How to Master the Thirty Minute Portrait.
Painting a portrait in thirty minutes may seem like a great challenge so you have to get into the right state of mind. Imagine you could not speak and you were trying to convey or describe a person who just committed a crime to the authorities. All you have is your paints and brushes. Time is crucial. Now paint the portrait.
Leave out most of the unimportant details. Being detail oriented in the beginning of a project is counter productive.You can get so caught up in details you get trapped and you can't see the whole picture. But if a mustache and pipe stood out in your mind then you have to paint that.
When you paint a portrait in thirty minutes, you have to pick and choose what to reveal about your subject. Delegate the interpretation of the image to the viewer. Their minds will fill in the details.
In cleaning your house or in painting a picture, any final details should be left until the very end. They should be the final touches in any project, in art, in decorating, and in any design.
Of course the project will go a lot more smoothly if you have your course mapped out and you know exactly what end result you want, but it’s like building a house; you have to start with the foundation. If you know what result you desire you will know right away when you have veered off course.
In portrait painting, if your image’s foundation or composition is not accurate you can adjust it as you go along; unless you get caught up in the details and spend a lot of time finishing that before you have your basic structure worked out. You might hesitate to wipe it out and do it over because of your attachment to the investment of time you put into it. It may be a great looking eye with lots of detail, but if it is in the wrong place it is going to look terrible.
I use two different approaches in portrait painting. One is to start with a very accurate pencil drawing on the canvas and build on that, slowly and carefully, and the other is to start with a blank or toned canvas and draw in the shape of the head or figure with a brush, adjusting it as I go. From there, I work my way to the final details and finishing touches.
For the purpose of mastering the thirty minute portrait start working with paint and brushes on a blank canvas. Throw away your pencil. This is a bold and exciting approach to painting a portrait and you are going to love it, or else it will terrify you.
Practice Drawing with a Brush
Something you should do is to begin practicing drawing with a brush on canvas, and free yourself from the limitations of a pencil. I began with a pencil and the transition from pencil to brush was a difficult one, but once I got used to it I never wanted to use a pencil again. With a brush, you can block in large areas of color and shapes. For me, it was more immediate and more gratifying than laborious hours spent with a pencil, not to mention the added dimension of color to the art.
As you do this, keep in mind that any mistakes you make (and you will make plenty) can easily be wiped out. Learning how to correct your drawing as you go will do monumental wonders towards your being able to paint with confidence, so embrace your mistakes and see them as an opportunity to learn to fix and adjust your painting. This practice alone will take away your fear of that great white empty canvas and lead you to your being able to paint with confidence and freshness that will win ribbons and sell paintings.
If you find that using an easel to paint on a canvas in an upright position is awkward, please don’t think you can skip this step and work by laying your canvas flat down on your kitchen table to paint. You must learn to use an easel until you feel comfortable doing it. If you try to paint oils on a canvas with it lying flat, you will run into a ton of problems which include dragging things across your work, and straining your back leaning over a table to reach the area you are working on. I highly suggest you don’t do it. I would never let anyone taking classes from me work that way. So use an easel. You will be glad you did, and you will thank me later.
In preparing to do a portrait in thirty minutes you need to get everything set up and have your model or your reference photo ready. Then take it all in and tell your mind that you have thirty minutes to work on this and no more. Your goal is to get some kind of likeness of your subject in thirty minutes. You don’t have to worry about tiny details, just attempt to capture the flavor of the person so that someone might be able to pick him or her out in a crowd. After the thirty minutes are up, stop. Take a break and then come back and evaluate your painting. From there, you can decide to say it is finished or that you need to wipe it out and start over, or you might decide that you can finish it up with a few last touches.
Do not work any longer on the finishing touches than 15 or 30 minutes. Preferably 15. One hour is the absolute maximum time you are allowed to work on that painting if you decide it is good enough for, or needs some finishing touches.
Do not get attached and hung up (obsessed) with it because now it is time to go on to your next portrait. Oh, did I forget to tell you? You must do this exercise at least ten times with ten different models if you want to improve your confidence and feel more relaxed about painting. I guarantee that when you are finished with ten of these, your self confidence will have risen a few notches and you will have a lot of fun. Then, keep practicing.
Oh, sorry, did you think this article had some secret shortcut or secret formula that would make you an instant portrait artist overnight? I hope I did not mislead or disappoint you. If you want to be able to paint a portrait in thirty minutes, I have to be honest and tell you that practice is one of the main ingredients. Don't worry, its a lot of fun.
I know it sounds contradictory to say “don’t rush” and at the same time tell you to time yourself and do the painting in thirty minutes, but what I mean by ‘don’t rush” is that you should use your mind and think about what you are doing with clarity and focus all the while looking at the entire process as something that must be completed within an allotted time.
You must learn and know what steps to take when going from point A to point B. You will learn this as you go and I will show you what steps I take and eventually you will develop your own adaptation to those steps.
What you are doing is attempting to paint an impression of a person as accurately as possible in the span of 30 minutes.
Mastering the thirty minute portrait will be one of the primary focuses of this website, and I will be posting lessons with pictures on the process here, so be sure to come back.