I host a portrait night in my studio each week and over the last month and half I have had my friend Sala come and model three times. I thought it was interesting to see how different the three portraits turned out. I used a little different approach each time, changing the lighting and palette. Each were done in a 3 hours session.

For the first portrait the lighting was very soft. I used an 18″ beauty dish with a diffuser over it. I also used a simple palette: Titanium white, cadmium yellow and red, raw umber, bice from Vasari, transparent red oxide and ivory black

The panel was medium texture linen mounted on wood. 9″x12″. I did a fair amount of stylizing of the skin tones. I didn’t get too locked into what I was seeing in front of me, as far as color went. I liked pushing the gray on this one.  There are always things I look at and want to improve, but with these 3 hour painting sessions, I set certain goals and feel good if I and hit them and don’t stress too much about the shortcomings.

I think that this next one was the most successful, even though the form was off a little and some of the colors are a little too hot in places. I was really stylizing the color in places here using a theory that as the forms turn away they grey, but also that as the light side approaches the terminator or cast shadow it will grey as well. So, look on the right side where the plane of the cheek is really turning from the viewer, the colors become very blue grey. Also on the next where the cast shadow meets the light, I let it go blue grey. It also turns to grey on the left side where the cheek rolls into shadow. It was really fun to push the colors on this one, using ultramarine blue and violet to grey down the flesh tones and turn the forms. I lit this one from 3/4 top, but with a small 7″ reflector so the shadows are harder and higher contrast.

This last painting fought me a little bit. I didn’t get the form established early on and fought against it for the better part of the three hours. There were parts of it that I did like, like the highlight on the forehead and the transition of the hair into the head, but overall it didn’t come together quite how I wanted. I lit this one from the other side and the lack of a strong shadow is always a challenge to capture the form and I should have focused on it more from the start.

If you are able to, paint from life on a regular basis. I can’t recommend it enough. It is challenging, sometimes depressing, always exciting and when things come together a wonderful high. It is also cool to paint the same subject several times in a row, but under different lighting, or using a different palette to try and tackle some of the same challenges in different ways.

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!