How to Improve my portraits

I’m going to improve my portraits. I don’t do a bad job at the moment, and I’m making a bit of money out of doing it. But, I can and I will improve my work.

So, I need an action plan! I always need a plan, and a goal. Otherwise it’ll just fizzle out and I’ll forget I’m supposed to be doing something.

1. First thing is first – set a goal. In this instance, I am setting myself a challenge. I will do the 15 week portrait challenge hosted by @ajalper on Instagram. I have already done his 100 day portrait challenge, where I had to do one portrait a day for 100 days. I felt I got SO much out of this. And my portraits improved SO much. But I did find that with such limited time on the majority of the days, I couldn’t explore things like colour, and other details. So, this challenge gives me one week to produce a portrait, and I have to do this for 15 weeks. Bring it on! Week 1 starts today (no time like the present!)



2. Research and motivation. I have put these 2 together because I find researching and learning very motivational. I like to watch you tube videos. I watch a lot of them. They’re free and contain a wealth of information. Other artists are constantly posting how they paint portraits, or critiquing portraits. I have been focusing on how other artists mix colour to achieve realistic skin tones, and shadows and highlights.

3. Preliminary sketch. Oh this is SUCH an important part of a portrait. I will need to have a very accurate sketch to begin with, or else the whole portrait will fail. There are a number of tricks to get this just right and I will discuss this further in another blog. But I will use all my spare time, away from the canvas, practicing my pencil drawings of the person I will paint. Sketchbook out, pencils sharpened. 5 min sketches, hour-long sketches, focusing on detail sketches. Keep practicing until I am confident I know what my subject really looks like; not what I THINK my subject like; a common problem I seem to have.

4. Decide on the medium. This should really link into the last point, when doing the research, as I’ll want to see how other artists are using that medium. But I’m leaving this open and will see how I feel week by week. I’m currently working mainly in watercolours and coloured pencils and have a done quite a few portraits with these. But, I believe that working in a different medium will help me to learn more about skin tones, shadows and highlights, and prevent me from falling into just doing what I always do.

5. Ok, so I just need to work out WHO I am going to paint. I could use one of many photo references on line. A celebrity? A family member? I will give some thought to this today…..


So, keep checking on my social media for daily updates on this challenge. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in!


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