Techniques - Ben Lustenhouwer

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Techniques

Click here to see long tutorial videos.

Portrait Painting using photography.

There are many ways to paint a portrait. Everyone has their own method, and all are valid. There has always been discussion about whether a portrait has to be made from real life or from photography. I will not give you an answer on that one; if a painting is good then the question need not come up. I encourage observational study as much as possible. In my opinion, good drawing skills and knowledge of anatomy, are of the utmost importance.

Here I will explain how I work when I work from photography.

Photography.

Painting a portrait from photography has advantages and disadvantages. One of the major pitfalls is the danger of paying to much attention to the details. Likeness does not depend on the details but on large volumes. Remember that old school photo. You know perfectly well who is who, although the faces are no bigger than a quarter of an inch. Often too much detail has a devastating effect on a portrait. Keep it simple and be bold with what you say. An advantage of working with photos, is that you just choose the shot you like most out of a series. Before you start, it is important to pay great attention to the photography session, and also to the printing.

The first image shows several copies of  the face around my canvas on my easel. The two large photos are the same size as the portrait on the canvas. The left is slightly unfocused to avoid distraction from details. Using this photo I see the simple shapes more clearly.  I have printed the smaller pictures in a lighter and a darker version.

Preparation.

On the easel is the stretched canvas. I've transferred the image by using a grid distribution on the photo as well as on the canvas. I use red crayon. The black graphite of a normal pencil will always shows through all layers of oil paint. Here I fixed the drawing with a very thin layer of shellac. Sometimes I apply a thin coating of an alkyd medium. On top, in acrylic I paint an underpainting in raw sienna. If I get lost I always can remove a layer of oil to see the basic drawing and underpainting.

Painting.

The actual painting of the portrait is about to begin. I start the day early by setting up my palette, which is done with great care. I mix the skin colors and always use a test strip to check the mixture. Before I start painting, I rub the canvas with a neutral oil medium. Then the linen is semi- saturated and the canvas “receives" the paint from my brush more easily.

First the hair.

I paint the hair in simple, large planes using different hues. I don´t simplify the hues by using middle ochre mixed with brown for the darker areas, and white for the lighter ones. In the darkest tones there is crimson, veridian, sienna and cadmium orange. In the lighter parts of the hair I´ve used cadium red light, permanent green light, viridian, yellow ochre and white. The lightest color in the hair is a mixture of ultramarine, crimson and white that I've prepared previously. This mauvish tint is great to make light areas in blond hair without the risk of progressing to red, yellow or blue.

 

From dark to light.

Before I start with the face I paint the background also in large simple planes. Here I dilute the paint with a few drops of citrus turpentine. Ordinary white spirit also works well. I pay particular attention to the hairline. I don´t want to be sharp. The edges must be soft where the hair touches the skin.

First I give the eyes a special treatment. I paint a transparent layer of sienna and burnt umber. I smudge the paint with my finger so that I can still see the underdrawing. This creates a perfect base to continue later.

Then I paint the mouth in simple schematic planes. Cadmium red, venetian red, white and ultramarine blue are used here. I show the teeth as a continuous curved surface. I use my pre-mixed neutral gray light with some ultramarine blue and crimson.

 

how to paint a mouth

 

I always start with the shadows, then the halftones, then the lights. For the flesh I mix cadmium red light,  white and ochre. Cerulean blue or permanent yellow-green tones are used for cooler or warmer tones. I'm still avoiding any details!

Keep a distance.

The portrait is in the first phase and I have to go away. I walk off and have a cup of coffee or something. It is important to leave the easel. The longer I look at my canvas the less I can judge what I have painted. Having a coffee is one trick, but there are more. In my studio I have a mirror in which I can see both the painting and the photograph at the same time. I wear glasses. I take them off and see everything blurred. This is particulary good to get a perfect overall look at  the balance of colour and emphasis.

Now I just take my time to assess everything. I retrace the portrait again from dark to light and finally put in some details. Then I finish the eyes and paint that small highlight in the pupil. Where necessary I blend surfaces together sometimes with a separate tone in an intermediate color. Looking at the cheeks, where the transition is important and can be subtle, I make sure that the curves are in the right place.

There is a certain risk of overblending the portrait in this phase. I paint the separation between the upper teeth and lower lip. I do not make individual teeth, but make sure the curve provides sufficient suggestion of teeth.

