Realistic Oil Portrait Painting Techniques • Classes & Workshops • Painting Lifelike Skintones



Kirsten: Portrait Demo from Life • Two Week Portrait Painting Workshop • Las Vegas, NV July, 2005

I'm posting this particular demo because this is the farthest I been able to evolve a demonstration painting. I thought it would be helpful for my students to have this as a reference. I still don't consider this demo to be a finished painting, according to my standards for commissioned portraiture. I offer it a good example of how my paintings evolve. My process is about developing a painting organically and not about being constricted by coloring in a tight drawing. I'm constantly adjusting the drawing, the color, the values, the transitions and the edges. I find as time goes by I get faster. This I attribute, in no small part, to my palette arrangement and my increasing mental clarity.

I documented the progress of my painting by shooting a photo during each of Kirsten's breaks. Those attending my workshop watched the progress first hand, including my stroke by stroke explanation of the purpose for my every action. You can find more information about my classes and workshops on my teaching page or please feel free to contact me directly with any questions. To see the kind of results my students experience, please view examples of student portraits and figure paintings as well as some artwork from portrait painting workshop students. You can also read some feedback from my students.

A two week workshop gives me the opportunity to spend five days demonstrating. Obviously, this enables me to bring the painting farther along than I can during a one week workshop. Regardless of the length of the workshop, however, I still break my painting process down into three basic parts: underpainting, lay-in and refinement. Rather than address everything at once, my logical and considered methodology allows for the development of the painting based on the soundness of the preceding step. I teach my students to develop strengths and build on those.

On day one I demonstrate my underpainting technique, called a wash-in, sometimes referred to as an imprimatora. This important first step establishes the composition, the drawing, the value patterns, edges and lighting effect. I'm sure you've noticed a big change in the drawing between panels #1 and #2. I had spent the three hour morning session explaining the technique of the underpainting and demonstrating how to accurately measure and place the drawing. During the lunch break we discovered a scheduling conflict which necessitated the switch a new model. I thought I would have had the three hour afternoon session to develop the values. By the time the second model, Kirsten, arrived, I wound up having to do my entire wash-in, from start to finish, in about two hours. You'll notice that although the shapes changed with a new model, my thinking regarding the drawing remained the same, since the light remained in the same position.

On the second day of demonstrating (Step #9), I laid in the color, working from large to small, and began to address the turning of the form. On day three, I began to consider the more subtle aspects of form and color and how to unify the painting. Hopefully you can see the remarkable difference between steps #19, the last stage of my lay-in, and #20, where I've applied my initial scumble. I then painted into the wet scumble, looking to refine the smaller aspects while maintaining the "big look." On days four and five I repeated the steps of day three, starting with a scumble, but I focused on continually subtler and smaller aspects. As the painting continued to come together, I focused my awareness on color nuances and enhancing the feeling of depth, light and atmosphere.



The above image, which was photographed in color balanced light, is more accurate color and value wise than the images below which were shot in the classroom under fluorescent light.

Click here for additional examples of one and two week workshop step by step oil painting demonstrations.

1 - First Day: Wash-in Underpainting

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9 - Second Day: Color Lay-in

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20 - Third Day: Scumble & Refine

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- Fourth Day: Continue to Scumble & Refine
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39 - Fifth Day: Further Scumble & Refine

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