Figure Painting, oil painting, Painting, Portraiture

One hour head study


8″ x 6″ oil on panel

In my last post, I mentioned studying Daniel Green’s portrait painting video. I took notes and tried to follow his method on this one but gave it up pretty quickly. Here are my observations about using this method.

1. Premixed skin tones – I premixed colors, as per his instructions, but I found that I wasn’t really seeing those colors. His mixtures were pretty brown, based heavily on raw sienna and raw umber, neither of which are colors I have on my palette normally. So, I abandoned his color mixtures very quickly. I found myself mixing more from cad red med, ult blue and yellow ochre.

2. Drawing vs massing shapes – Green spent a long time doing a complete line drawing in dilute paint, on the canvas, before laying in any masses. These studies I’m doing are only one hour total so I don’t have time to do a complete drawing first. I’m also too impatient for that.

3. When to establish a background – Green didn’t put in any background until the painting was pretty far along. Working the way I did, I found it necessary to paint in the background to help correct mistakes I’d make in the massing of shapes.

Although part of the purpose of my doing these studies is to identify a method, I thought Green was a bit too methodical for my taste. Of course, he’s a professional portrait painter who has been doing this for a living for a long time and he has his reasons for doing it his way. A couple of things I disagreed with were, that he said he always paints the eye pupils black. I didn’t like that. I disagreed even more with him saying that he always makes the highlight in both eyes exactly the same color and position in the eye. Maybe I misunderstood him, but that’s just not right. In my observation, the highlights in the eyes are rarely the same.

Having said all that, I’m not that happy with this particular study. It was better at the end of the session. I messed with it a bit without the model present and it’s worse for it.

Doing this exercise pointed up that there are other things I need to work out like, how to satisfactorily light the subject, canvas and palette so that I can see what I’m doing. I use a glass palette, which I like for ease of cleaning and mixing on, but I sometimes get reflections off the glass which makes it difficult to see what I’m mixing. This lighting issue is something I struggle with a lot both in and out of the studio and it’s one of the things that, for me, takes some of the enjoyment out of painting.


2 thoughts on “One hour head study”

  1. Dear Mr. Sharp,

    I have enjoyed looking at your paintings and reading your thoughts. Thank you for reminding me that we are all connected, us painters strewn about the map. It helps me keep my spirits up in such crazy uncertain times.


    Christine Lafuente
    Brooklyn, NY


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