Finally, on the wet background I paint some brush strokes for locks of hair.

 

 

Comment Section

121 thoughts on “Techniques


By Vietnam Flights on 23 July 2016

We all make jokes about getting caned for chewing gum or jay-walking.
It seems that no matter how careful one is, 'misunderstandings'
invariably result in a higher price at the end, either
that the patron didn't understand that the fare was a per person rate, not for two, or that the price for a tour was by the hour, not the trip.
Not surprising, a larger international airport is being built on the island of Phú Quốc,
expected to operate within five years.


By james aog on 2 July 2016

i think i'm get better even more with your tips. thank you


By Jagat on 29 May 2016

Sir, it was amazing watching your videos, i am learning portrait painting, is there any way to share you my work for your expert comment?


By Sam on 15 March 2016

Hi Ben,
Just a couple of questions in regard to using a wax crayon or coloured pencil with acrylic paint for the drawing/underpainting. Is there any issue with using acrylic paint over the pencil marks given that the pencil is wax/oil based and that acrylic is water based?


By Ben Lustenhouwer on 23 March 2016

Hi Sam.
I would simply have a try to see what happend with the wax crayon. Usually the acrylic works as a layer of fixative.


By mark anula on 22 June 2016

Uhmmmm, hi sir, am a self taught artist, there is this painting am doing(just started painting ) I finished with the sketch and blocking in colors,at this point am confused , I really don't know how to start detailing,


By Painting on 22 February 2016

Hi Ben! Thank you for sharing your experiences with painting portraits from photography. I personally find it most challenging how to start / where to start. Do you use the same technique of starting for all painting media, or the beginning depends on the medium you paint with?


By Ben Lustenhouwer on 24 February 2016

Hi.
This approach is specially useful when painting portraits.In oil the start is different than the start in acrylics or watercolor.
But Landscape painting you could do easily without that much preparations as the likeness is not at issue.


By Subrata on 27 January 2016

Brilliant way of teaching.


By Reda on 20 January 2016

I relish, lead to I discovered just what I used to be looking for.
You've ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day.
Bye


By sachin on 13 January 2016

Thank you so much. Ive got an idea for a startup. The para is of too much importance.


By portrait on 27 December 2015

very informative post especially for those who are gonna organize their work for the first time. Portrait painting is propably the most difficult theme in painting.


By neda on 28 August 2015

very good,thank you


By neda on 28 August 2015

very good,thank you


By Pat Britten on 19 August 2015

Thank you for this post.

Please tell us:
1. What kind of "neutral oil medium" do you rub into the canvas?
2. Do you use a red conte crayon to make the grid and drawing?

All the best,

Pat


By ben on 21 August 2015

Neutral medium means not fast or slow drying. The red pencil is a colour pencil. Take care it is not a watercolour base pencinl!


By Pat Britten on 21 August 2015

Thank you.


By Kris on 30 January 2016

Hi.
Will the red colored pencil work for acrylic painting?


By delvin jamil on 6 August 2015

Watching your page and you vidios helpd me a lot i was confused on how to start an oil portrait but now evrything is clear..thank you soo much
Wish you all the luck.
Delvin


By Nazreen Khan on 16 July 2015

Very informative. Thanks


By niloofar on 13 June 2015

that's great


By Evando on 3 June 2015

I found your videos on YouTube when I was looking for tutorials on painting portraits with acrylics. Great job! I am attempting to paint my first portrait and I have to say I am completely lost. Your videos have given me an idea on how to start but to be honest I am little afraid. Even though I like to use acrylics and I also like to paint abstract, I have realized that I don't think I am ready to use acrylics for portraits because of its quick drying. I was thinking of using water soluble oils. Any recommendation or thoughts? I would really appreciate it. Thanks a lot!


By ben on 3 June 2015

Hi Evando.
Acrylics for portraiture is not easy. But have a try. Water based oil is a good option. I don´t use it but I some of my students do. You must try it all and in the beginning forget a good result.
Every beginning artist must make at least hundred bad paintings, so you´d better start as quick as possible.


By Evando on 4 June 2015

Thank you! I will try the water based oil and maybe I won't be so afraid. Thanks again!


