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Portrait painting tip: Try to make bad portraits.

Portrait painting tip: Try to make bad portraits.

Portrait painting is not easy. It takes a while before you can make a acceptable portrait with a good resemblance. You know what I mean, if the intention is to paint your mother, you really want her to look like it. Not a painting of just a woman, no, it must be that woman. Your mother.

What is so difficult in portrait painting? Everything!, you might answer. And yet you are determined to succeed?

How to become a good portrait painer? By really wanting to. My quote of years ago.

I still believe that. In this weblog I give instructions I hope that are useful. Today I propose to make some bad portraits. That sounds strange, but I really mean it. From experience, I know that many of you do the utmost to achieve a top job from the very beginning. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong with that. But don´t forget the inevitable trial and error of the training part.

Imagine the learning process as a long staircase through which you want to go up. You can only make that flight if you take all the steps separately. Sometimes two at a time, OK. But often I see people wanting to immediately start at the top. That is simply impossible and doomed to despair.

Let me concretely give an example of a frequently made beginner’s mistake: the scanty use of oil paint. For fear of losing the underpainting or drawing, far too little paint is used. And besides, that thin layer of paint is blended to connect planes. Result: a meager, dull painting. It often happens that this “safe approach” grows into a ingrained habit that will never be abandoned. Later dignified and presented as a “Personal Style. That is a pity and an eternally missed opportunity. I assure you: the use of sufficient paint gives fantastic results.

Dare to use lots of paint. Don´t expect a good outcome right away. You might get stuck in an accumulation of clutter. The portrait will fail as a result, but you will probably discover the sensation of the wet in wet technique.

So allow yourself to make at least 10 bad portraits. Don´t expect masterpieces.

Dare to fail, very instructive!

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Comment Section

2 thoughts on “Portrait painting tip: Try to make bad portraits.

By Jing on 11 February 2018

Hi Ben,
Just want to say hi to you. I bought your girl portrait painting video a couple years ago and wrote you an email sharing my study from you and a portrait I made for my mom. I’ve watched the video a few times now, it still refreshes my eyes and mind every time!
Always enjoying reading your blog, the tips and words are always helpful and keep me steady in my art journey. Thank you for sharing!
All the best,

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