Portraits are probably what I enjoy doing the most. In college I studied skull structure and had very intense portrait drawing and painting classes.
This is a portrait of my beautiful mother-in-law. I had her sit at the long end of our dining-room table.
You will notice that I had lighting at one side which I always do so that I can have a contrast between shadow and light. You can detect which side has the light by looking at the white hair on the left side vs. the bluish looking hair on the right, and the highlight on the left side of her lip.
When I do a portrait I draw the outline of the face first, then I squint to see the outlines of shadowy areas. I mix three different shades of flesh color, a dark one, a medium, then a light. A typical color scheme for flesh might be alizarin crimson, yellow ochre and white. I ’ll do one that is pretty dark, then use the same mixture but add more white to get a medium, and finally one that is much lighter with more white. As I start putting in the paint I will put the darkest shade in where the shadows are. Next I’ll find the very light areas. I’ll put the medium shade in whatever is left.
In this painting I have yellow light from an indoor light bulb, so the lighter areas on the skin will have a slight yellow shade. You’ll see that the left side of the dress is not only lighter, but has that yellow tint from the light bulb. IMPORTANT–Always be sure to paint the whites of the eyes the color that you see, not plain white. Her brows shade her eyes. The whites are shadowed.
The scary portrait you see next is me. The funny thing about it is that I painted it at home. I needed a mirror to look in and my easel wouldn’t fit in the bathroom. There is a long, skinny mirror on the back of my bedroom door, so I used it. You would have laughed if you had seen me leaning to the left or to the right to be able to see enough of myself in the mirror so I could do my painting.
You will notice the light side and the shadow side which is very important in a painting. Another thing you should notice is the background. It is light on the right side and dark on the left. Look at how my shirt blends right into the dark background. You may not have noticed this before. Your mind automatically tells you that the shirt is all there, but it isn’t.