By Evando on 3 June 2015

I found your videos on YouTube when I was looking for tutorials on painting portraits with acrylics. Great job! I am attempting to paint my first portrait and I have to say I am completely lost. Your videos have given me an idea on how to start but to be honest I am little afraid. Even though I like to use acrylics and I also like to paint abstract, I have realized that I don't think I am ready to use acrylics for portraits because of its quick drying. I was thinking of using water soluble oils. Any recommendation or thoughts? I would really appreciate it. Thanks a lot!


By ben on 3 June 2015

Hi Evando.
Acrylics for portraiture is not easy. But have a try. Water based oil is a good option. I don´t use it but I some of my students do. You must try it all and in the beginning forget a good result.
Every beginning artist must make at least hundred bad paintings, so you´d better start as quick as possible.


By Gayle Joseph on 8 September 2016

can one combine water based oils with acrylics in one painting?



By Ibass on 22 September 2016

pls have been painting a portrait before but now my painting always look bad, what can I do to make it better as before


By Penelope Anderton on 27 May 2015

Thank you so much for publishing this. I have been struggling witha very small portrait within a larger painting, and your suggestions have really helped. I still cant get the mouth right, as it is very thin, but I shall keep trying. Thanks


By Penelope Anderton on 27 May 2015

Thank you so much for publishing this. I have been struggling witha very small portrait within a larger painting, and your suggestions have really helped. I still cant get the mouth right, as it is very thin, but I shall keep trying. Thanks


By Alejandra on 25 May 2015

Hi!!
I am so glad that I found you in you tube, I am new in painting but the most I want to paint are faces so you been very helpfull, I recently bougth your portrait of a little girl and I hace seen it a lot, but I am stil confuse in making the colors, the girl in the video is a little bit darker in the skin , can you help me in choosing the colors for the dark, medium and ligth zones please?
Is correct at the begining use these 3 tones? BCause in the video I can see you mix all the time and there is where I get lost, and I love your work and I want to learn
Thank you so much and is a real pleasure to found you in you tube, I hope I can live close to you so you can teach me, but I am so far I live in México
Thanks again


By Alejandra on 25 May 2015

Hi!!
I am so glad that I found you in you tube, I am new in painting but the most I want to paint are faces so you been very helpfull, I recently bougth your portrait of a little girl and I hace seen it a lot, but I am stil confuse in making the colors, the girl in the video is a little bit darker in the skin , can you help me in choosing the colors for the dark, medium and ligth zones please?
Is correct at the begining use these 3 tones? BCause in the video I can see you mix all the time and there is where I get lost, and I love your work and I want to learn
Thank you so much and is a real pleasure to found you in you tube, I hope I can live close to you so you can teach me, but I am so far I live in México
Thanks again


By Maggie Franklin on 6 May 2015

Do you have a suggested brand for oil paints? I am interested in investing in some, but am not sure what type.

Thanks! Great tutorial.


By ben on 6 May 2015

It depends on what brands are available in your region. I use Rembrandt of the Dutch brand Talens. I like the oily composition and the strong pigments.


By Maggie Franklin on 6 May 2015

Do you have a suggested brand for oil paints? I am interested in investing in some, but am not sure what type.

Thanks! Great tutorial.


By ben on 6 May 2015

It depends on what brands are available in your region. I use Rembrandt of the Dutch brand Talens. I like the oily composition and the strong pigments.


By Mou Parsa on 24 April 2015

Realy good guidance, thanks so much.


By Joy on 21 April 2015

I'm so glad I have found you and your lovely paintings. I've come late in life to portrait painting and I'm now having a go in oils since discovering you. Thank you so much for your generous help. Your inspirational!
Joy


By ben on 21 April 2015

welcome here!


By Joy on 21 April 2015

I'm so glad I have found you and your lovely paintings. I've come late in life to portrait painting and I'm now having a go in oils since discovering you. Thank you so much for your generous help. Your inspirational!
Joy


By ben on 21 April 2015

welcome here!


By Lorraine Daly on 18 April 2015

I was able to view the youtube video here in Canada. thanks for the tutorial..you make sense of it for me !


By junior on 22 March 2015

I am so inspired by this article...I will now do my portraits without anything bothering me cuz I have learned a lot from this article


By junior on 22 March 2015

I am so inspired by this article...I will now do my portraits without anything bothering me cuz I have learned a lot from this article


By Melanie McKenzie on 20 February 2015

Ben, the Youtube video is blocked for me in Australia. This is most frustrating after you've made the big effort to prepare it. Let me know if you get it online, maybe music free?


