Peer critiques - some useful words

How to do: Portrait Painting in two stages

Stage One - preparation:

The first stage is to choose a good quality colour photograph. Then to enlarge that in black and white on a photocopier or inkjet printer onto an A4 sheet of white paper.  On the copy draw a grid of squares (in this example the squares are 2cm each) and number them along both vertical and a horizontal edges.  Over the area of the face add diagonal lines from the corners of each square to create smaller squares and diagonal lines. See next photo' below. 

Here you can see the numbered main grid of squares and the smaller squares/diagonals over the more complex area of the face. This is to help you to plot the features more accurately and easily - see next image below.  This method is often called called "gridding-up" and is commonly used to manually enlarge images or to transfer drawings onto a surface ready for painting.

Of course you can do this electronically if you have the means - a PC with an A3 printer or a photocopier.

Here you can see the good quality original colour photo' which we will use later when we add the colour. For now we use the black and white copy as our "original" to allow us to enlarge the image using the pencil-drawn grids. We are going to double the size of the image ready for an A3 painting.

To do this, draw a grid on an A3 size sheet where the squares are 2x the size of the A4 squares i.e. 4cm squares. You must have the same number of squares on both the A4 and A3 sheets, and they must be numbered on all sides.  The A3 sheet can be either white or light coloured pastel or white watercolour paper.  More experienced painters could use a dark colour pastel paper to give a ground colour that matches the original and the grid and drawing would be made using a light coloured pencil - white or yellow for example.

Now you can begin plotting (copying) the image from the A4 onto the A3 sheet - see next two images below.

Detail: Here the completed drawing has been enlarged from A4 to A3. You do this by carefully observing where the lines of the pencil-drawn grid cross over the features of the face in the black and white copy. Wherever this happens make a small pencil mark, a dash or a dot, to create an image made up of these marks, then start joining them together to eventually create the line drawing (see image below).  If you are new to this method, take your time.

You will get faster with more experience.  This method avoids having to be too highly skilled in free-hand drawing or worrying about proportion and likeness at this early stage. It can be used on any type of subject.

Stage Two - add the colour:
With our face transferred to the A3 sheet of watercolour paper, we now mask those areas that will either be white or have the lightest colours or highlights at the end f the painting process. This is done by using a small cotton bud dipped in masking fluid and applied to the paper surface. This fluid is latex based and quickly dries to a shiny rubbery mask. It will easily be removed later by gentle rubbing.
We now paint in the ground colour for the face. We will paint the shirt and backgrounds later, once we are happy with the face.  Add a ground using a yellow ochre mixed with water. The long flat brush is good for this stage. The brush should be quite moist but not flooded with water/paint. The paint should easily and smoothly flow off the brush onto the paper without running. The first layer will be a flat colour. It will dry in a few minutes. Then add a second layer of the same colour, a little more paint to water this time. Add this second wash or layer in the darker areas of the face to get a two two tone look. TIP: to speed up drying use an old hair dryer to gently warm the paper. 
Now add further layers of the yellow ochre to add depth and range of tones. In this example we are still using a number 6-8 long flat. You can also add a little burnt umber to the yellow ochre when mixing in the palette to get a slightly darker tone. You can see the light is coming from the left is creating a light-dark contrast on the face. 
Continue building up the tones using more of the burnt umber (brown). Add medium red or cadmium red to the burnt umber for a wider range of tones, mostly on the right of the face. Use a separate piece of watercolour paper to practice your strengths of tone and colours as shown above before you paint on the painting.  Now you can see more clearly where the masking fluid is protecting the white areas. 
Darker tones of the burnt umber mixed with red and yellow ochre are continually added, but using long round brushes, numbers 4 and 8. We now do the hair and the pupils. The white areas with masking fluid look rough but these are still not done until later.
The face is nearly complete but is sufficiently strong for us to start painting the shirt. This is done using a long flat and long round, both number 8s. The blues used are pthalo blue and ultramarine blue.  Build up in light wash layers, adding depth to the tones by successive layers of the same strength of blues i.e. same mixture of paint to water.
Add a few ares of burnt umber washes (thin washes done like this are also called glazes in watercolours) which when layered on top of the dry blue layer will have a grey look. For the darkest areas of blue use a high paint to water mix of pthalo blue mixed with enough burnt umber for it to still look predominantly blue.  Add the background using a wide flat brush (2cm or more in width), the widest you have, with dark blue-grey made by mixing equal amounts of burnt umber to pthalo blue, with a high paint to water ratio. Paint it on in bold strokes. Let each layer dry before adding successive layers until the background is dark enough.
Now, when the painting is dry, use the pad of your index or middle finger and gently rub off all the dry latex masking fluid, as shown above. 
Using a long round brush, number 4 or 6,  add layers of grey (burnt umber mixed with pthalo blue). Then lift out areas to bring back the lightest areas using the brush dipped in clean water and "paint" with the clean water each hair or small area, quickly followed by light dabbing (not a rubbing action) with a dry clean cloth or piece of kitchen roll paper to "lift-off" the greys in different amounts, as shown above. To sharpen and lighten the highlight areas on the skin, use clean water in the brush into the white areas of the nose,  head and eyes. Note that for the eyes you will need to paint a feint wash of brown and red on the white areas then lift off using the technique just described to create a natural off-white look to the eyes around the pupils.
Continue lifting off with the round brush and clean water and kitchen roll paper to build up details around the eyes, lips and hair. On the lips drag, with a long round brush number 8, a pale wash using alizarin crimson and a subsequent wash of burnt umber. Finally paint dark lines where necessary in burnt umber for wrinkles and creases around the features - but do not add too many lines. If they look too dark, lift some off using clean water as described above. The painting should now look finished  - the longer you spend adding and lifting off lines and small marks in the detailed areas he better.

Here are the photos from the demonstration in case you want to use this as your subject:

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