WHI 11 00 283Painting faces is in many ways the same as painting anything else in terms of method and procedures.

What makes it daunting is that there is very little margin for error.

Get a face minutely wrong and it can look ridiculous.


In other subjects, especially landscapes, you can be quite inaccurate and few people will notice.

this is because there is a part of the brain with the specific job of recognising faces.

It assesses minute differences in proportions, shapes, angles and positions.  So accuracy is paramount.

It is the skill that portraiture demands from the artist that separates the men from the boys.

Twin approach

there are many methods in portraiture.  The two main approaches are 'generic' and 'empirical'.

'Generic', means starting with what everyone more or less has in common, eyes half way up the head, etcetera, and then looking for differences.

'Empirical', means starting at a specific place, such as the eyes, and then using this as a measure and moving outwards.  Most artists use a combination of these two methods.

Visual reality

Portraiture is a process of investigations.  Often, many different studies are made.  For these studies to be useful you have to be aware of which aspect of visual reality you are studying.

Analyse separately colour, tone, proportion.  For the finished portrait, synthesise, or combine, all these elements.

(For more guidance from Peter on portraiture, click here.)

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There is no such thing as 'flesh' colour.  the question is, whose flesh and in what light conditions?

In this instance, a cold light from the window was coming from the right and a warm light from the left (the electric light).

So in this simple first example these are the facts shown.

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Irrespective of the specific lighting direction, the light nearly always comes from above.

This being the case, the underneath of the forms are in shade.

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This is the relationship between one shape, or size, and another.

Something too wide might in fact be too short.  Something too thin might in fact be too tall.

Correcting proportions involves measuring, but not using numbers.

Instead, compare one thing to another - observe the size and shapes of gaps, or places (especially between features) and the angles of things.

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This involves combining the previous studies and pulling the separate factors together to arrive at a credible likeness.

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The elements all slowly fall into place.  It is not something that should be forced, or hurried.

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At last the painter captures the subject's likeness in a way no photograph ever could.






Click here for Peter Valentine's Still Life Masterclass and here for his Wild Art Masterclass.

Find out more about his work by visiting: www.studiovalentine.co.uk