Man in Darkness

Man in Darkness 9×12 Oil Painting by Winifred Whitfield

When painting a portrait, I have always used one of several methods to help ensure I create a likeness when working from a reference image. There is the process of using a grid, where one places lines on the reference image and lines on the painting support and then transfers image information from the reference image to the canvas to be painted. One can use tracing paper to transfer lines and shapes onto their painting surface. One can project the image onto the painting surface and then sketch the image projected. None of these methods are fool proof because once one starts applying paint on the surface, it is so easy to obscure the lines and shapes you have sketched, but one can generally approximate their intent approximation is generally not good enough and one often struggles to get portrait features correct. Ultimately, I found these methods to be obstacles to creativity because of the tediousness of relying on those lines.

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve completely abandoned the use of these aids and I am very proud of that. Finally, I am completely confident that I can pick up my brush, start to paint and achieve the level of detail and expressiveness I want with out aids. It’s very liberating. I no longer attempt any kind if outline sketch. I begin with a large brush making loose strokes on a medium toned painted surface. I begin with a solid shape of the head and hair and work backwards adding and subtracting brushstrokes to obtain the details of the portrait. I can be as loose in this process as I choose. The featured image in this blog was created this way along with the second image in the last blog. There is no part of the process which constrains my mind or hand – suggesting that I “color within the lines”. It’s quite liberating.

When painting digitally and painting from imagination , I often did this kind of freehand painting so I knew I had some facility in this regard, but my confidence was not as great when it came to oil painting – and creating an actual portrait likeness. I’ve demonstrated to myself my capacity to creates portraits this way and it’s actually more enjoyable.

Have a fun and safe holiday. Feel free to contact me at [email protected]

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