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!