By Isa on 22 February 2015

Same problem for me here in UK. 🙁


By marie lou caccam on 7 February 2015

Dear Sir do u have videos that I could buy that would be step by step for portrait making 🙂 u are very very kindhearted to tell all your secrets to the entire world. I am very grateful to God that I found u and your portrait tips. THANK U SO MUCH FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART AND GOD BLESS U AND YOUR FAMILY !


By ben on 7 February 2015

Thank you for your kind words. For step by step videos go to "tutorials" on this blog.


By Laura Anne on 27 January 2015

What a gorgeous, vibrant composition. Thanks for inspiring me.


By Laura Anne on 27 January 2015

What a gorgeous, vibrant composition. Thanks for inspiring me.


By Julie Kirkland on 11 December 2014

Does your friend Mario sell a recording of this piece of music? Do you know which Mozart piece it is?


By samuel on 30 November 2014

I have an acrylic portrait assignment for my college due for Monday. I'm glad i found this website your tips where so useful. TY


By Patricia Volkova on 25 November 2014

Beste Ben,

Ik heb een jongetje van bijna 2 gefotografeerd en twijfel of ik 1 hand zal mee schilderen.
Ik had een tijdje geleden Joodse mensen, die een portret hebben laten schilderen. (en die meer kunst thuis hebben hangen) Ze vertelden me dat je of 2 handen of geen handen moet zien.
Weet jij of dit iets van een traditie is in de portretschilderkunst of dat dit een persoonlijke voorkeur zou kunnen betreffen?
Vriendelijke groeten, Patricia Volkova


By ben on 26 November 2014

Beste Patricia.
Ik heb het nog nooit bij de hand gehad. Er zijn talloze theorieën of wat wel of niet kan, en hoe het model zou moeten worden afgebeeld. Ikzelf laat mij leiden door de compositie. Maar als de opdrachtgever duidelijke wensen heeft dan zou ik die respecteren.
Groet.
Ben


By noel on 3 November 2014

I am trying to paint my first portrait.and coming across your website was a delight. I can't wait to try out your tips, thank you.


By Claire on 13 January 2016

This is my first portrait, so I followed your procedure, but I am stuck on the oil rub. The acrylic layer was fine. I used linseed oil for the next stage, but it won't dry. I used oils for background and hair and thought I'd wait for the,Iinseed oil to dry a bit before I did the flesh tones, but I'm still waiting. Help!


By Ben Lustenhouwer on 14 January 2016

Hi Claire.
Why waiting to dry areas? I want them to stay wet as long as possible. It gives me the possibility to connect planes. But if you really want the oil to dry you must change the medium. Linseed oil is a slow drying medium. Use a quick drying medium. Almost every brand has a standard medium that slows down or speeds up the drying time. You can also try Winsor & Newton Oil Liquin. That dries quick as well.


By Michael Alpay on 27 October 2014

Dear Ben,
I love your paintings. I am an architect but taking time off to do other art projects. I've been painting for the last two years with acrylics which I found easier for the wash up. However, one of these days I will try oils. My question for you is: do you ever paint with strictly acrylic paints including underpainting? If so I woul appreciate some blending tips.
Thank you kindly.
Michael


By ben on 27 October 2014

Dear Michael
Long time ago I did some portraits in acrylics. But as the technique is very quick drying I never achieved good blending. One of the marvelous qualities of oil is bending. However to much blending will kill a painting.
Best.
Ben


By Josh Herion on 14 October 2014

I love hand made oil paintings and the tips you have shared with us are really awesome for me. According to me most interesting part of your blog is - Painting a portrait of from photography has advantages and disadvantages.


By Jacqui van der Helm on 23 August 2014

What acrylic colours should I use to paint black/negroid/african skins.


By ben on 24 August 2014

It is hard to say. Depending on different kinds of things there is usually burnt sienna or crimson, emerald green or ultramarine blue. But don´t use black! Avoid monotony. Look for subtle mauve, green and olive accents.


By Susie on 18 August 2014

What brushes would you use if painting with acrylic. Please be Specific. I have never painted a portrait


By ben on 18 August 2014

For acrylics I would use bristle or synthetic brushes, filbert form. Size of the brush depending on the size on the painting.


By michelle hayes on 12 June 2014

Thank you for this tutorial. You paint beautiful portraits.


By michelle hayes on 12 June 2014

Thank you for this tutorial. You paint beautiful portraits.


