Painting Portrait Tips - latest tutorials on video

Art flows to where the money is

Art flows to where the money is

More than once I have been asked how a novice portraitist must decide his prices. I remember I once said: If you don't have any orders you are either  too expensive, or you have too little quality and if you have too many commissions, it may be that you are too cheap.

Portrait of Jan Six by Rembrandt

Portrait of Jan Six by Rembrandt

An interesting book that I am currently reading is "The lives of Jan Six", written by the Dutch historian Geert Mak. I do not know if there is an English translation.

Jan Six, the son of a well-to-do merchant family, lived in 17th century Amsterdam. He is portrayed by Rembrandt. One of the most fantastic portraits of the Dutch Golden Age, the work reflects the close friendship between Rembrandt and his patron. The painting is in the private collection of the Six family and still hangs on a wall in the the Six´s family property. The portrait is rarely shown publicly and that is unfortunate. Breathtaking brushwork and bold approach! One of my favourite portraits by Rembrandt.

The book also gives a beautiful picture of Amsterdam, a city at a time of unprecedented growth and wealth. Here the big money was earned and great artists picked their share. If at that time a portraitist in Amsterdam had no jobs it was only due to his quality and not to his price.

See this video about the expansion of the city of Amsterdam in the 17th century. Its explosive growth is like the Dubai of today.

Traps in portrait painting based on photography

Traps in portrait painting based on photography

I'm often criticized because I explain how to paint a portrait from photography. Working from life is the only true religion, I always hear. I never answer because I know how things are in my profession. I say it again loud and clear: almost all my colleagues use photography when it comes to a commission. Only, they would rather keep silence in public. Anyway, I do not want to talk about that.

What's one of the hazards of working from photography? 


The exposure. The lefthand picture shows a portrait that I painted from life in my studio during our Tuesday sessions. I always take a picture of the model before we stop. That shot you see on the right. A major handicap in photography can be seen at a glance. The light-dark contrast is too big. In particular, the light parts suffer from the loss of the subtle nuances. I notice in my classes that many people overlook that phenomenon. So make sure that the print that you're working from is not too light and that there is difference between the light and the high-lights.

Finally: of course work from life. Study as much as possible with a live model in front of you. The more training in direct perception the more your work from photography improves.

More posts on working from photography:

Work from photography.

Contact with the model.

More about photography.


More posts on painting from life model:

My favorite model.


Power of perception.


Weird artists

Weird artists

For next Monday, I have a ticket for the big Hieronymus Bosch exhibition at the Prado Museum in Madrid. I am very curious to see what will be shown. Bosch is the pre-eminent painter of the most wondrous creatures and unusual scenes. The exhibition is organized to celebrate the five hundredth year of the Dutch painter's death. Bosch, named after the city Den Bosch where he was born, lived almost simultaneously with Leonardo da Vinci. He is buried in the cathedral of his birthplace.Read more

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