A Boy in the Hat

12 x 16 inches, acrylic on canvas panel

The layers of color are so much fun! I’m really enjoying this process. It is very calm, slow, and meditative. Each layer is only just visible as it goes on and so makes a small difference, thus making it easy to change direction as the painting develops.

Acrylic Portrait Painting Challenge

During the corona virus ‘shelter-at-home time’, March-May, I followed along with artist Matt Philleo in the challenge he was offering as free online lessons every few days. I liked the idea of doing a special project during this strange time, and I liked the encouragement to use a 16 x 20 size, which I have never done before.

I had tried glazing with acrylics a few years ago, but probably was doing it too thickly and impatiently. It didn’t go very well. This time, with his instruction to use 95% matte medium to 5% paint, and paint so lightly that you can hardly see the difference, it went a lot better and I like the result!

‘Going Out Again’, 16 x 20 inches, acrylic on canvas panel

More limited stroke paintings

These are each 60-80 strokes, 6 x 9 inches, oil.

The first portrait was from a music concert brochure, the second is from Unsplash (photographer-John Torcasio), and the third from a college entrance brochure.

I discovered that I enjoy painting darker color skin-it has so many wonderful colors in it.

More limited brushstrokes

Here are three more faces I painted, aiming at 60 brush strokes.

They are each 6 x 9 inches, oil on canvas paper.

Oh dear, staying at 60 is really difficult when you’re involved in a face! It seems almost mean to not get them to a certain level. Thus, I went slightly over the number of strokes, between 70 and 80 for each one. My family has had fun naming each person and discussing their possible characteristics!

I came across the artist who inspired me about the 40 strokes initially- anneblairbrown.com. I love the color, light and vibrancy of her paintings.

Limited Brushstrokes

I’ve been trying exercises using limited brushstrokes, to improve visual judgments and decision making. At first I tried 40 strokes, but that was definitely not enough for a face! I increased to 60, which is much better. Now I’m aiming at 60 strokes on the face alone, not the hair or background. Even that seems a challenge!

My source for faces is mainly Unsplash, using ‘face’ or ‘portrait, although I also use brochures and flyers if they contain a good photo of a face.

I’m using 6 x 8 inch sheets of Fredrix canvas paper, toned with Chromium Green acrylic. I draw the main structures and features in roughly with yellow ochre paint and paint in the background. Then I’m ready for the 60 strokes!

I consider one brush contact with the canvas to be a stroke, even if I move the brush in several directions to cover an area.

Here are my first three studies, all from Unsplash:

On the first painting (photographer Jurica Koletic) I did not do any blending at all. On subsequent paintings I have done a small amount of blending with my finger. (The second painting is from a photo by Christopher Campbell, and the third is by Stefan Stefancik).

I record the strokes on an 8 x 12 in canvas sheet like this:

Well, now you can see that I did not really keep to exactly 60 strokes! I’m learning to judge skin tones more accurately, mix colors faster, and see which strokes are the most necessary. A good exercise!


Oil, 12 x16 in

This is my first attempt at a self portrait, something of which I have felt scared up until now. I thought perhaps the going might be easier if I included another special person. In the end, I enjoyed it more than I expected. Redesigning yourself is liberating!

There is a problem with setting up self portraits-if you use a mirror to see yourself, that is the view you are used to seeing, but not what other people see when they look at you and so they will think it looks quite wrong.

If you use a photo of yourself taken by someone else, again the image looks backwards to you, the subject, but correct to everyone else. If you take a selfie, the set-up is a mirror image (looking correct to the self), but the photo, once taken, flips and looks backwards to the subject!

I’ve seen one artist who addressed this by painting a profile self-portrait using two mirrors.

The source for this painting was a selfie photo, so my face looks a bit odd to me (not what I’m used to seeing), but I hope it looks correct to everyone else!

One hour Portraits from Photos

Recently I tried two more one hour portraits, but this time from photos I’d taken in the past year. They were useful studies, again with good learning experiences involved. The process forces quick decisions, and sometimes they are wrong! In the first picture, the angle of the face should be tipped forward more. (I used this study as a practice for a more finished painting).

In the second painting, the general positioning is good, but the eyes are too low, even though I was comparing distances with the end of my paintbrush. However, she has the right look of intensity and concentration. I’d like to do this one again as a more finished painting.

They are both oil , 11 x 14, painted on canvas board (toned chromium oxide green).

One Hour Portraits from Life

On my recent birthday, which fell in Thanksgiving week, my requested activity was to paint portraits of my family members from life. I thought they could not sit for too long, so I attempted to complete each portrait in one hour. It was challenging! In the end we spent one and a quarter hours for most of them.

I painted the first one the day before my birthday, the next three on my birthday, and the last one three days later. My family found it more difficult to sit than they expected! I tried to encourage them to be relaxed, move as they needed and feel free to talk to the people around, but not to me! I was very grateful for their efforts.

They are all 11 x 14, oil, painted on a chromium oxide green toned canvas board.

Sharing a hat

Oil, 11 x 14

This painting combines two ideas that are interesting to me at the moment- people’s uses of and interactions with their devices, and the recurring theme of my husband’s Tilley hat.

On this occasion the phone was a pleasant link between my husband and our grandson. Sadly, the phone came to a sudden demise a few weeks after this, and the photo he was taking has been lost forever.

The Tilley hat is so wonderful to paint! I love the shape and the color, and of course it goes along with my husband, who I also love to paint. It is my husband’s best hat ever; in fact this is the second one he’s had, replaced under warranty; the first one wore out from so much wear. (I have one too, a different color). We highly recommend Tilley hats!