By Noor Totah on 26 April 2014

Sir can you please explain how to prepare the underpainting colors and layer (what materials to mix) for oil painting, should it be in acrylic or oil ?

Thank you


By ben on 27 April 2014

I usually paint the underpainting in acrylic, Raw siena. But you also can do this underpainting in oils but then you will have to wait some days until the paint is dry.


By Gisele Grenier on 11 April 2014

Hi Ben,

Absolutely beautiful portrait!

Thank you for sharing your tips with us!

Gisèle


By chotu on 31 March 2014

sir i want to know from where i could get your book i really want to learn portraits like you.
i have seen alot of sites but i couldn't find it please help me.


By ben on 31 March 2014

Hi.
In the book you will find only my portraits. Click on the image to purchase. However to learn how to paint a portrait a video will help you more I think.
Kind regards.
Ben


By Richard Budig on 2 January 2014

Where can I read about your simple flesh palette . . . three lights, two half tones, two darks? I would like to know more.


By ben on 2 January 2014

In the two long tutorials I explain thouroughly how to mix the flesh colours.


By Rosanna Vitale on 24 December 2013

Would you kindly suggest, if such exists, a book or manual on the topic of painting for photographers--how to exchange the camera for a paintbrush.

Thank you so very much and please enjoy the Season.
Rosanna Vitale


By ben on 25 December 2013

Hi Rosanna.
I don´t know any book or manual for paintbrush, but I am sure there is enough available.


By Mudan on 14 July 2013

I am impressed by your techniques and the color mixing. I am trying to buy as many videos of your work as I can. Is there a package of all the videos for sale?
However, since I work all day and can only paint little at a time inside my home, I use water-based oil paint for ease of cleaning and smell. Are the results just as good?


By ben on 14 July 2013

Hi Mudan. For this moment only one large tutorial is for sale. In october the next. Water-based oil paint can be fantastic. I know only "Cobra" of Talens and I really love the quality.


By hans neufeglise on 2 July 2013

Hello Ben,

I've been using your video 'Portrait of a litte boy' to paint a double portait of my 2 youngest children for my grandparents. A real challenge to paint your own kids, but this video with the addition of all your other excellent video's provided the path that I needed to tackle all the challenges that you have to face in painting a portrait that really captures the essence of the person that you paint.
I've been looking for good lesson material for a long time and this really hits the spot.
A big thanks and greetings from Holland. Also looking forward to more lessons, tips and video's.

Best regards,

Hans Neufeglise


By Zoe on 20 June 2013

Hello! I love your paintings! You are a really great teacher, too! Thank you SO much!


By Edgar Herrera on 20 June 2013

Hi Ben
You mention in you video Portrait of a little boy that you projected the image onto the canvas. What type of projector did you use? And what advice do you have to project an image?
Thanks


By ben on 20 June 2013

Hi Edgar
I use an old episcop: Liesegang. If you use a beamer be sure that there is no distorsion. For instance projecting first a square and measure it.
Good luck.


By Assiyam on 29 May 2013

Dear Ben,

I'm very impressed of your art. I bought your video a few month ago and I find it helpful to learn painting portraits.
I also work from photos and wonder what kind of printer, ink and paper you use to print them.
I think this information is very important to paint a good portait.
Does the quality of the printer help in finding the right colors? Do you have a favorite printer or brand? or any other advice?

Thank you for your help.
Looking forward to reading you.
Best regards,
Assiyam.


By ben on 30 May 2013

Hi Assiyam.
Indeed a good print is the key. My printer is an Epson Stylus photo R2400. An old one but still very good. I use Premium glossy paper.
Any how thank you for the question. Next sunday I make a new post in which I will explain more about printing good photo´s.
Kind regards.
Ben


By Lynn Carlson on 19 May 2013

Dear Ben,
I purchased your video of the little boy painting last year, but do not know how to get it to run on your website. Please inform. Thank you very much. I love your site and have learned so much.
Best Regards,
Lynn


By Helga Parker on 27 March 2013

Hi Ben,
I just love your instructions and you are the greatest portrait painter I very much admire. I started painting 3 years ago and learning everyday by painting and through various instructions of online courses.
I have purchased your instructional video of the little boy and keep practicing mixing skin tones, hoping to come as close as I can to the likeness.
My planes are to take a life workshop with you next year, hoping that you still be teaching the course in France. My family lives in Germany and I live in Arizona, US. I thought I can visit my family first and then travel by train or plane to come to France.

