The art of portrait painting in oil colours
This informative book on portrait painting has been preserved for generations and fully deserves to to be available to all portrait artists online. While the art of portraiture has moved on, much of what was written is still valid and relevant to the modern day portrait painter.
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METHOD OF PAINTING A PLAIN BACKGROUND
It may be well to commence by laying the darker portions of the ground. This may be done with Black and Burnt Sienna, or any other darker tint, as the tone of the ground is intended to incline either to warm or cold. The colour should be driven sparingly, since this will enable the student to work into it with greater facility. Having laid the darkest portions, let him meet them with some sympathizing tint that will maintain the proposed character of the background, and then proceed to the lightest parts-those, it may be, which are cut by the drawing of the head. The lightest part of the background, wherever it may be determined, supplies the key-note to all the rest, and may be laid somewhat lighter than intended to be when finished. From this point the tints graduate to the shade tones, which the intermediate degrees may approach, with a touch slightly clouded, to avoid any tendency to poverty and hardness.
If any change in tint or tone be necessary, it may be effected by glazing the faulty passage with a thin tint, warm or cold as it may be, and working into the glaze with a lighter or darker tone, according to the necessity of the case. When this ground is dry, it will derive depth from being glazed with suitable tints composed of Black, Madder, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Cobalt, Umber, etc., in combinations of two or three together.
The colour of a plain background may be agreeably broken and varied. It may contain, with good effect, clouded masses represented by tints different in colour, but harmoniously blended. The place of such shadowy and indistinct forms should be as far as possible removed from the head. We frequently see heads admirably relieved by clouded compositions, similar to a dark and tumultuous sky ; but it must be remembered that these forms and their outlines must be so broken and softened as in no wise to interfere with the head. This kind of clouded background may be made out with dark grey tints formed of White, Black, and some of the Reds, forced here and there with French Blue.
A wall of panelling, when forming a background, should be painted at once; and should it be necessary to break it with shade, or to enrich it with reflected colour, this may be done by glazing when it is dry, and painting into the glaze.
We frequently see in genre and historical subjects the accessories so highly finished as to stand out before the figures -that is, to importune the eye to the disadvantage of the figures. It is thus when the composition contains objects that are susceptible of finish, and do justice to it. To elaborate their accessories too highly is a common error with beginners ; it detracts from the importance of the figure.
By treating accessories with breadth and freedom, and massing them judiciously, we obtain an effect at once advantageous to the figure and easily practicable as to finish. When such a result is obtained, there is no difficulty in determining the necessary degree of elaboration ; it is then felt that extreme detail is injurious.
These remarks apply particularly to the nearest foliage, by which a figure may be relieved in a partially open composition. There is no precise definition of leaves, or any natural study of branches ; the masses of leafage are intended to withdraw from the eye, while they throw the figure forward, and with such view they are very freely touched, the most obvious parts being those forms which most studiously contribute to the relief of the figure.
About John Payne
I’ve been a professional portrait artist for the last 12 years but have been painting for a lot longer . I started out by painting nothing but seascapes and still do the odd one from time to time , I then moved onto landscapes and wildlife paintings before I finally decided to concentrate on portraits.
I get commissioned to paint a lot of pets , mainly dogs – but I also get to paint a fair amount of portraits of people.
more about John John Payne