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Portrait Painting in Oil: 10 Step by Step Guides from Old Masters: Learn to Paint Portraits via Detailed Oil Painting Demonstrations

Portrait Painting in Oil: 10 Step by Step Guides from Old Masters: Learn to Paint Portraits via Detailed Oil Painting Demonstrations

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Portrait Painting in Oil: 10 Step by Step Guides from Old Masters: Learn to Paint Portraits via Detailed Oil Painting Demonstrations

4.5/5 (3 peringkat)
154 pages
1 hour
Aug 31, 2012


Portraiture would seem an art form reserved for the most intrepid and experienced of artists.

But this oil painting guidebook aims to break down this seemingly exacting subject matter into manageable pieces.

Within you will find step-by-step instructions on completing 10 old master portraits in oil. Leaving no stone unturned, portrait painting would seem more possible.

Each demonstration comprises an overview of a particular oil painting technique to be explored, in-depth step-by-step instructions and (on average) 16 images in progress.

The old masters featured include Botticelli, Delacroix, Gauguin, Velazquez, Wright of Derby, Jacques-Louis David, Rossetti and Vermeer. An additional demonstration features a modern-day portrait.

Subjects of various ages, sexes and ethnicity help the developing portraitist get to grips with portraying most skin types in painting.

As well as these demonstrations, preliminary sections offer guidance on the art materials required, preparing for oil painting and a personal view of portrait painting. At the back of this book can be found remedial techniques for portraiture, a troubleshooting guide and a glossary.

These features make this book an invaluable guide for the beginner as well as the developing portraitist.

My other book 'Skin Tones in Oil: 10 Step by Step Guides from Old Masters' similarly outlines demos on painting portraits, and also figures. Source material include Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Caravaggio.

A troubleshooting guide for portraitists 'Why do My Skin Tones Look Lifeless Plus 25 Solutions to other Portrait Painting Peeves' might also be of interest.

Book’s statistics: Approximately 26,500 words and 218 colour images.

Aug 31, 2012

Tentang penulis

I have practiced oil painting from the age of six and have since been involved in countless projects and commissions. A graduate from Kingston University, Surrey and with a PCET teaching qualification from Warwick University, I have won competitions, taught life drawing and have written several books and many articles on oil painting and teaching art.

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  • Lay the initial paint layer thinly; adding thicker paint once assured the colours sit correctly together.

  • Stand back frequently to get an overall view of the painting.

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Portrait Painting in Oil - Rachel Shirley

Oil Painting Medic

Portrait Painting in Oil

10 Step by Step Guides from Old Masters

Learn to Paint Portraits via Detailed Oil Painting Demonstrations

Rachel Shirley BA Hons

First Published in 2012 by Rachel Shirley

Text, photographs and illustrations copyright Rachel Shirley 2012

All rights reserved ISBN: 9781476096094 Smashwords Edition License Note This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. Text, photographs and illustrations copyright Rachel Shirley 2012

All rights reserved

Read more about this book on My Oil Painting Medic blog

With special thanks to Lorraine and Olivia



The Old Masters

Preparing for Portrait Painting

A Personal View of Portrait Painting

Chapter 1: David’s Oath of the Horatii: Scumbling Technique

Chapter 2: Botticelli’s Mars: Glazing with Four Colours

Chapter 3: Rossetti’s the Beloved: Dark Skin Tones

Chapter 4: Velazquez’s Waterseller of Seville: Alla Prima

Chapter 5: Rossetti’s Helen of Troy: Translucent Washes

Chapter 6: Vermeer’s Pearl Earring: Linseed Oil on Canvas

Chapter 7: Velazquez’s Rokeby Venus: Opposing Colours

Chapter 8: Wright’s Experiment with an Airpump: Dark to Light

Chapter 9: Gauguin’s Tahitian Woman: Using Canvasboard

Chapter 10: Delacroix’s Self Portrait: Palette Knife Application

Chapter 11: Olivia’s Look: A Contemporary Portrait

Chapter 12: Remedial Techniques for Portraiture

What Went Wrong?


Other books by the author


Portraiture is often perceived to be an art form reserved for the most intrepid and experienced of artists. But every artist has to start somewhere, which begs the question, how such a transition into portraiture can be made?

This book describes in depth with step by step images how to complete a portrait painting. Each demonstration features an old master. I have selected each painting with a particular oil painting technique in mind. You will find pale skin expressed through delicate washes; dark skin expressed through heavy tones; chiselled features from a palette knife and statuesque forms in thin glazes.

Different skin types of various ages, sex and ethnicity can be found within, offering some guidance for the developing portraitist on creating the desired effects for most subjects.