Keep on teaching and Herzliche Grüsse (Diebe groeten)

Helga


By ben on 27 March 2013

Hi Helga.
Thank you for your kind words. I will be teaching next year in France (Deo Volente) Herzliche Grüsse und vielleicht bis nächstes Jahr.
Ben


By Lee Forbes on 9 March 2013

It is such fun reading all the questions and answers. Some languages were beyond me but enjoyed those who tried responding in English. Bravo!
Art is a universal language as is music. Please don't worry about the music! You Tube is just afraid of being sued (I am married to an attorney).
I paint several times a week with talented acquaintances/friends in a large studio in midtown Savannah, nudes on Wednesday! We share the cost and the live models are such a treasure to us. Some models are art students at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). Our little group offers tips, encouragement and praise to one another. It helps to get out of my studio each week where my dog is my sole companion.

I have been painting since I could hold a crayon and started lessons with a terrific professional at age nine. I hope I live a long time so that I can continue to learn and challenge myself. This profession has been a joy and a release of spirit. At any age one can start to learn to draw/paint/sculpt. Just do it everyday and progress will quickly take you to a better place.
Thank you Ben for your time on this blog. I, too, have learned new ideas and ways to paint a likeness.


By ben on 9 March 2013

Hi Lee.
Thank you for your nice comment!
Ben


By ben on 10 March 2013

Hi Lee. I will forward your problem to the flickrocket help service.
We keep in intact.

Best.
Ben


By Sherry on 27 July 2016

Wow, that's a really clever way of thnkiing about it!


By Mukhtar on 18 February 2013

Brutish ful pentengs I learn Seth u


By Mukhtar on 18 February 2013

I wane learn penteng oil pent


By Judy Warner on 18 November 2012

Thank you for the videos and tutorials. They are very helpful--I'm still working on drawing portraits--and getting a likeness. I can do it with a grid, but not without. I'd love to see some tips on getting a likeness. I know you said it's the big shapes, any advice on that??

Judy


By ben on 18 November 2012

Hi Judy. Likeness is the most difficult thing in portrait painting. On one hand it´s the big shape, on the other thing it´s the shape of the mouth, the eyes and the rounding of the cheeks. But a very important thing is this:
If the lightning is good, I mean if there is enough shadow to be seen in the portrait, you will have less problems with the likeness. And also the colour will come more easy if the shadows are good.

Good luck!
Ben


By Lee-Ann on 18 November 2012

Hi Ben

Thank you for your excellent videos. I very much appreciate your sharing your knowledge. I would just like to clarify which mediums you use and when before I get started.

These are the steps I'm planning to take.
Day 1
1. Apply 3 layers of gesso (diluted 10% water) on my cotton canvas - good quality canvas, but not linen unfortunately
2. Do drawing with red pencil
3. Apply very thin layer of shellac to set drawing. I have 'Roberson's shellac varnish clear', which I use for craft projects. Do you think this is the correct shellac http://colnart.myshopify.com/products/roberson-clear-shellac-varnish? Do I definitely need to use Shellac?
4. Apply thin coat of Alkyd medium (normal drying) with large brush
5. Do underpainting in acrylic raw sienna. Should I use water with the acrylic?

Day 2
6. Mix colours
7. Rub (should I use my fingers or a brush?) canvas with one thin coat of neutral oil Alkyd medium (normal drying) . Is this the same medium as point 4 above? I haven't used this before. Should I wait for it to dry or not before painting?
8. 'Block' in the colours from dark to light. Should I dip my brush in any medium/turps or just the paint straight out of the tube when blocking in the colours? I'm worried the paint will be too thick. I am using Student grade paints (can't get artist grade in Mauritius)
9. Add a few drops of turps when painting the background
10. When I go over the blocks of colour (step 8) to refine the details, should I use any medium?

Two more questions
- I can't find Chrome Dioxide Green and Venetian Red over here. Are you able to recommend a substitute?
- I have only done a few paintings in the past, but am about to start my first commission (friend). I definitely do not load my brush enough as my paint always soaks into the canvas and gets a very matt look. I am nervous about loading my brush, especially when the oil is not diluted. I know that this will come with practice, but how will I know if I am using enough paint?

