. Personally, a struggle that I definitely have is that I can get too worried about making my work look like the subject. That can interfere with the success and feel of the painting for sure! (making things tighter). It might help you to loosen up by approaching a portrait with that mindset. I am definitely trying to keep it more in mind for my next work! 
  • @Coach_T01

    Drawing is what you are talking about I think. When you are drawing directly like you shown start with contours and gestures. Start on a white or lightly stained canvas. Be aware of large shapes but don't address them right away. Scale and proportion is what to capture on the drawing stage. Angles. Volumes. Proportions. !00%. accurate no. But in the ball park... pardon the pun.

    Block in a stain of color value shapes. Just a stain looking for no more than a dark midtown where appropriate.

    Redraw. Correcting for what has been revealed to you in the previous step. Paint. Loose the drawing a bit. Redraw and correct and paint. Making sure to consider volume. Continue painting in this manner to the finish.

    Have you colors worked out ahead of time. Not mixed but recipes cooked and tested.

    Another approach!

    If to draw the portrait with paper and pencil to accurate scale proportion and likeness. Contour the drawing to layout color value shapes. Transfer the drawing to the surface. There are many methods to do this. From carbon transfer to overhead projection. You will have all the painting laid out for you. It then becomes a color mixing process. 
    This is closer to Marks video process than the first I've outlined.

    When you're looking for confidence I''d start by getting Mark's excellent video. An excellent Portrait painting video for $100 on the web site
  • wow! thank you Allie, Denis and KingstonFineArt for going above and beyond and being so, so helpful. I'm going to start 'simple' and practice this technique first on, say, a single pear in light with some other object close to it so I cover all the aspects of value, shadow colours/shapes, mindset (thanks Allie) etc., without any thought to produce a masterpiece (!) I'll post the result/s no matter how they turn out  ;)
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