Art Digital art Drawing Faces Oil Painting People Portrait Sktchy

Three Portraits of Dayris

Portrait of Dayris, Oil on Arches Oil Paper, 10"x8.5"
Portrait of Dayris, Oil on Arches Oil Paper, 10″x8.5″

I’ve had so much fun painting and sketching the lovely Dayris from Sktchy in oil (above), and before that, in pencil and then doing a digital sketch in Procreate (below). Also below you’ll find a slide show of the work in progress. Doing the two initial drawings really helped me quickly get a pretty accurate drawing for the oil painting. You can see her reference photo on Sktchy here.

Initial pencil drawing of Dayris, 12x9"
Initial pencil drawing of Dayris, 12×9″
Digital Sketch of Dayris in Procreate
Digital Sketch of Dayris in Procreate

Below are the steps in the process of making the portrait.

  • Initial pencil drawing of Dayris, 12x9"
  • Digital Sketch of Dayris in Procreate
  • Umber underpainting
  • Some background and shirt
  • Some paint on face
  • Icky background in with palette knife
  • More work on background, still icky
  • Background better but not happy with shirt or hair
  • Almost done
  • Scraped off shirt and some hair to redo
  • Portrait of Dayris, Oil on Arches Oil Paper, 10"x8.5"
Art Faces Oil Painting Painting People Portrait Sktchy

Portrait of Hannah from Sktchy

Hannah W from Sktchy, 14x11” oil on Arches Oil Paper.
Hannah W from Sktchy, 14×11” oil on Arches Oil Paper. 

Learning to paint (well) for me means a constant but gradual process of 1) learning from my mistakes and 2) having “layers of the onion” lifted from my eyes until I at last can see something that was previously mysteriously hidden from me. (You can see the reference photo for this painting on Sketchy here.)

This painting taught me once again how much harder painting can be when you don’t start with an accurate drawing, going directly to drawing with paint and then correcting, correcting, correcting.

Getting the drawing right and capturing a likeness can be as “simple” as recognizing the big shapes, contours, divisions of space and observing where things line up with each other. Getting the values right can be as “simple” as observing where the light comes from, how it lands on the large and small planes of the face or any object, and asking myself where the darkest and lightest areas are and how this plane compares. Getting good color “just” means accurately observing the overall and predominant range of colors (saturated or grayed, warm or cool) and then asking is this the spot “warmer or cooler, more or less saturated, lighter or darker.”

I can ask myself these questions over and over, but until yet another layer of the onion is lifted, I just can’t see the answer. When that happens my brain tells me it’s too hard and just jumps ahead with a lazy guess, which then sets off another round or layer of correction, correction, correction. But I do learn from my mistakes and each next painting is an opportunity to put what I learned from them into practice and hopefully remove one more layer until at last I will be able to truly see!

Art Faces Gouache Painting People Portrait Sktchy

Back to Sktchy, a Gouache Portrait

Portrait of Dennis J. from Sktchy, Gouache, 12x9 inches
Portrait of Dennis J. from Sktchy, Gouache, 12×9 inches

I’m returning to using Sktchy for my reference photos of people for portrait practice since there is such a wide range to choose from. I’m not abandoning my series of “people Facebook thinks I should know,” but those are less useful for portrait practice, which I’m wanting to do right now.

Can you tell those splotches on his face are light coming in from a window through maybe lace curtains? I can’t post the original Sktchy reference photo off that site, but you can see it by clicking or swiping on my Sktchy painting on Sktchy here if you’re interested.

One thing I love about gouache is that it limits me to working on a painting for only one or two sessions. Unlike oils that can go on being repainted forever, gouache fairly quickly says, “Sorry, no more paint, no more layers, you’re done.” It teaches me to get the drawing down, go for the values and then lay down brush strokes of color and let them be.