Thanks very much.
Lee-Ann


By ben on 18 November 2012

Hi Lee-Ann
Quite a lot of questions.
Preparations of the canvas is good. Fixing the drawing with shellac is perfect, but apply the thinest layer you can. I did not use shellac in my demonstration because it was a fairly simple portrait. If the image you want to make is complicated and with small details, I advise a shellac fixative. Aerosol fixatives works perfect as well but I don't use them. Underpainting in acrylic is fine, it dries immediately and within 15 minutes you can start the oil painting.
In my demo I used oil for the underpainting and it took day and a half to dry.
The alkyd medium of Windsor & Newton "Oil liquin" is good as well, dry the next day, so do this at day 1. (W&N,if you can lay your hand on). If not, rub neutral medium on the canvas just before painting. Be sure there is not too much medium on your canvas! Dry with a rag if needed.
In the beginning don't use too much paint, dilute the paint with spirit or turpentine. Later when you know that the color is right load your brush with paint, especially the lighter parts.
If you need medium to refine details use a more oily one e.g. a linseed oil based medium.
Forget the chrome oxide green. Venetian red can be interchanged with indian red.

Don´t be afraid to fail and have fun!!

Ben


By Lee-Ann on 18 November 2012

Thanks so much for your reply and getting back so quickly, Ben. Just to double check the following.

Once my acrylic underpainting is dry, I apply a thin layer of Windsor & Newton “Oil liquin” (I might be able to get this) and then should I leave this to dry overnight or can I start blocking in the colours straight away? Not 100% sure if Windsor & Newton “Oil liquin” needs to be wet or dry when I start.

If I can't find Windsor & Newton “Oil liquin” then I will be able to get one of the following Sennelier mediums http://www.dickblick.com/products/sennelier-oil-mediums/. I would appreciate it if you could let me know which one you think might be a suitable substitute for the W&N liquin. This medium (applied thinly) can be wet when I start blocking in the colours (is this correct?).

Am I wanting the medium to keep the paint wet or dry quicker? I'm presuming that I want it to stay wet until it's finished, which should hopefully take about 2 days.

Also, I have W&N Refined Linseed Oil. Can I use this for "If you need medium to refine details use a more oily one e.g. a linseed oil based medium." I'm sure I can, but double checking.

"Don´t be afraid to fail and have fun!!"...argh..I know!! I need to keep reminding myself 🙂

Thanks so much.


By ben on 18 November 2012

Your Oil Liquin must be dry before starting the real painting. That is why I do this the day before. But first of all a rule of thumb: Fat over lean! For instance start with turpentine and end with stand oil.
W&N refined linseed oil is perfect. I always mix this with a neutral drying medium. If you google on "oil medium" you will enter a universe: Oil painting is about the secrets of using medium. There is no true way! Find your own way by trying.
Mauritius has a warm climate if I am well. So paint will dry quicker there. If you want the paint to dry slower, that is what I want,try a retarding medium. eg.Poppy oil. I don't have so much experience with it. I once used clove oil that I bought at the drugstore. I mixed it with every hub of paint on my palette before starting. The half of a half of a drop per hub.
It did not dry in days. Nice results, but some painter "bibles" say it is dangerous over the years. That is why I stopped using it. But I would say just have a try. Experience will tell you.

Good Luck.
Ben


By Lee-Ann on 19 November 2012

Hi Ben

Thanks very much. I hear that I will be able to buy W&N Liquin and Clarified Poppy Oil - very excited. Sorry I have two more clarifications.

My gessoed canvas is dry. I will now do my drawing in red pencil and fix it with aerosol fixative (Should I spray the entire canvas with fixative or just the drawing? I presume just the drawing)

Once this is done, do I
- apply a normal medium over entire canvas and then
- do the 'acrylic underpainting' and then
- apply the liquin (and wait til dry) and then
- 'block in the colours'

i.e. are two 'mediums' applied before I start painting properly/blocking in colours? One before the acrylic underpainting and one (liquin) before blocking in the colours.

With this "W&N refined linseed oil is perfect. I always mix this with a neutral drying medium.", I will mix Poppy Oil with the Refined Linseed oil.
Do you think I should mix 1:1 ratio?

