art · oil painting

Art advice: Painting a self-portrait

Self-Portrait
‘Self-Portrait’ oil on canvas 40 x 40 x 3.8 cm

I wanted to share my painting process for my recent self-portrait in which I am training my perception, skills and understanding while trying to preserve the life and freshness of the image.These photographs reveal the development process of my self-portrait study using oil on canvas. I studied from real life (the mirror) to learn about light, tones along with many of my other of my art pieces.
While painting these, I enhanced my work by studying ‘In the Dining Room’ by Berthe Morisot as I painted these portraits. I think this has very positively influenced on developing my own personal style and informs of how to successfully leave some work for the viewer.

As I practice with much more intense observation, searching for just the right mark, shape, colour and tone, the portrait becomes much more convincing and the individual tones are more informative now, less general.

'Self-Portrait' oil on canvas 40 x 40 x 3.8 cm
‘Self-Portrait’ oil on canvas 40 x 40 x 3.8 cm

I needed to watch out for harsh lines at intersections – for example the top line of the upper lip in this painting – I needed to interrupt the sharp division to help create a more believable sense of structure. This almost sounds like it would do the opposite, which is why painting is such a difficult process.

I was given some great advice by Peter Corr (wonderful artist) to try looking at my painting in a mirror, as it is useful to see your work a fresh AND it can be useful to see where the shapes and anatomy needs minor adjustments – and my god is that true! It looked completely different in the mirror and was anatomically incorrect in various places.

At this juncture, it was important to introduce back large shapes, bigger brush strokes in the background as it will add interest and contrast with the smaller marks used on the face.

'Self-Portrait' oil on canvas 40 x 40 x 3.8 cm
‘Self-Portrait’ oil on canvas 40 x 40 x 3.8 cm

When exploring portraiture work, painting directly from the mirror, can be challenging but extremely rewarding. Each time I work from life rather than my from a still photograph my understanding of how to paint dramatically enhances. This will be the case for most painters, as we are always learning.
It is essential to investigate a subject from real life rather than from photographs to push my understanding and confidence in my artwork so that I continue to develop an accomplished and sophisticated personal style and portfolio.

At this point, I started exploring Lucian Freuds painting of Francis Bacon and I then confidently explored tonal variations in the ochres and blues reflected on the surface of my skin.

'Self-Portrait' oil on canvas 40 x 40 x 3.8 cm
‘Self-Portrait’ oil on canvas 40 x 40 x 3.8 cm

You never want to have 100% accuracy as you will lose individuality, its about achieving believability without turning it into a bland photographic image. Comment to let me know what you think and how your paintings have turned out.

To view my other paintings, please visit my art shop.

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