The art of portrait painting in oil colours

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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We here suppose that the work is yet short of the brilliancy and force which it should receive from the process of finishing If any marks of the brush appear that may in any wise blemish the surface, they may be removed, as already recommended, by a knife.

It is not necessary to oil out in the finishing painting, as the picture should only require to be partially touched upon ; but the colours will work more kindly if the sponge, moistened with water, be passed over the surface.

If the natural complexion afford strong and florid hues, such as are seen in the masculine subject, the mask may be glazed with the tint compounded of Rose Madder, Raw Sienna, and White. But if the sitter be a lady or child, this glaze must be omitted ; indeed, even in painting the head of a man, unless in skilful hands, it frequently leaves, here and there, hot and foxy passages.

It must never be forgotten that the great beauty of finishing is transparency, in order to obtain which the colours must be, as it were, held in suspension over the second painting. With this view, therefore, somewhat more of vehicle must be used than has hitherto been necessary. To all the higher lights the brush should be applied well charged with colour, but as we depart from these, the retiring tones must be laid on still with a view to transparency, which may be obtained here, not so much by the addition of vehicle as by driving the colour sparingly.

It will be advantageous to proceed with a quick and decided touch, which leaves the colour pure and preserves the preceding tints unmixed, although wet; and in working upon the different parts of the picture, it will be well to employ a sable pencil for those details in which great nicety is required, as in the eyes and mouth.

In painting carnation tints, the colour should be used as free from mixture with White as possible. Should gradation be required, it will be preferable to work into the colour some lighter tint, whereby gradation and variety may be obtained.

The lines of all the features should be softened into the gradation by which the features are relieved, with the action of the brush sweeping beyond their respective limits, so that the relieving shade may be seen through the colour carried over the line. The transitions from light to shade should be softened, so as to preserve the separation of each tone.

If high finish be desired, it will be necessary to retouch the mask several times, letting the work dry between each operation. The result of this elaboration will be great purity and brilliancy.

We now suppose that the head has been sufficiently considered-that is to say, that all has been done to work out a satisfactory portrait. Sometimes artists require many sittings for the completion of a portrait; others ask only a few; but whether the sittings be few or many, the manner of conducting the work is much the same. We have proposed, both for the second and third painting, processes which, according to the character of the model or the proficiency of the painter, may require one or many sittings.

At the commencement of the third painting the student is presumed to have found his work sufficiently perfect in resemblance with regard to the modelling of the features. The complexion had to be brought forward to the strength of nature, the lights heightened, and the shades deepened ; all of which it is supposed has been done.


About John Payne

Pet Portraits     Art for sale - oil paintings

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       




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