I will get there 🙂 Thanks so much for your patience.
Lee-Ann


By hand painted oil paintings on 14 August 2012

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By Meera on 31 May 2012

Hi Ben,
Very happy to come across your web link trying to find a tip how to get "innocence" on the face of a portrait of my 5 year old grand daughter. The step by step technique is really useful. I always hate the graphite in drawing pencil causing black shade in the painting which is very hard to remove while applying color...I have to wait till the color completely dries before I apply another layer. But now, I will use red crayon! Thanks.
I have done several portraits and I know they are almost like the original photo and people love them, but I need to improve a lot! I am a self taught artist, learning more and more with each of my new painting.
For some reason, I can not bring the child's age related innocence in my grand daughter's painting...this is the 3rd one I am not happy with of the same subject!
Isn't it discouraging!?
One of the websites I have provided is all my work displayed...
http://www.soundofindia.com/meera while the other one I have subscribed with this site owner to get some more exposure and more work.
I really appreciate your wonderful work and teaching method. Do let me know how can I learn more from you for bringing more life to my paintings.
Wishing you more success in all you do,
Meera Bakshi, Sierra Vista AZ, USA.
*****I am born and brought up in India but since 1992 I am in USA. My teacher who taught applying oil colors is in India. I learn from him for 6 months prior to coming to USA. Before that I just used to do pencil sketches. And after learning from him applying oil colors I have worked with oil paints only!


By ben on 31 May 2012

Hi Meera.
Thank you for your kind words. Keep trying. You always learn more from your losses than your victories. I had times I could throw far away my brushes. And sometimes I did. I saw your portraits. Colourfull and strong.
Try some more loose brush strokes. First in the passive areas. Later in the face where it does not hurt the likeness.

All the best.
Ben


By Meera on 1 June 2012

Dear Ben, I am so happy to receive your prompt response! I am little ignorant...what does it mean by "loose stokes"? When you have some time could you explain it or tell me which one among some of your videos might explain that to me?
Thanks for your time.


By Elida on 27 July 2016

Hallo,schade um Till, aber ich freu mich !Super ! Super !Und meine Aufgabe wird dann wirklich nicht ganz leicht:Also Sufjan Stevens hat es ja vorgemacht, jedenfalls fängt er damit an, die 50 Bundesstaaten der USA zu vertonen.Ich hätte am liebsten mal eine CD mit einer Repräsentation der 16 deutschen Bundesländer – muss ja nicht deutsch sein und assioziativ und so, also vielleicht doch nicht so sce#rh&w8230;..Danke für die Mühe im Vorraus.Grüssepyro


By Maria dos Anjos de Paula on 22 May 2012

Caro Ben
Fico emocionada cada vez que vejo seu trabalho, gostaria muito de ver pessoalmente.
A sua pintura me encanta.
Que Deus te abençoe, sempre!

Maria


By zbigniew on 5 May 2012

brawo. widać wielki talent, dzięki za podzielenie się techniką. pozdrawiam


By Hugo Garrels on 10 April 2012

Perfect piece of work you have done, this site is really cool with great info .


By Grace on 1 April 2012

Hi your work and how you speak about yourself, your tips for becoming a good portrait craftsman is delicious on its own, don't worry about the music, its just a distraction, would rather hear you talk about painting, your thinking process, color choices, how to?, you are a valuable teacher, this is the only way I can learn for free, from across the world, thank you ciao.
Love Grace
Fisherhaven , south africa


By Tamara Torres on 25 March 2012

Eres, absolutamente ¡MARAVILLOSO! Tu generosidad conmovedora. Muchisimas gracias por compartir tu talento, tus conocimientos, tus experiencias..... Me has tomado de la mano, me has guiado y me has hecho muy feliz. Thanks a lot!!
My best wishes.

Tamara.


By ben on 26 March 2012

Thank you Tamara for your kind words. Still I am working on my blog. This week I hope to correct the english text as there are a lot of write errors. Than I will launch officially my blog and soon I hope the finish my first two long tutorials in video. Pero estos videos también estarán en ingles. Un saludo. Ben


By Ed on 20 March 2012

I am completely fascinated by your work. Thanks for sharing so much at your website. Are there any books you would recommend to a beginner? Best wishes.


By ben on 20 March 2012

Hi Ed. Thank for your kind words. I don´t know good books for beginners. I am sure there are. Have a good look in bookstores and buy the one that looks good to you.
But I must agree there is a lot of crap. I am preparing my first long tutorials in video. Before summer they will be available for the price of a cup of coffee.


By Ed on 21 March 2012

Great news. Looking forward to it.

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