The process of creating an original acrylic portrait painting starts with a rough painted sketch.

This shapes the composition to show the main areas of form and interest.

From here we start to add some darker areas to give depth to the overall portrait painting.

At this point we are simply establishing how the structure of the portrait painting will take shape.

Once this is done, we can start blocking in some colour. We are not getting too detailed yet on the painting as this stage is more about building up sections of the painting and creating form.

At this stage of the portrait painting we pretty much have the whole canvas covered and can start to look at enhancing some sections and building up the detail.

The portrait artist should have the painting well underway at this point and it is a case of moving around the portrait painting and adding little by little to bring up the areas of interest and developing the detailed sections.

The last areas the portrait artist will work at in this painting are the final little details. The last few touches are important to bring the painting to life.

A final skip around each section and we are finished.

Art Techniques

Surrealists paintings were generally based on dreams. Their paintings were filled with familiar objects which were painted to look strange or mysterious. They hoped their odd paintings would make people look at things in a different way and change the way they felt about things. They thought that their paintings might stir up feelings in the back of peoples minds.

Oil is a very popular medium for painting due to its rather slow drying time. This makes the task of blending colors very easy. The paint stays very workable so you can change your painting many, many times while it is still wet. Of course, oil painting has been the choice of artists for years and remains extremely popular today with many artists around the world painting anything from portraits and still life to landscapes and seascapes. What ever your artistic skill level oil painting will help you and challenge you at the same time.

My own preference is for acrylic paint, as I love the way it dries so quickly. I like to work fast when painting my canvasses, and the way acrylic paint dries lets me quickly go over anything I’m not happy with and move on to the next stage of the canvas painting.

Many artists use photographs for their painting reference. This is absolutely fine but make sure you choose a good one. It is important to have detail and good contrast of light and shade in the image. You can obviously adapt anything in the photograph that you don’t like, or that you think doesn’t help the painting , so never be a slave to the photograph. Do not just copy it. This is very poor practice for any artist and will not help you to improve as a painter. Use the photograph for reference and make your painting better by adding and adjusting colour or detail.

Start by sketching out with a little paint how the composition will work. Get this right and you will have less problem later. Then when you are happy with structure and composition, start to block in the colour. This does not have to be detailed. You are simply filling the canvas with paint which will work as an undercoat for the next paint layer, so try not to get too detailed here, you just want an overall covering that you can start to add more detail to. The colours don’t have to be right yet as you will be doing that in the next phase of the painting.

Once that is done you can start the next stage. Pick an area to concentrate on and start to paint in more detail but not too much. The final stage will be going all round your painting and adding the final marks. This stage is all about getting colours right and getting some form in the painting – it basically needs to start to look like your painting now so you should be aiming to get it to a stage where only the final detail is left to do. Work around the painting doing a section at a time, until you are happy that all areas of the painting are complete and ready for the final touches. This could take a while but there is no hurry – work steadily and build up the paint in each section which will give the painting a more solid look as the colour gets stronger.

It is fine to leave your canvas painting at any point. You can always come back to it later with a fresh eye and will in all probability see something you had previously missed. This is fine. It is how artists work and it is all part of the canvas oil painting or acrylic canvas painting process.

At the final stage you should be casting a careful eye over the whole canvas painting and squinting regularly to see how the light shades and dark shades are working together without being distracted by the detail. This is crucial to getting the painting to really work as a finished piece of art work. Make sure you have a focal point and ensure it has the most detail. You don’t really want the eye to be chasing across every square inch of your painting and not knowing where it should settle. So keep the other areas vague and suggestive without being too detailed. Spend as long as you need on this stage and don’t be frightened to redo an area if you are not happy with it.

Hopefully you now have your finished masterpiece and can stand back and admire it with a real sense of purpose.

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