Starting an Athlete's Football Portrait


I was up early (5:20am thanks Daylight Savings) and started a new painting. I’m veering away from my usual subject of prophetic, faith-based art and doing a traditional portrait. For this portrait I’m working from a photograph so I have a really good reference to use as I begin. 

Typically I use a toned canvas of raw umber and odorless mineral spirits which helps establish the extremes of the painting, the darkest darks and the lightest lights. It also makes it much easier to judge tones and is a lot more forgiving than a white canvas. When I use this method of a toned canvas I usually wait for it to dry overnight, however I was in a bit of a hurry this morning and wanted to get started so I began with a blank pre-primed white canvas. I know, I know, patience is a virtue, but actually the Pre-Raphaelite painters preferred to begin a portrait with a white ground so it would illuminate the transparent layers of oil and would give an underlying glow to the skin. So, I’m going with that method this time. 

I’m beginning this portrait with a charcoal sketch as a reference then I’ll fix it from smudging as I paint over it with a thin spray of Damar Retouch Varnish. 

The next step will be a thin over-painting of raw umber and turpentine. Raw umber is an earth color and dries fairly quickly so I should be able to begin the final step of the painting by the next day. 

I usually work alla prima which is a wet on wet method but I’ll allow each layer of paint to dry for this portrait and I’ll follow the artist’s principle of “fat over lean.” No, its not a new Paleo diet plan but an expression painters use to make sure they prevent their oil painting from cracking. It basically means that each succeeding layer of paint should have more ‘fat – oil’ than the preceding layer. It’s all about how oil paints dry. Turpentine or odorless mineral spirit dry by evaporation while oil dries by oxidation – it absorbs oxygen. 

So here is day 1……more to come. 

If you interested in having a portrait commissioned for Christmas please contact me soon so we can get started on your painting.