Ten old master demonstrations can be found in total, plus an extra demonstration at the back of this book on completing a modern-day portrait. The beginner (as well as the developing portraitist) may explore flesh tones through demonstrations 1 and 7 in order to get to grips with mixing skin colours without worrying about challenging facial features such as eyes; demonstration 12 and the section, What Went Wrong? offer further guidance on portraiture.

Each demonstration presents an overview of the technique explored and a list of the art materials needed to complete the portrait. This is followed by on average 16 step by step images with corresponding in depth instruction. Tips can be found along the way.

You will notice I have not copied each old master faithfully, but have cropped various elements, changed the background and the colour of certain garments. The most crucial aspect, the portrait itself remains mostly unchanged. The following pages informs on the old masters worked from. The area that falls within the white square of each painting forms the compositions within this book.

Preliminary sections inform on the art materials required to complete the portraits. As can be seen, the portraitist does not need bulky easels, mahl sticks or a studio to produce these portraits (but may do so if preferred). I use a mere dozen or so oil pigments, several brush types and basic art mediums. I will often prepare my own art surfaces at minimal cost and inconvenience.

I have also provided a section on my personal findings of portraiture gleaned from my many years of completing commissions. This may help to offer some insight into the nature of portrait painting for the beginner before embarking upon the demonstrations.

A troubleshooting guide within the final section of this book helps to unravel the underlying cause as to why a painting did not work out, offering advice on practices that might help in the future. Step by step guides on remedial techniques are explained. A glossary can also be found at the back.

Projects may be completed in any order, but some may challenge more than others. The aim is not a painting that accurately depicts the old master, but a learning process. Each project will inform on an aspect of portraiture that may need development. Fortunately, oils are a forgiving medium – if something does not work out, the paint can be worked over once dry.

My other book, Skin Tones in Oil: 10 Step by Step Guides from Old Masters similarly explores portraiture, but also the figure. More oil painting techniques are explored via the source material of artists including Caravaggio, Da Vinci, Michelangelo and others.

The Old Masters

1 Oath of the Horatii (1784) Jacques-Louis David: The Louvre, Paris

2 Venus and Mars (1483) Sandro Botticelli: National Gallery, London

3 The Beloved (1856) Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Tate Gallery, London

4 The Waterseller of Seville (1620) Diego Rodriguez de Silva Y Velazquez: Wellington Museum, London

5 Helen of Troy (1863) Dante Gabriel Rossetti: Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany

6 The Pearl Earring (1665) Johannes Vermeer: Mauritshuis, The Hague

7 The Rokeby Venus (1648) Diego Rodriguez de Silva Y Velazquez: National Gallery, London

8 An Experiment on a Bird in the Aripump (1767) Joseph Wright of Derby: National Gallery, London

9 Tahitian Girl with a Flower (1891) Paul Gauguin: Ny Carlsbergy, Glyptoteck, Copenhagen

10 Self Portrait (1837) Eugene Delacroix: The Louvre, Paris

Preparing for Portrait Painting

As mentioned in the introduction, an array of art materials is not required to produce the portrait paintings within this book. I don’t allocate a separate room or studio, but a corner of a room. I store my art materials within a tool box where it can be ensconced beneath a table or corner.

The painting can be placed on a table-easel or even clipped against a backing-board and supported against the table edge. I used an old lectern.

Keeping Oil Painting Clean

Oil painting need not be smelly or messy. I use odourless artist spirits; water-soluble oils such as Artisan can be mixed with water instead of spirits. (I never use turps or such industrial spirits as they emit powerful odours and cause premature wear to the brushes).

Oil painting can be kept clean by stretching Clingfilm (or similar clear plastic) over a piece of hardboard via bulldog clips. Once the palette has been finished with, simply fold the Clingfilm inwards for disposal. To guard against paint splashes, I use an old tablecloth or rag on which to rest my paints.

Brush Care

Rather than swill brushes in spirits at the end of the session, I will massage the bristles against a bar of soap (reserved for this purpose) and run under a hot tap. Once clean, coat with a little Vaseline and store pointing upwards in a jar. This will lengthen the life of sables and save money on buying new ones. The best sables are essential for portrait painting, but for larger areas and impasto, I will use stiff bristles brushes that can be purchased cheaply in DIY stores.

Art Surfaces for Portraiture

Most of the paintings completed within this book have been applied onto self-prepared panels or shop-brought stretched canvases. Preparing your own surfaces is simple, saves money and offers more flexibility for the artist. I simply cut a piece of hardboard (or MDF), sand lightly and then apply two coats of acrylic gesso primer (available from art shops) with a wide brush. The primer is water-soluble yet dries water resistant – the ideal ‘ground’ for oil painting. The good thing about painting on panel is that a great deal of detail can be expressed. Canvas creates pleasing granular effects, but its texture

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