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My Process of Painting Hayley

Updated: Nov 3, 2018

I should start by stating that I haven’t had any painting lessons or training I just started using oils at the age of 17 with very little help or research. The way that I paint, I’m sure some will say is “incorrect”. It’s just the way that I instinctively go about things, and I’m sure it will continue to change and develop!

Hayley’s portrait was commissioned to be painted in colours similar to my self-portraits, “Parched” and “How Long is a Piece of String?”

I begin by taking a photo...

As Hayley doesn’t live near me and works many hours, it was most practical (as in most cases) to work from a photo rather than life. For the best outcome, it’s important to have a good quality photo reference with visible details and distinctive shadow & light to create depth in the portrait. I think natural lighting works best. I visited Hayley to take the photo using a DSLR, with light from the window hitting one side of her face.

With a pencil outline drawn, I start by painting the eyes...

I paint the eyes first as they’re the most important feature in capturing a person. You can often recognise someone from just their eyes. They’re also often the most intricate part of the portrait to paint, and I like to focus on getting them right before thinking about the rest of the face.

Pan out...

Rather than building the piece up in layers, I like to work on one section at a time. I work on one part until I’m happy with it before moving onto the next section.

I usually go (more or less) from left to right to avoid smudging paint with my hand. I hold my pencil and paintbrush much like a left-handed person, but with my right hand. The side of my hand usually rests on the paper or canvas.

Blending Colours...

When it comes to mixing colours, I pre-mix them on the pallet a little, but do most of the adjustments to the colour on the canvas. Blending in a little more red, green etc. until it looks “right”.

I’ve noticed myself spending a long time painting and repainting area around the mouth and the chin, sometimes to never be happy with the outcome. Subtle changes can make a huge difference!

Leaving the hair until last...

As you can see in the photo, I’ve ignored the hair, clothing and background to begin with. With hair and eyebrows, it’s usually easier to paint them after the surrounding areas so that strands can be painted over the top of background colour.

I don’t have a photo of every stage, but, in this order, I painted Hayley’s: face, neck, top, necklace, background, then hair.

Please comment and let me know if you found this interesting or useful!


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